When the government created the ‘Office for Veterans Affairs’ three years ago, we had all hoped that the new office could play a crucial role in improving support for veterans.
They promised a future where veterans’ needs would be addressed through a fully funded plan, coordinated through every major department.
But three years on, promises have been broken.
Through the Armed Forces Bill, the Conservatives rejected our efforts to apply the new duty for the Armed Forces Covenant to the Government, effectively outsourcing their responsibility to deliver for our forces communities – and limiting its scope, against the wishes of forces charities and against Labour’s proposals.
Now we have seen the Government publish a Veterans Strategy ‘Action Plan’ with little action.
It is a repackaging of old announcements but will not deliver the support and funding veterans need to make a difference.
What’s worse is we know that these old announcements aren’t going far enough already.
Since their last Veterans’ Strategy, the government has silently slashed employment support for veterans, halving its target for specialised ‘Armed Forces Champions’ in Jobcentres from 100 to 50.
We have also seen waiting times for mental health treatment become “significantly and stubbornly higher” for veterans. The plan offers the pretence of improved support without providing the funding necessary to cope with demand.
Labour has already committed to boosting mental health funding for veterans by £35m. But there is much more that we need to do to support all of our veterans back into civilian life.
As Shadow Veterans Minister, I am continuing to work with and listen to veterans and armed forces charities to make sure that their voice is heard.
Labour’s veterans consultation remains open to all service personnel who want to get in touch and share their experience and suggestions with us about how Government can better support them.
Labour wants to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran and we want to work with veterans to put them at the heart of our offer for a more secure, prosperous and respectful country.
If we can afford to send our military personnel into service, we can afford to support them as they transition to civilian life. We can, and must, do better.