From the end of November, a new updated Covenant has been issued by the Government which further enshrines the legal duty on organisations to support the Armed Forces community in the healthcare, housing and education. What does this mean locally for Veterans Outreach Support? Staff have been attending a Portsmouth City Council review since 2021 on what their Covenant outreach physically looks like. We were invited to join a group of stakeholders from across the city to review what is there for veterans and what can be further improved. Outcomes of this review will be issued in 2023. It also ties in with the recent census which reveals particularly high numbers of veterans living locally.
Here we share an overview of what the new Armed Forces Covenant ‘Duty’ is, why it has been introduced and what our local veteran communities in Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, and the South of England need to know.
What is the Armed Forces Covenant?
The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise that employers and businesses make to uphold the dignity of those who have served. Its official words are:
What is the new Armed Forces Covenant Duty?
The new Covenant Duty is a legal obligation on certain public bodies to ‘have due regard’ to the principles of the Covenant, and requires their service and delivery decisions to be made with ‘conscious consideration of the needs of the Armed Forces community.’
That means organisations signed to the Covenant must consider veterans, active military members, and their families when making official decisions.
A range of businesses and organisations are covered by the scope of the Duty, such as local authorities, NHS trusts, and schools and academies. (We at Veterans Outreach Support have also signed the Armed Forces Covenant and been awarded for achieving its objectives.)
What will it do?
- It affects organisations that deliver things like healthcare, education, housing services, and more.
- It benefits the Armed Forces community by putting our needs in focus.
Veterans can experience disadvantages when trying to access to local services in the civilian world. We at Veterans Outreach Support and our partners in VPPP work to address those barriers and help our community overcome them. Now more organisations are being called to do the same!
The new Covenant Duty will raise awareness amongst organisations that provide services in healthcare, education, and housing about how Service life might impact their customers, patients, and employees.
The Duty requires organisations to pay ‘due regard’ to the Covenant principles of respect and fairness for Armed Forces families when writing their policies. ‘Due regard’ means to prove a real understanding of the unique obligations and sacrifices made by those in the Armed Forces. This understanding should lead to the organisations addressing and removing barriers to access, or even adding special policy provisions about veteran support in their business plans where applicable.
Why will this help UK veterans?
When reviewing the effectiveness of the Armed Forces Covenant, those who developed it realised that there has been “good progress under the Covenant to date, but more work is needed.” They especially wanted to improve the consistency of delivery– how organisations are applying the Covenant to their work.
The ‘increased awareness’ element of the new Duty should help to improve delivery by boosting the understanding of veteran support needs.
From AFC’s own report on the new Duty:
“This won’t mean that the Armed Forces community will be placed at the front of the queue,” they explain. “But it will mean their circumstances will receive a fairer assessment when their cases are considered. In this way we can help to ensure that the Armed Forces community are treated fairly now and in the future.”
If you would like to learn more about the new Armed Forces Covenant, you can read the government’s statutory guidance.
If you’re a veteran from the UK Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy (from any time of service) or a partner to one, VOS would love for you to join our community. We are here to offer our support: call us on 02392 731 767, visit an upcoming drop-in, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOS is immensely grateful to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, as without their support and funding we would not be able to provide such a wide range of activities.