Today, I am laying before Parliament the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2019. Our Armed Forces protect our nation with unwavering honour, courage and commitment. 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 as a result of their service to our country. Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured or the bereaved. This is what the Covenant sets out to do.
It is my honour to present this report to Parliament, describing what the Government together with its delivery partners have done to uphold the principles of the Covenant. The report provides progress on the delivery by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and what has been achieved on healthcare, education, accommodation, inquest and judicial engagement, family life, transition and through life support, and business in the community from October 2018 to September 2019.
Highlights of this year’s report include: the creation of the first Office for Veterans’ Affairs to pull together all functions of Government in order to ensure this nation’s life-long duty to those who have served, building on the Strategy for our Veterans; putting Flexible Service into law, allowing Regular Service personnel to ask to temporarily work part-time and/or restrict their separation from their home base; the launch of the Future Accommodation Model pilot in September for approximately three years; the extension of the Forces Help to Buy scheme until December 2022; reaching over 4,000 signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant, with over 1,000 new signings this year; the inclusion of the ‘Service Child’ ‘Flag Indicator’ on school censuses in England, Wales and Scotland for the first time; £23.1 million of Service Pupil Premium funding is being distributed to over 10,000 schools across England in 2019-20; the Department for Work and Pensions secured funding to bolster the role of its Armed Forces Champions across the country; the NHS, together with the MOD, launched the Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans Framework for Armed Forces personnel in transition; and the Northern Ireland Legacy Inquest team was set up to deal with the extensive Northern Ireland Legacy Inquest programme.
But while progress has clearly been made, both this year and in the eight years since the Covenant came into being, more still needs to be done. The Government, working closely with its delivery partners across all levels of Government in the UK, Service charities and the private sector, will continue to mitigate disadvantage wherever it is found within the Armed Forces community, and will be bold in seeking special considerations where appropriate.
As outlined in the Conservative Party manifesto and Queens Speech we will seek to further incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law and over the course of this Parliament will continue to remove disadvantage faced by our Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans.
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, stakeholders in Northern Ireland and Local Authorities, and those at every level and from every sector who are continuing to drive forward the work of the Covenant in support of our Armed Forces community. I am also grateful to the external members of the Covenant Reference Group who were consulted throughout the process and provided their independent observations.