This week I will be planting a Remembrance tribute on behalf of Crawley in the Constituency Garden of Remembrance outside the Palace of Westminster.
It is right that our nation has the ambition to make Britain the best place to be a veteran.
I welcome a £3 million funding boost to ensure that thousands more veterans will receive HM Armed Forces Veteran Cards by the end of this year. All service leavers since December 2018 automatically receive the card as part of the discharge process, with the upcoming second phase of the roll-out seeing this expanded to veterans who left service before this date.
The ID card will allow veterans to speedily confirm their veteran status where required: granting simpler access to NHS, charity and local authority support, in addition to being used to apply for Defence Discount Service Cards and the Veterans Railcard.
The 60 commitments in the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan have been backed with £70 million in funding; recognising the contribution of our veterans to society by boosting their healthcare and mental health services, helping them develop critical skills and find long-term employment.
Op COURAGE: the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, provides NHS mental health specialist help to serving personnel due to leave the military, reservists, Armed Forces veterans and their families.
In the south east of England Op COURAGE can be contacted by calling: 0300 365 2000 (option 4) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
While the majority of veterans and their families transition successfully into civilian life, it remains that this is not the case for all veterans. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs have over the last fortnight launched a consultation – open to all but in particular seeking to hear from veterans, veteran groups and those who provide support to veterans – to enhance understanding of the needs of veterans and how current policy interacts with those needs.
The consultation is open until 4th January 2024 with full details available under the ‘policy papers and consultations’ section of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs website.
Government can lead by example and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs Secretary has instructed officials to open up more roles for veterans through an offer of guaranteed interviews to recruit veterans into the highest levels of the civil service and diplomatic service.
Work to support veterans into employment include tax cuts for firms employing former Armed Forces personnel, through National Insurance contributions relief for veterans they have hired during their first year of civilian employment.
While many of us will notice a change in how the Royal British Legion have produced the Poppy this year, its message and importance remain the same.
Please join me in wearing your Poppy with pride.
Henry Smith MP