Armed Forces Covenant
- the unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the Armed Forces;
- the principle that it is desirable to remove disadvantages arising for service people from membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces; and
- the principle that special provision for Service People may be justified by the effect on such people of membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces.
February saw the Armed Forces Bill 2021 (summary here), officially introduced to parliament for debate. This is legislation that has to be passed every 5 years to enable parliament to approve the continued existence of the Armed Forces! The Bill also presents an opportunity to include additional legislation related to the Armed Forces and it specifically mentions the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Covenant, in its current form, has been in operation for nearly ten years, during which time significant progress has been made to improve the lives of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families. Since 2011, over 6,000 organisations and every local authority in Great Britain have made pledges to support the Armed Forces Community.
While good procedures and initiatives have been put in place by service providers, the Government is concerned that some members of the Armed Forces Community are still suffering disadvantage in accessing public services. This is often caused by a lack of awareness of the Covenant and the unique nature of service in the Armed Forces.
The legislation will impose a new Duty on relevant public bodies in the areas of housing, healthcare and education. The Bill will become law later in the year.
As part of these ambitions, the Government has announced that the 2021 Census will now include a question to provide information on whether someone has served in HM Armed Forces as a result of the Roal British Legion and Poppyscotland’s ‘Count Them In’ Campaign.
Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion, said: “… the fact that a military question will be in the 2021 Census will significantly improve our understanding of the Armed Forces community which up until now has been very limited. It will ensure that we, along with other charities and service providers, can deliver the best service possible to them when and where it is needed most.” Across the Royal British Legion, every Branch is being encouraged to promote this opportunity and increase the nations knowledge of its Armed Forces Communities. RBL Warwickshire County Chairman’s Letter
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “Understanding better the profile and needs of veterans is a key part in ensuring that public services are tailored for our ex-service personnel. So allowing, for the first time, veterans to identify themselves in the census is a key part in making Britain the best place in the world to be a veteran.”
It has been estimated that there are 2.4 million veterans currently living in Great Britain, who make up part of a wider ex-Service community which includes their spouses, partners, dependent children and widow(er)s. However, little is currently known about the exact numbers, location and needs of this significant group.
Information on the 2021 Census and its data security can be found below.