The Armed Forces Covenant: Reflections on a decade of the nation’s promise
November 2021 marked ten years since the Armed Forces Covenant was first enshrined in UK legislation.
Together with our sister charity, the Royal British Legion, we marked this significant anniversary with the launch of an independent report reflecting on the Covenant’s impact on the wellbeing of serving personnel, veterans, and their families.
Our report celebrates the advancements in outcomes, understanding, funding and services for the Armed Forces community over the past decade, which have been overseen by government at all levels, as well as businesses and voluntary organisations.
Key findings from our report are as follows:
- 9 out of 10 members of the general public agree with the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant that no member of the Armed Forces should face disadvantage due to Service and that special consideration is appropriate in certain circumstances, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured and bereaved. However, despite this support only 17% of the general public have heard of the Armed Forces Covenant.
- The Armed Forces Covenant has provided a framework for charities, policymakers, businesses and the Armed Forces themselves to deliver improvements and address the needs of the Armed Forces Community. Whilst there is always more that can be done, our research found near universal recognition that the provision of health services to veterans in the NHS has improved substantially since 2011 as a result of the Covenant.
- Much progress over the first decade has been on the first principle of no disadvantage, whereas the second principle of special consideration has had less attention from central Government.
- Born out of perceived failures in support for those who sacrificed the most, the Covenant has become an enduring success story for the nation. A covenant for the next decade doesn’t require fundamental change to its wording or principles to continue to be that success, it requires only renewed vigour in communication and a determination to ensure that it meets the needs of all those in the Armed Forces community who need it.
The report also makes 37 recommendations for further strengthening delivery of the Covenant, ensuring that it remains fit for purpose into the next decade.
The main recommendations of our report include:
- Geographical restrictions placed on the delivery of Armed Forces Covenant should be overcome with a desire to support members of the Armed Forces community wherever they reside and face disadvantage or are eligible for special consideration.
- As ownership of the Armed Forces Covenant is a matter for all of government, each UK and devolved government department should have a named minister responsible for its department’s Covenant commitments, and a list published in the Covenant Annual Report.
- The Secretary of State for Defence should use the powers in the Armed Forces Bill 2021 to extend the scope of the new Covenant duty to all public sector bodies including central government.