(Title Image: Manchester Evening News)
The UK likes to take pride in its armed forces, but after men and women have been discharged by the military, they’re often left on their own to deal with their transition to civilian life.
Despite the so-called Armed Forces Covenant, ex-service personnel are often over-represented amongst the homeless, struggle with mental health problems and have to adapt to a less-regimented way of life.
Defence policy is, of course, non-devolved, but the Welsh Government is often left to pick up the pieces when people leave the armed forces. Unusually, in the absence of a formal Assembly inquiry into the implementation of the covenant in Wales, it was left to a Cross-Party Group to carry out an inquiry themselves.
The Motion (Amended Version)
- Welcomes the Cross-Party Group on the Armed Forces and Cadets inquiry into the impact of the armed forces covenant (pdf).
- Calls on the Welsh Government to consider the recommendations put forward by the inquiry to ensure all available support is provided for military personnel, veterans and their families in Wales.
- Welcomes the Welsh Government support that is provided for military personnel, veterans and their families in Wales.
- Calls on the Welsh Government to update the Senedd on the implementation of the National Housing Pathway for Ex-Service Personnel.
- Welcomes the decision to include questions about service in the armed forces in the National Rough Sleeping Count and calls on the Welsh Government to publish the data collected.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales)
For (the motion): The inquiry’s recommendations should be enacted.
- The military covenant – which dates back to the 19th Century – is a principle that ex-service personnel and their families should be at no disadvantage compared to other citizens when it comes to public services.
- Amongst the recommendations of the inquiry was to create an Armed Forces Commissioner, properly assess the needs of the armed forces community, bring down waiting times to access Veterans NHS services and introduce a service pupil premium for children of active service personnel.
Steffan Lewis AM (Plaid, South Wales East)
For (if amended): Access to housing can be difficult.
- Finding housing after leaving the services can be “daunting and difficult”.
- Data on the number of rough sleepers who are ex-service personnel should be published.
Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For: Problems need to be addressed earlier.
- Mental health problems need to be recognised earlier to prevent veterans turning to alcohol and drugs.
- The RAF saved his family’s life during the Partition of India; “Our service personnel have never let us down”.
Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)
For: Good work has already been done.
- Good work done by the Welsh Government in this area should be acknowledged.
- Supports all amendments, particularly the need for a housing pathway and rough sleeper count.
Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For: Wales is over-represented in the UK military; needs a Welsh response.
- About 10-12% of the UK military has historically come from Wales despite having 5% of the UK’s population.
- Pleased that all Welsh local authorities are now signed up to the covenant.
David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For: We need better data.
- Some very important work with veterans is being carried out by the Third Sector, particularly in building up confidence and self-esteem.
- We need better data on veterans; supports service data being included in the census.
Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West)
For: A Commissioner could make a difference.
- Pleased that the idea of an Armed Forces Commissioner is being taken seriously; a similar post in Scotland has made a difference to veterans lives by holding various bodies to account.
Welsh Government Response
Secretary for Local Government & Public Services, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent)
- Grateful for the work of the cross-party group; all the recommendations in their report were well-founded.
- Wants to undertake further work on the impact service life has on children as well as why people leave the military early.
- Open to the idea of an Armed Forces Commissioner, but needs some convincing.
- £700,000 is committed annually to the Veterans NHS Wales service.
- Not convinced on a service pupil premium, but it’s something he’s willing to discuss further.
The amended motion was unanimously approved.