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Female Veterans

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024

The Office for Veterans’ Affairs has provided £445,000 for research into the lived experiences of women veterans and for development of further support. With my hon. Friend making valuable contributions, we are developing the Government’s first women’s strategy, which will celebrate the success of women veterans but also look at the specific challenges they face, so as to better address their needs.

I am one of the estimated 250,000 female veterans, and I have spent the last four years raising awareness of this hidden community. I am pleased to have worked with the Minister on establishing the first female veterans strategy. I have been chair of the advisory board; the evidence gathering has ended and the recommendations have been made. Will the Minister let me know whether the term, “female military sexual trauma” will be acknowledged and included, and the date on which the strategy will be published?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has been a passionate advocate of this cause. She is the first woman from the ranks to be elected to this place, and she should be incredibly proud of all she has done over her many years of work on this issue. As I have said before from this Dispatch Box, I recognise the unique challenges around sexual trauma in the military—of course I do. The strategy will be published before the summer recess. I know my hon. Friend is waiting for it, and I am determined to get it out before the recess. I am hopeful that it will meet all the demands and all the hurt in that community that has been unmet for too long.

I have had the pleasure of meeting many female veterans in my constituency and of working with fantastic organisations such as Woody’s Lodge, the Royal British Legion, and of course Welsh Veterans Partnership. What is the Minister doing to work with the Welsh Government and local authorities across the whole of the UK to ensure that women veterans get the support that is rightly being asked for?

We meet the devolved authorities regularly to make sure that all our strategies are in sync. Obviously, a lot of these policy areas, whether health, housing or education, are devolved, but we are clear that, both nationally and internationally, we want the Office for Veterans’ Affairs to set the standard. We have great relationships internationally now in terms of setting the pace on that, and I want to make sure it is concomitant with what we are doing with the devolved authorities: we have regular meetings with the Welsh Government and the Scottish, and indeed we are going over to Northern Ireland again in two weeks.