Response to the Armed Forces Bill

Alongside our sister charity, The Royal British Legion, we and 10 other military charities join together to urge the UK Government to improve the Armed Forces Bill.

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the government and the nation that these men and women – and their families – should not be disadvantaged by their service and that special consideration may be appropriate, such as for the injured or bereaved. The Armed Forces Bill creates a new legal duty on public bodies to consider the Covenant in policy development and decision making. However, it will only apply to councils and some limited public bodies delivering certain aspects of housing, health, and education.

We are calling for the Bill to go further if we are to fully deliver on the promise of the Covenant to all those who serve and have served our country.

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 UK 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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