Today, I am pleased to lay before Parliament, “The Armed Forces Covenant and Veterans Annual Report 2022.” This year has thrown into sharper focus the importance of our armed forces as standard bearers for the values we hold dear as a nation. This includes the support the armed forces have provided to Ukraine to defend its sovereign territory against Russian aggression, the role the armed forces played during the 10 days of national mourning and state funeral of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and in this year’s commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. More than ever, our armed forces community is central to our national life, and about who we are as a country.
The UK’s promise to support our armed forces community and to ensure they are treated fairly is as important as ever. We owe them a vast debt of gratitude and have a duty to ensure that those who serve, or who have served in our armed forces, and their families, suffer no disadvantage in comparison to other citizens. In some cases, special consideration is appropriate, particularly for those such as the injured or the bereaved. This is what the covenant sets out to do. In the same vein, this Government have committed to making the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran, acknowledging veterans’ service to this country and setting out our plans in the strategy for our veterans.
Never has the armed forces covenant and support to veterans been more vital, and we recognise that partners across the UK, at all levels of the public, private and charitable sectors, have been working hard to support those who serve or have served, and their families. I am proud to lay this report before Parliament as a demonstration of that work.
Highlights from this year’s report include:
The Government have fulfilled its 2019 manifesto commitment to “further incorporate the armed forces covenant into law”. A new armed forces covenant duty has been created, that places a new legal obligation on specific public bodies to have due regard to the covenant principles when delivering certain services, or deciding certain policies, in healthcare, education and housing, that could impact the armed forces community.
Armed forces covenant signings are rapidly approaching 10,000, with 1,634 signing over the last 12 months alone.
The inclusion of veterans’ health in the GP training curriculum and national GP licensing assessment in England and Scotland, and the launch of a veterans’ health innovation fund.
The Office for Veterans’ Affairs published the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan 2022-24, setting out over 60 commitments, with over £70 million of additional funding, from across Government to further improve the lives of our veteran community.
A servicewomen’s health improvement team worked on an eight-month sprint to address issues related to servicewomen’s health, resulting in ground-breaking new policies and guidance to support servicewomen throughout the armed forces.
There were record levels of investment in service family accommodation in financial year 2021-22, with £179 million invested overall.
The Ministry of Defence has published its new UK armed forces families strategy, which provides the framework for an ambitious 10-year programme. Delivery of initiatives under each workstream has begun.
This report is a collaborative effort with input from service providers and professionals from a diverse array of backgrounds. I would like to thank colleagues across central Government, the devolved Administrations and local authorities, and those at every level and from every sector who are continuing to drive forward the work of the covenant and the strategy for our veterans in support of our armed forces community. We are also grateful to the external members of the Covenant Reference Group who provided their independent observations.