In July Prime Minister David Cameron asked Professor Hew Strachan, a military historian at Oxford University, to lead an independent Task Force to develop innovative ideas to support the ‘rebuilding’ of the Covenant.
Professor Strachan, also a member of the External Reference Group which oversees cross-government support to the Armed Forces community, looked at support that can be provided across Government and throughout society and makes many recommendations for the Government to consider.
The Government will begin work immediately on two recommendations in the report. The first is for an Armed Forces Community Covenant, which encourages communities across the UK to volunteer support for their local Armed Forces.
The second is for a Chief of Defence Staff Commendation Scheme, which will allow the head of the UK’s Armed Forces to thank individuals and organisations which give exceptional support to the Armed Forces.
Andrew Robathan, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans will publish a full response to this report’s recommendations on behalf of Government in Spring 2011.
In addition to the Task Force report, the Government has also committed to ensuring that progress is made on re-building the Covenant, year on year. Today it has brought forward legislation within the Armed Forces Bill for the Defence Secretary to present an Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament every year. This will set out how the Government is supporting our Armed Forces, their families and veterans in key areas such as healthcare, housing and education.
The Government has already announced a number of key ways in which it is supporting the Armed Forces community, including doubling the operational allowance for Armed Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan, ensuring personnel’s Rest and Recuperation leave is maximised, and providing support for ex-Service personnel to study at university.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Our service personnel make an extraordinary contribution to British life. Those serving on the front line risk their lives for us on a daily basis. So all of us – the government, the private sector, and the voluntary organisations – need to go the extra mile for them. I want to get to the root of their issues and make sure that the inevitable disturbance associated with military life does not lead to greater problems.”
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: “We are committed to strengthening the bonds between this country and the Armed Forces that do so much to defend it. This comprehensive independent report into the Military Covenant includes many recommendations to help us work on rebuilding the Covenant step by step.
“We plan to bring in two recommendations immediately; an Armed Forces Community Covenant that asks local people to support their Armed Forces in line with the Prime Minister’s Big Society; and the Chief of the Defence Staff commendation scheme, which will be a visible demonstration of appreciation from the head of the Armed Forces for those who work to help serving personnel, veterans, and forces’ families.
“This Government has already done much to support the Armed Forces, including doubling the operational allowance for deployed personnel. Rebuilding the Covenant is an ongoing process, not a single event. This report gives us a great deal to study and take forward as part of that process.”
General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “I welcome the recommendation to bring in a Chief of the Defence Staff’s Commendation Scheme. This Scheme will allow me, on behalf of all service personnel, to publicly thank and applaud all those people who do outstanding work for the military community. These commendations will help demonstrate the Armed Forces’ appreciation for the support their communities give them and show again the unbreakable link between this country and those who serve and defend her.”