In 2019-20, 84% of service leavers were employed within six months of leaving—higher than the UK employment rate of 76%. We support people transitioning out of the armed forces with the Career Transition Partnership and Defence Transition Services. We have also introduced a national insurance holiday for employers and veterans and a guaranteed entry scheme for veterans seeking to join the civil service. Veterans’ employment is a huge success. They bring energy, loyalty and commitment to the workplace, and that is something we should celebrate.
In the Jarrow constituency there are many talented and dedicated people who leave the armed forces every year and find it difficult to transition into civilian life and employment. Despite employment not being covered by the Government’s Armed Forces Bill, will the Minister outline what steps he is taking to work specifically with local charities and local authorities to ensure that the talent and the skills of our ex-service personnel are utilised in civilian life?
When it comes to local authorities, we will, when the Armed Forces Bill becomes the Armed Forces Act, issue statutory guidance to ensure that no veteran is at disadvantage. I hope that all local authorities will take that on board and deliver for our veterans in the local community.
Getting a decent job is key to a successful transition to civilian life, but the Armed Forces Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) said, does not include responsibility for employment or transition. Service charities have said that the Bill is too narrowly focused, so why will the Minister not widen the scope of the Bill to ensure that all the promises of the covenant are delivered by it?
When it comes to transition, it starts two years before someone actually leaves the armed forces and lasts for two years after they leave. The support that the MOD provides to service leavers lasts for two years, but we must bear in mind that overwhelmingly the vast majority find gainful employment within six months.
For my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby who have dedicated themselves to working in the armed forces, the transition to civilian life and employment can be incredibly difficult for them and their families. Having a final posting located far from where they plan to resettle can also have a detrimental impact on the whole process. Can the Minister please outline what steps his Department is taking to address this issue and the impact it is having on the wellbeing and outcomes for those affected?
Family life is at the heart of service, and service families are an integral part of the defence community. We want flexibility and choice when it comes to the choices that families make, and that is why we are bringing forward our families strategy, which will include things like wraparound childcare and a range of other initiatives to help ensure that there is choice and flexibility for service families.
Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities has noted that there was only one mention of self-employment or business ownership in the 2020 armed forces covenant annual report. With the pandemic making it more likely that veterans will have to explore self-employment as a viable career option, what action will the Minister take to ensure that he supports self-employment within the veteran community?
We support service personnel transitioning out and seeking to start their own businesses and be self-employed through the career transition partnership, which is a hugely successful initiative. We recognise that veterans bring some of the key skills to successful self-employment: initiative, discipline and the tendency to work extremely hard. I think overall the support offered by the career transition partnership is a very positive story.
A survey by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association has suggested that almost half of recruiters would worry about hiring a service leaver because of concerns around negative mental health. While the Government’s proposed national insurance relief for businesses that hire veterans is welcome, it does not tackle the root cause of the problem. What are the Government doing to address the misconceptions employers may have about veterans?
I welcome the hon. Lady to her place, and I wish her well in her new appointment. The key thing we can all do is to not talk down our veterans, but instead talk them up. Overwhelmingly, there is a mismatch, and a misconception among the public about whether service damages veterans. Service does not damage veterans. Overwhelmingly, veterans leave as better people with terrifically useful transferable skills. That is why overwhelmingly the vast majority get gainful employment six months after leaving. The story of veteran employment is something of which we should be hugely proud.