Armed Forces Week: Giving deserved support to veterans and their families

Rachel Hopkins MPRachel Hopkins MP
Rachel Hopkins MP
Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins' monthly column for the Luton News

On Armed Forces Week, we come together as a country to thank the Armed Forces community for their public service. We in the Labour Party are deeply proud of their dedication to our country and are committed to ensuring veterans and their families receive the support they deserve once they leave the service.

From deployments abroad in response to the invasion of Ukraine to deployments at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Armed Forces are essential to our national defence and resilience. Theirs is the ultimate public service.

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Since being appointed Shadow Minister for Veterans and Defence People, I have spoken to veterans and their families from across the country as part of Labour’s Veterans’ Voice campaign. We launched the campaign to continue strengthening Labour’s links with the Armed Forces community. Veterans’ Voice represents a commitment by Labour to the wider armed forces community that their experiences will shape our plans for the next general election.

Many veterans and their families told me how they are proud of their service to our country but feel the Conservatives are not delivering the services they deserve. Common across many conversations has been a deep frustration at navigating the fractured system of services as they and their family transition into civilian life.

Over the past 13 years, the Conservative Party has repeatedly broken promises to our veterans. With the Armed Forces Act, Ministers dodged responsibility for delivering the Armed Forces Covenant - a duty they have placed on other public bodies but not themselves. This fails to guarantee the promises we make to veterans in important areas like employment, pensions, compensation, and social care.

Alongside this, the Government has missed waiting time targets on veterans’ mental health, been slow to roll out of Veteran ID cards, and former personnel are reporting negative experiences when claiming compensation. Our nation’s heroes deserve far better from their government.

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As part of our plan for government, Labour will fully incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law and scrap visa fees for non-UK veterans and their families after four years of service. We will also strengthen support for veterans, boost specialist support, and bring down waiting times for veterans’ mental health services, part of our £1bn commitment to ensure everyone receives treatment within a month.

The next Labour government will stand side-by-side with our Armed Forces community and fulfil the important promises our society makes to those who serve.