I’ve always believed that we can judge the mark of a society by how well it treats veterans.
Our veterans have made sacrifices beyond measure. It goes without saying that they deserve our respect and unyielding gratitude for their service.
In actual fact, however, they deserve more than just respect. They deserve support, and to be able to live dignified, happy and prosperous lives.
Sadly, for many veterans this isn’t the case. The Government has created a postcode lottery on veteran support, with some veterans finding unnecessary barriers in important areas like employment, pensions, social care and compensation.
Similarly, we’ve seen no national improvement in mental health support for veterans. This is despite the fact that nearly half of all medical discharges from our armed forces are due to mental health issues, and fewer people are being seen by the MOD’s specialist mental health services than they were five years ago.
Nationally, we need to be doing much more to support our veterans.
I’ve been inspired by work I’ve seen in Tameside.
I’ve written before about the fact that Tameside council were one of the first local authorities to sign the military covenant – a commitment to ensure that those who are serving or have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly and given the respect they deserve.
This commitment is supported by the exceptional work of community groups like Tameside Armed Services Community.
I want to see this effort replicated nationally. That’s why I’ve been so proud to back Labour’s plans to boost mental health support for veterans, incorporate the armed forces covenant fully into law, and end miserable housing conditions for our veterans.
Crucially, the Party is also consulting as part of its ‘Veterans’ Voice’ campaign, which will give veterans and their families the opportunity to shape Labour’s plans for the next general election.
This work is long overdue and will be transformative for veterans and their families who have been overlooked for far too long by policymakers.
I want to see a government that is relentless in its drive to improve the lives of veterans. They have given so much for us, it is the least we can do for them.