The Royal British Legion and leading military charities are joining together in final chance to urge the UK Government to improve the Armed Forces Bill.

We have one final chance to improve the Armed Forces Bill and strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant in law, and we urge parliamentarians to take it.

Over the past few weeks, the public’s enduring support for the Armed Forces community has been demonstrated once again as millions paid their respect to the fallen and reflected on the sacrifices that serving men and women, veterans and their families continue to make during both conflict and peace. Politicians were among those to express their admiration and gratitude, and now is the time for action.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation that all those who serve, have served and their families will not experience disadvantage because of the unique pressures and demands of military life, and that in some circumstances, special consideration may be appropriate, such as for those who have been left injured or bereaved. The Armed Forces Bill seeks to put the promise of the Covenant on a legal footing for the first time, but whilst the majority of the public believe it is the responsibility of national government to deliver, it is exempted from the new provisions. This cannot be right when responsibility for many of the issues concerning our Armed Forces community rests with national government.

On behalf of the serving personnel, veterans and families we collectively support, the Royal British Legion, Poppyscotland, Cobseo, SSAFA and Help for Heroes urge parliamentarians to seize this last opportunity to improve the Armed Forces Bill and strengthen the Covenant in law by ensuring that national government is subject to the new Covenant duty. Now is the moment to demonstrate to the Armed Forces community that every level of government both recognises their service and sacrifice, and will act decisively to support them to lead healthy, successful and fulfilling lives.

Open letter to the UK government from military charities on the Armed Forces Bill (July 2021)

Whether through their contribution to tackling the pandemic, or the recent commemorations of D-Day and VE Day, the unparalleled contribution of those who have served in the Armed Forces continues to be shown. The Armed Forces Covenant is the government’s and the nation’s promise that those men and women – and their families – should not be disadvantaged, and that special consideration may be appropriate, such as for the injured or bereaved.

The Armed Forces Bill currently before the UK Parliament makes welcome provision for a new legal duty on public bodies to give due regard to the Covenant. However, based on our collective experience working with the Armed Forces community, the Bill does not go far enough. The new duty would only apply to local councils and some limited public bodies delivering housing, health and education. This neither reflects the reality of how the Covenant is delivered, nor the full range of issues affecting those in the Armed Forces community.

Even where services are provided locally, they are often based on national guidance. It is therefore a major gap for national government and the devolved administrations to be exempted from the duty that will be imposed on councils and others. This is compounded by the omission of important topics including employment, pensions, compensation, social care, criminal justice, and immigration from the Bill’s scope.

Now that the Bill has returned to the Commons, we urge the UK Government and MPs to seize this rare opportunity to deliver on the promise of the Covenant. Such a move would attract widespread consensus and be a fitting recognition of the ongoing service and sacrifice of our brave men and women, and the families who support them.

  • Charles Byrne, Director General, the Royal British Legion
  • Mark Collins, Interim Chief Executive, Poppyscotland
  • General Sir John McColl KCB CBE DSO, Chairman of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities
  • Chris Hughes, Chairman, Veterans Scotland
  • Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory, KBE, CB, DL, Chief Executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity
  • Melanie Waters, CEO, Help for Heroes
  • Jeff Harrison, Interim CEO, Combat Stress
  • Mike Ellicock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust
  • Collette Musgrave, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation
  • Maria Lyle, Director, RAF Families Federation
  • Anna Wright, Chief Executive Officer, Naval Families Federation
  • Nick Bunting OBE, Secretary General and Group CEO, Royal Air Forces Association

Will you join us in urging MPs and Ministers to improve the Armed Forces Bill?

Write to your MP today

National government and Ministers should be included in the new Covenant duty, along with important policy areas like employment, pensions, compensation, social care, and immigration that are missing from the Bill.

Armed Forces charities and others working closely with the Covenant and the Armed Forces community have highlighted the value of enhancing the Bill’s scope along the lines we suggest. 

With the Bill progressing through the UK Parliament, now is the time to back our Armed Forces community and ensure that every level of government, in every area of policy, recognises their service and sacrifice. Let’s use this golden opportunity to truly #HonourTheCovenant.

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