Edward Timpson's Column for the Northwich and Winsford Guardian, originally published here.
With red poppies reappearing across Cheshire, from lapels to lamp posts, and with Remembrance Sunday soon upon us, our thoughts are once again with those who have served, fought and died for our country.
Like you, I am proud of the courage and dedication of our Armed Forces.
That’s why I very much welcome the significant progress that has been made in delivering the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan, which aims to make Britain the best place in the world to be a veteran by 2028.
This policy is led by former British Army officer Johnny Mercer MP, who was appointed Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on October 25.
Johnny’s dismay at how his old Army colleagues were treated by the governments of the day drove him into politics, despite having never voted before. We couldn’t have a better MP in this vital job.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our ex-armed forces community - like Johnny - so I am delighted that new veterans’ ID cards are now being issued to service leavers as part of their discharge process.
The scheme will also be extended to enable existing veterans in Cheshire and across the country to prove more quickly, easily and securely they served in His Majesty’s Armed Forces.
The Government also continues to provide those who have served with the long-established Career Transition Partnership, which helps to direct service leavers in their transition from military to civilian life through various career and employment support services.
Additionally, in March 2021, the Government launched Op COURAGE, the veterans’ mental health service in England.
Op COURAGE brings under one umbrella the different bespoke veterans’ mental health services currently offered to form one, long-term, integrated support system, and to stop our former servicemen and women from being passed from pillar to post when receiving the treatment they need and deserve.
Housing has always been a challenge for personnel leaving the Forces.
So, in June 2020, the Government required local authorities to improve access to social housing for the Armed Forces and veterans’ communities.
Furthermore, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 ensures members of the Armed Forces are referred to a local housing authority: a crucial first step in resolving a housing crisis.
Perhaps most important of all - as the foundation of the tremendous change in approach to veterans we’ve seen over the last decade - the Armed Forces Covenant is a statement of the moral obligation between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces.
The covenant applies across the UK, and the Government must report annually to Parliament on its progress in upholding this sincere promise.
I hope this approach will continue to lead to even more support for our veterans, but you can do your bit too.
November means poppies, and the Royal British Legion will be out in force in Winsford and villages all over Eddisbury, collecting donations and handing out these poignant red flowers of remembrance in the run-up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
You can find out more online at britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal. And this year, poppies are recyclable. After Armistice Day, you can recycle your poppy at any Sainsbury’s supermarket.
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