I hope that everyone is managing to have a relaxing break during the Christmas and new year holidays. Not everyone is able to be home for Christmas and I think in particular of those serving in our armed forces many of whom will be stationed abroad or at sea, and therefore away from their families.
As a country, we have always been good at recognising the achievements and bravery of our service personnel and veterans, as well as affording them the rightful respect they deserve, but I think it’s fair to say that we haven’t always fully grasped all of the challenges that can face veterans upon leaving our armed forces.
This is something that has been recognised in recent years as ground that needs to be made up. Both of our local authorities have an Armed Forces Covenant, and I was very pleased to see earlier this month, that the Armed Forces Act gained Royal Assent in Parliament, meaning the Armed Forces Covenant is enshrined into law for the first time.
This will help prevent service personnel and veterans from being disadvantaged when accessing essential services like healthcare, education and housing. The Armed Forces Act will also deliver a series of improvements to the Service Justice System, ensuring personnel have a clear, fair and effective route to justice wherever they are operating.
I welcome that the Armed Forces Act places a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the welfare of service personnel and veterans alike, giving them improved access to crucial services that we all rely on every day.
There are many veterans who have physical injuries or disabilities and will have seen horrific things that would permanently affect many of us. Virtually no one disagrees, that it’s right we do all we can for those who served their country to keep us safe and who risked paying the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. The Armed Forces Act is welcome progress on a journey of improvement.
I wish all readers a very happy and peaceful new year. I’m optimistic that 2022 will be a better year for all.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
29th December 2021