Armed Forces Covenant

Part of Bombardier – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 22nd November 2018.

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Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Conservative, Berwick-upon-Tweed 2:18 pm, 22nd November 2018

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. It is great to see in this year’s report that more guidance is going to schools with the service pupil premium funding to help teachers understand some of the particular needs of those children. I am lucky enough to have an RAF base in my constituency, and Longhoughton school, the local school next to the base at RAF Boulmer, has an extraordinary cohort of teachers. Military children make up 80% of the school, so teachers’ knowledge, understanding and ability to spot a child under stress because their parents are having to move—a lot of them deploy out to the Falklands for six months—are extraordinary. When there are schools that understand because they see a lot of these children, we need to draw out that knowledge and share it. The hon. Lady is right, these children can land anywhere in the country at any point.

Alex Sobel talked with great insight about accommodation and how DIO is making progress. This year has seen a fantastic investment of £68 million in housing, which is incredibly welcome, but for me the missing link is still the fact that DIO is working in a silo. The body that looks after the housing should have an understanding of the retention problems and the realities that a wife will run out of steam and her husband will leave service because the house is just too difficult to live in. That understanding should be linked directly to DIO’s thinking patterns so that it invests, because the loss of the incredibly expensive investment in personnel is a bad swap for a £10,000 kitchen or fixing a leaking window or one that does not lock. Those are the frustrations that drive retention problems, and they could be resolved if DIO had much more direct contact at a practical level that it was expected to follow up with investment. I encourage the Minister to keep pushing at that door. It will require a change in DIO’s terms of reference to achieve the change.

Colleagues have spoken at length about mental ill health, and the challenges we face. The trick to help this unravel and help the NHS to make progress is identifying the markers of veterans. Medical records are working much better.