Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017 Contents

2The Armed Forces Covenant at the centre of Government

The new Veterans Board

9.Between 2011 and 2016, oversight of Covenant implementation was the responsibility of a dedicated Cabinet Sub-Committee, chaired by the then Minister for Government Policy, which was intended to maintain momentum and oversee work relating to the Covenant.14 In his January 2017 evidence to our predecessor Committee for their inquiry into the 2016 Annual Report, Rt Hon Mark Lancaster MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, explained that a new Inter-Ministerial Group, meeting twice a year, would replace the Sub-Committee.15 However, he was unable to provide further details including the Group’s membership, terms of reference or details of its first meeting.

10.In their report, our predecessors expressed concern over the proposed new oversight arrangements, in particular whether twice-yearly meetings would provide the necessary levels of Ministerial focus on implementing Covenant commitments, and whether the removal of the Group’s status as a Cabinet Sub-Committee would mean its influence was diminished.16 To allay these fears, it recommended that the Inter-Ministerial Group should meet four times a year and that consideration should be given to elevating the Group’s status to a formal Cabinet Sub-Committee. To ensure a dedicated focus and cross-departmental perspective in implementing the Covenant, it also recommended the creation of a new Ministerial position dedicated to Covenant and veterans affairs, together with a Covenant Delivery Office located in the Cabinet Office.17

11.In response to these concerns, the Government said that the frequency of meetings and the status of the Group would be considered at its first meeting. The Government agreed that Covenant implementation required a joined-up approach across Whitehall and beyond, and argued that this was demonstrated by the Covenant Reference Group, the senior official-level governance body, being chaired at Director General level by the Cabinet Office. However, the arrangements for cross-Government Ministerial oversight of, and support for, the Covenant were being reviewed and an update would be provided in, or before, the 2017 Annual Report.18

12.Partly because of the June 2017 General Election, the first meeting of the new cross-Government Armed Forces Covenant and Veterans Board (known as the Veterans Board) did not take place until 26 October 2017.19 Under the co-chairmanship of Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP, the then Secretary of State for Defence, and the then First Secretary of State, Rt Hon Damian Green MP, the Veterans Board, reporting to the Prime Minister, announced that it would meet twice-yearly to drive forward existing Covenant commitments across all Departments responsible for delivery, with a specific focus on the priority areas of healthcare, including mental health. Housing, education, and employment opportunities were other areas which would be covered. The co-chairs of the Veterans Board also committed to meet separately with leading Service charities and the single Service Family Federations to discuss the Covenant on an annual basis to “ensure the views of the wider Armed Forces Community are represented in government decisions”.

13.The Veterans Board’s roles in providing strategic direction and driving delivery across Government, together with coordinating efforts across Government in delivering the key areas of the Covenant, were identified as two areas of focus in 2017. This was reflected in the 2017 Annual Report’s description of the outcomes of the Board’s first meeting:

… the Board took action to strengthen accountability within Government by asking relevant Departments to appoint a lead Minister for Covenant and Veterans issues. It was also agreed that the inaccurate public perception of veterans as damaged by their time in the Armed Forces, needed to be addressed urgently, through launching an evidence-based counter-narrative. Finally, the Board also recognised the need to fill in the gaps in the Government’s ability to measure the delivery of the Covenant. To address this, Departments were asked to investigate what further metrics they could introduce.20

A second meeting of the Veterans Board took place on 26 April 2018 at which the Defence Secretary launched two initiatives: the commissioning of a Veterans Strategy and the establishment of a new cross-Government Veterans Unit (discussed in paragraphs 36–38).21

14.The External Members of the Covenant Reference Group have been broadly positive about the creation of the Veterans Board. In their observations in the 2017 Annual Report, COBSEO (the Confederation of Service Charities) thought it would “provide strategic direction and drive delivery of the Covenant”.22 While the single Service Family Federations thought two Board meetings a year was probably sufficient, they expressed disappointment that they had not been invited to be part of the Board and were concerned that the new arrangements might limit their direct access to Ministers in other Government Departments, which they had previously enjoyed.23 Sara Baade, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation, told us that this felt like “a slight devaluation of the Covenant”.24 Despite these reservations, the single Service Family Federations and the Service charities were particularly encouraged by the opportunity to meet the co-chairs of the Board, and Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (MoD), before the Board’s first meeting which allowed them to suggest issues that the Board should consider. There will be similar meetings before future meetings of the Board. The Service Families Federations described this as a level of access that had not been given to them previously.25

Wider Covenant governance structure and devolved administrations

15.Service charities were keen to emphasise to us that it was important to see the Veterans Board as sitting at the top of a pyramid with other bodies—such as the Covenant Reference Group and the Service Charities Partnership Board—beneath it.26 COBSEO hoped that the Covenant Reference Group would remain the principal focus for dialogue between the third sector, Government and the devolved administrations in respect of the delivery of the Covenant, with the Service Charities Partnership Board remaining the focus for the wider engagement of charities with the MoD.27 They had also been encouraged by the Minister’s active engagement with Service charities in these bodies and more widely.

16.We have been struck by the number of bodies, and complex relationships, involved at the various levels of Covenant governance.28 A key concern is the interaction of the Veterans Board and other levels of the governance structure with the devolved administrations, which have different bodies and mechanisms for implementation of the Covenant.29 The Minister agreed that this was a major challenge.30

17.The devolved administrations are represented on many of the Covenant committees. Helen Helliwell, Head of Service Personnel Support, Ministry of Defence, confirmed that senior civil servants sit on the Covenant Reference Group, as well as the National Panel for Grant Funding, to ensure funds are distributed across all areas of the UK.31 The terms of reference of the Veterans Board say that it is “to work closely with the devolved administrations to mutually support the delivery of the Covenant across the whole of the United Kingdom”, and the senior officials from the devolved administrations on the Covenant Reference Group were invited to the Veterans Board.32 Since our evidence session, the MoD has clarified that the Scottish and Welsh Governments, alongside the Territorial Offices, have been invited to attend both of the Covenant and Veterans Board meetings to date, at Ministerial level. Due to the ongoing political situation in Northern Ireland there is also an open invitation to the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service to represent the Government there, alongside the Northern Ireland Office. The lead Welsh Government Minister (originally the late Carl Sargeant and subsequently Alun Davies AM) attended both meetings. The lead Scottish Government Minister, Keith Brown MSP, has been unable to attend as has the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

18.The Scottish model for implementation of the Covenant was well regarded by our witnesses from Service charities, and seen as one from which lessons could be learnt by other parts of the UK. However, they considered the representation and status of devolved administrations on the Veterans Board to be a political matter for parliamentarians to resolve.33 Whilst acknowledging the challenge of the current lack of an administration in Northern Ireland, the Minister wished to see greater co-ordination with the devolved administrations.34

19.We welcome the creation of the new Veterans Board, even though it does not have formal Cabinet Sub-Committee status. We are pleased to note the Minister’s commitment to meet the single Service Families Federations, Service charities and other interested bodies prior to each meeting of the Board. It is vital that access to Ministers and Departments is maintained for all those implementing the Covenant, so that those outside Government can highlight concerns over the delivery and implementation of the Covenant. We note that the Board will meet twice a year, despite our predecessors having recommended that it should meet four times a year.

20.The status of the Veterans Board and the frequency of its meetings should be kept under review: the momentum of Covenant implementation must not be lost because of a lack of strategic direction and involvement from the highest levels of Government. In its response to our report the Government should set out how it intends to measure the effectiveness of the Board.

21.We were pleased to hear that the Government wishes to engage and co-ordinate more closely with the devolved administrations on Covenant matters. We believe that it would be a positive step for the devolved administrations to have full-member representation on the Board. This would provide an opportunity for best practice from every area of the UK to be shared and adopted, leading to better coordination and delivery of the Covenant across the country.

22.In response to our report the Government should set out how it will take forward the involvement of the devolved administrations at all levels of the structures charged with the implementation of the Covenant.

Lead Departmental Ministers

23.As mentioned in paragraph 13, one of the key outcomes of the Veterans Board’s first meeting was that relevant Departments were asked to appoint a lead Minister for Covenant and veterans’ issues and all Departments were asked to identify new ways of measuring the effectiveness of the Government’s implementation of the Covenant. This is intended to strengthen accountability within Government on Covenant issues.

24.The single Service Families Federations and witnesses from the Service charities welcomed the appointment of lead Departmental Ministers which should help bring focus to the Board’s work in driving forward delivery of the Covenant.35 However, giving evidence in January 2018, three months after the announcement, all were concerned that no list of these Ministers had been produced.36 Mr Ellwood was also unable to provide the information.37 It was only after a specific request from us, following the Ministerial evidence session, that a list was provided which is published on our website.38 Given the concerns raised with us regarding the involvement of the devolved administrations with the Veterans Board, it is appropriate the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are the lead Ministers in their Departments. However, the list of the lead Departmental Minsters still does not appear to be included on the relevant Government websites.

25.We welcome the Veterans Board’s initiative in appointing lead Ministers for Covenant and veterans’ issues in each relevant Government Department. We see these roles as giving greater focus and momentum to each Department’s implementation of the Covenant. However, we are concerned at the apparent delay in making these appointments and that it took a request from us to secure a list of these Ministers and to make it publicly available. This information is vital to all those—whether inside or outside Government—involved in implementing and delivering the Covenant, as it enables them to raise concerns with the appropriate person in more timely and efficient manner and it should also ensure greater cross-Government coordination. This information should be included in future editions of the Covenant Annual Report and should also appear on each Government Department’s website and other relevant websites.

Monitoring Covenant delivery

26.Each Covenant Annual Report includes, as an annex, a table which lists all of the commitments that were made for the first time in that year’s report, as well as those that were recorded as “to be completed” in previous reports.39 There are concerns that the MoD and other Departments are simply marking their own homework when assessing the fulfilment of these commitments. This matter was also highlighted by our predecessors in their report on the 2016 Covenant Report which recommended that an independent assessment of progress should be published as an annex to the Covenant Annual Report.40 The Government’s response was that an independent assessment of progress towards Covenant commitments was already provided by the leading Service charities and the single Service Family Federations through their unedited assessments published each year in the Covenant Annual Report. In addition, this was underpinned by the Covenant Commitments Plan which is reviewed quarterly by the Cabinet Office-chaired Covenant Reference Group.41

27.These concerns persist: for example, the 2014 Covenant Annual Report promised that: “Defence Statistics will publish the first report on the causes of deaths amongst veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in 2015–16”.42 The 2016 Annual Report Annex stated that this commitment was “at risk of not being delivered” due to “unforeseen resource constraints” delaying progress and a “risk in identifying the funding line for the flagging of the cohort and the receiving of notifications”.43 In oral evidence on the 2016 Annual Report, the then Minister explained that the scale of the task—which involved linking around half a million Service records to medical records—was a challenge and that the process could start only when the necessary funding was in place.44 In supplementary written evidence, the MoD added that, once that funding had been secured, the report would be published within nine months.45 In their report, our predecessors acknowledged that this commitment was a significant undertaking but warned that it was a Covenant pledge which should not be undermined merely by a lack of resources. They called upon the Government to commit to funding this work. Our predecessors expected the 2017 Annual Report to demonstrate that significant progress had been made in this area.46

28.In its response, the Government noted the Committee’s comments and pledged to provide an update in the 2017 Annual Report.47 However, although the commitment was now listed in that report as being “on target for delivery”, no explanation was given for the change in status and there was no information about how the commitment was being resourced—with the Annex merely stating that funding was still being sought.48

29.Given the lack of progress, we explored ways in which a more effective regime could be established for the monitoring of Covenant commitments, particularly given the Veterans Board’s priority for Departments to identify new ways of measuring the effectiveness of the Government’s implementation of the Covenant.49 Our witnesses were keen to highlight their role as External Members of the Covenant Reference Group, and their unedited observations in the Covenant Annual Report, as a way of challenging the Government on Covenant implementation.50 They agreed that this matter needed further consideration, but they pointed to the difficulty of identifying appropriate output measures.51 One suggestion was that an independent body, such as the Forces in Mind Trust, should undertake an independent external study, funded from the Covenant Fund, into how delivery of the Covenant was assessed and monitored.52 An alternative suggestion in a recent paper by the Royal United Services Institute was the establishment, at arm’s length from the MoD, of an Armed Forces Covenant Programme Office.53

30.The Minister was frustrated by the limitations within the MoD and across Whitehall “to make sure that things get done”.54 He added:

The model that we have, not only in working with the charitable sector, is that we require other Whitehall Departments to recognise their duty under the Armed Forces Covenant. Culturally, that is something that is taking time to change. We are seeing that change take place, but in some cases it is frustratingly slow and it is something we need to work on. We need to see greater accountability across Whitehall. We need to ensure that we co-ordinate efforts. We must also ensure clarity of direction of strategy, and that absolutely requires us to have evidence-based policies and methods to measure that performance.55

31.The Covenant Annual Report is cross-Governmental, with all relevant Departments contributing. One suggestion for improving the accountability and transparency of the implementation and delivery of the Covenant would be for each relevant Department to also include a section in their Annual Reports and Accounts on how they were adhering to, and implementing their responsibilities under, the Covenant. The Minister welcomed this idea.56

32.While we acknowledge the role of the External Members of the Covenant Reference Group in challenging the Government’s implementation of the Covenant pledges, we are concerned that the perception persists that the MoD and other Government Departments are ‘marking their own homework’ when assessing their effectiveness in the delivery of Covenant pledges. There is a risk that this could undermine confidence in the Government’s implementation of the Covenant. There is also a danger that this problem will become more acute as additional measures and statistics are included in future lists of Covenant commitments. We also note concerns about the difficulty of identifying ways of measuring outcomes and outputs. A priority for the Veterans Board should be the introduction of measures and statistics that assess the impact of the Covenant in ensuring that progress is being made in removing disadvantage for serving personnel, families and veterans.

33.We repeat our predecessor Committee’s recommendation that an independent assessment should be made of progress towards Covenant commitments. This work should also include the development of ways of measuring impact, outputs and outcomes as well as inputs. The measures used by the devolved administrations in their different systems and the establishment of an independent Armed Forces Covenant Programme Office should also be taken into consideration. We acknowledge this would be a major study and therefore recommend that the Government should consult the Forces in Mind Trust and other appropriate organisations to establish the best way to take this project forward. Consideration should also be given to funding this work from the Covenant Fund.

34.We also note the Minister’s frustration at the limitations in the MoD and across Whitehall “to make sure that things get done”. We agree with the Minister that a cultural change is needed and that faster progress is urgently required. Ministers and their Private Offices should be raising issues directly and speedily with their opposite numbers in other Departments, and, as a priority, the Veterans Board must develop the appropriate mechanisms to hold Government Departments to account within their areas of responsibility. As a first step in focusing each Department’s work on the Covenant and veterans issues, we recommend that relevant Government Departments should include a section in their Annual Reports and Accounts on how they have discharged their responsibilities in these matters. This should specifically include an examination of progress by Departments in encouraging their supply chain to sign Covenant pledges and make commitments on the employment of veterans and Reservists.

35.We also recommend that, in addition to a lead Departmental Minister, Departments should nominate one of their external board members as a champion for the Covenant with responsibility for monitoring the Department’s delivery and implementation of Covenant pledges. They should also be responsible for the Department’s input into the table of commitments and the measurement of how these are progressing in the Covenant Annual Report.

Veterans Strategy

36.As a key part of delivering a coordinated approach to the Covenant, the 2017 Annual Report included a commitment to produce an evidence-based cross-Government Veterans Strategy.57 Following the second meeting of the Veterans Board in April 2018, the MoD announced the commissioning of work on the Strategy together with the creation of a Veterans Unit, with input from across Government Departments, to champion the changing needs of the ex-Service community and to ensure action is taken to meet those needs.58 These initiatives are part of the Government’s response to the expected generational shift, over the next decade, of the veterans community from that of the Second World War and conscripted generation to the younger, all professional cohort, each of which has very differing needs. The MoD reported that engagement on the Strategy with stakeholders, and the veterans community, was underway and that the Secretary of State had identified several key pinch-points which affected a small but significant number of veterans (debt, housing, social isolation, mental and physical wellbeing, and public perception) which were to be prioritised. The lead Departmental Ministers (discussed in paragraphs 23–25 above) were intended to “help ensure the Veterans Strategy is implemented across Government”.

37.According to the MoD press release in April announcing work on the Strategy, it was expected to be released in Autumn 2018.59 This contrasted with the MoD’s written evidence, received in May, which stated that, although “the development of the strategy has started, due to the number and range of stakeholders the Department wished to consult, it would take some time to pull together”. Although we were offered an update by the end of 2018, publication was anticipated “no later than the first quarter of 2019”.60

38.We welcome the commitment to the development of a comprehensive cross-Government Veterans Strategy and the planned establishment of a Veterans Unit. We acknowledge that it is appropriate to hold a wide-ranging consultation as part of the Strategy’s development, but in its response to our report the Government should clarify whether the Strategy will be published in Autumn 2018 or will slip into 2019.

Informing the Veterans Strategy

39.A key part of the Veterans Strategy initiative is the identification of the location of veterans and their specific needs. The capture of this data is being taken forward by:

40.In addition to the initiatives above a new ‘Veterans ID’ will be introduced to ensure that veterans can be easily identified when accessing support. Veterans will retain their Veterans ID card, as a form of identification, when they leave the Armed Forces. In addition, it is also planned by the early 2020s, to include a veterans marker on the driving licences of veterans residing in England, Scotland and Wales.64

41.Service charities were supportive of the development of a Veterans Strategy and the initiatives to inform it. COBSEO saw the development of the Veterans Strategy as a key task for the Veterans Board and regarded it as a “demonstrable step in clarifying responsibility for the delivery of the Covenant at the heart of Government”.65 COBSEO were prepared to provide support in its drafting and development and argued that a key element of the Strategy should be targets which the Government—not just the Ministry of Defence—would be required to meet.66 There should also be a mechanism for imposing those targets, although they acknowledged that this would be difficult.67

42.The Royal British Legion regarded the Veterans Gateway as “a positive example of cross-sector collaboration in partnership with Government”,68 and Charles Byrne, its Director General, told us:

It has been running for eight months. As you know, there are another 16 months of the pilot to run. So far, the Veterans Gateway has answered about 4,000 direct inquiries. That would be telephone calls, emails, webchat-type inquiries; and in addition to that there have been about 170,000 web-based inquiries. To give that a relative measure, the number of phone calls that the Veterans Gateway has handled is about 5% of the volume of the calls that the British Legion’s contact centre has handled.69

Mr Byrne did not regard the Gateway as simply replicating the services provided by the Service charities but as providing a point of first contact when someone was unsure to whom to turn. Those wanting a specific charity would contact them directly.70

43.General (Retd) Sir John McColl, Chairman of COBSEO, thought the need for a Gateway was demonstrated by the confusion among veterans when seeking to access support.71 As the number of people using the Gateway and its salience and reputation grew, he hoped to see a significant reduction in the number of veterans helplines. The Minister questioned whether a total of more than 450 veterans charities was too many.72 He wondered if some mergers would help ensure that veterans knew who to approach for assistance. The Royal British Legion told us that they had commissioned Ulster University to provide an independent evaluation of the value for money and the impact of the Veterans Gateway by the end of 2018.73

44.The information provided by the ‘Map of Need’, the veterans question in future censuses, and the nature of enquiries to the Veterans Gateway will be essential for developing the Veterans Strategy. We also welcome the intention to introduce the new Veterans ID. We expect the Government to provide us with regular updates on these initiatives, as well as with assurances that sensitive data about the home addresses of veterans will be held safely and securely.

45.It is important that the Veterans Gateway does not simply duplicate the services already provided by Service charities. Nor should it become the norm for Service charities, which are involved in operating the Gateway, routinely to refer enquiries—made via the Gateway—to their own services. In its response to our report the Government should set out the measures it has put in place to ensure that this does not happen. The Government should also devise Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the Gateway and commit to publishing performance against them in the Covenant Annual Report. The KPIs should take into account the outcomes of Ulster University’s independent evaluation of the value for money and the impact of the Veterans Gateway.

War widows and widowers as part of the veterans community

46.A particular area of concern in the development of a Veterans Strategy is the apparent lack of recognition and inclusion of war widows and widowers as part of the veterans community. In the 2017 Covenant Annual Report, COBSEO noted that some progress had been achieved in this area, but there was much that still needed to done to ensure widows were treated equally and fairly.74 There was the potential for them to be ‘forgotten’, if there were neither a current member of the Armed Forces nor a veteran in the family. As a consequence, the War Widows Association was still having to campaign for the recognition of this cohort as part of the veterans community. Problems arising from social isolation, mental health and access to social care were also becoming more obvious and, according to COBSEO, would only increase in this cohort. They argued that war widows and widowers should therefore be given a higher profile in the initiatives to be taken forward.75

47.Mary Moreland, Chair of the War Widows Association, emphasised that war widows and widowers had been “a very neglected cohort for a very long time”. This was the first time that the Covenant Annual Report had even mentioned the phrase “war widow” and recognised them as an important element of the veterans community.76 She considered that although the Covenant was a “very good” concept, the public, and parts of the Government, needed to be educated that when veterans were no longer alive their dependents were not regarded as war widows. The popular concept of a “war widow or widower” was an “older lady” when, in reality, someone might have been widowed at 24 in a recent conflict and still be a young person. Mrs Moreland told us that that part of the problem was a misunderstanding of the definition of the term “war widow”:

… It is this image that that has to involve someone killed in action, but it is not; it is caused or hastened by service.

[ … ]

So it is that education: that a war widow is not First World War or Second World War; there is more to being a war widow and to being in that cohort than just someone getting killed in action.77

48.The Minister, Mr Ellwood, agreed that this was an area that needed more attention, as it was sometimes forgotten that when a Serviceman or woman died serving their country, the person left behind might have been part of that Armed Forces community as well.78 He was pleased that the War Widows Association had the opportunity to represent its views, and make representations, as an external member of the Covenant Reference Group.

49.There are two current issues of particular concern to the War Widows Association. The first is that a War Widows’ Pension paid under the War Pension Scheme is perceived, in the Association’s opinion incorrectly, as a benefit rather than compensation. The Association argues that compensation is not normally considered or included when calculating a means-tested, income-based conditions benefit, and that—when defined correctly as compensation—the War Widows’ Pension should be disregarded from inclusion in any future benefit entitlement calculations.

50.The second area of concern is around the reinstatement of the War Widows’ Pension to those widows who had their War Widows’ Pension withdrawn on remarriage or cohabitation, and who did not fall within the announcement (made by the Prime Minister on 8 November 2014) that the Government would end the practice of withdrawing on remarriage or cohabitation ‘non-attributable’ widows’ pensions from the Armed Forces Pension Scheme 1975. There would also be a change to allow all those in receipt of a War Widows’ Pension on or after 1 April 2015 to retain it for life. This decision, welcomed by many, left a small number (200–300) of war widows who lost their pension when they remarried, for example, and then did not qualify to have it reinstated because this happened before the reinstatement qualification date. However, if they were now to divorce their current husbands, they would have the pensions reinstated—and then could remarry their former husbands without losing the reinstated pensions.

51.Mr Ellwood told us that the Secretary of State for Defence was aware of, and considering, both of these issues.79 In its written evidence, the Government acknowledged “the strength of feeling about differences in survivor benefits”.80 Therefore officials had prepared an options paper, taking account of the legal and financial constraints, which was now being considered by MoD Ministers to identify a way to progress these issues.

52.We were concerned to hear that war widows and widowers believe that they are at risk of being forgotten and that they have been very neglected for a long time. We were disappointed to learn from the War Widows Association that this was the first time that the Covenant Annual Report had mentioned the term “war widow” and recognised them as an important cohort. While we acknowledge that the Minister recognised that more attention was needed to the requirements of war widows and widowers, the MoD must take urgent action to ensure that they are fully recognised as members of the veterans community and fully covered by the Covenant. An important first step will be the inclusion of war widows and widowers as an integral part of the Veterans Strategy. It is also crucial for the MoD to identify ways of educating the public to realise that war widows include young people as well as old, and people of both genders.

53.As part of ensuring that war widows and widowers are fully incorporated into the veterans community, the Government should urgently address the concerns raised with us that a War Widow’s Pension is incorrectly perceived as a benefit, rather than compensation, and the potential negative impact this might have when a widow is assessed for an income-based benefit. The Government must also urgently address the absurd anomaly where a war widower or widow, who lost his or her pension upon cohabitation or remarriage, and did not get it reinstated because it was before the reinstatement date, could however get it restored by temporarily splitting up and then reuniting with the former spouse or partner.

The balance between veterans and current Service personnel and their families

54.Given the number of initiatives on behalf of veterans in the 2017 Annual Report, there is a danger of creating a perception that the Covenant is too veteran-orientated. The single Service Family Federations had encountered this—particularly in their dealings with local authorities, which they thought might be due, in part, to the their statutory obligations to veterans and also because veterans are more easily identifiable than dispersed Service family communities.81 The Federations were also concerned that there was cynicism about the Covenant among Service personnel and their families, who believed that it had not made a huge difference.82 Witnesses attributed this partly to a lack of communication about, and awareness of, the Covenant. Service personnel had heard of—and, indeed, used—many schemes covered by the Covenant (such as Forces Help to Buy), but did not relate them to the Covenant.83 Most of the time, it was also the case that the majority of Service personnel and their families “do not need the Covenant”.

55.While accepting it was right that the Covenant had a focus on the veterans community and that no deliberate attempt was being made to focus solely upon veterans, the single Service Families Federations thought that the agenda in various Covenant committees could be very veterans-heavy. Although this was not a criticism, they had asked the Secretary of State to take this matter to the Veterans Board in order to remind it that the Covenant is also there for serving personnel. The Minister told us that while some Covenant initiatives, such as the Veterans Gateway, were obviously aimed at veterans, it was vital that serving personnel were also looked after appropriately.84

56.The Government must ensure that the Covenant does not become too focused on veterans to the detriment of current Service personnel and their families. We request that the Government set out the measures it will take to ensure that the Covenant is balanced between the needs of veterans and serving personnel and their families, which should include a greater emphasis on increasing awareness of the relevance of the Covenant within current Service personnel and their families.


14 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2012, Introduction, p. 8

15 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, Qq 2–5

16 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, para 10

17 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, para 12

19 “Defence Secretary announces Armed Forces Covenant and Veterans Board, Ministry of Defence press release, 3 October 2017

20 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 73

22 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 17

23 Q2

24 Q2

25 Q2 and Q65

26 Q65 (Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory)

27 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 17

28 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001) outlines the governance structure of the Armed Forces Covenant and also includes the membership, Terms of Reference and other information regarding several of the bodies involved.

29 For examples, see Qq66–69 and Qq120–124

32 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001) and Q114 and Q120

35 Q3 and Q65

36 Q3 and Q65

38 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001)

39 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, Annex A, p 83

40 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, para 24

42 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2014, 16 December 2014, p. 24

43 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, 15 December 2016, Annex A, p 78

44 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, Qq38–41

45 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, Ministry of Defence (AFC0001)

46 Defence Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2016–17, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, HC 492, para 39

48 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, Annex A, p 84

49 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 73; see also Ministry of Defence (AFC0001) for some examples of the new statistics and measurements being considered for inclusion in the next Covenant Annual Report.

52 The Covenant Fund of £10 million per annum makes grants to support members of the Armed Forces community. From April 2018, the fund has been managed by the independent Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

53 Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Occasional Paper, The Home Front—The Future Accommodation Model for the UK Armed Forces: Obligations and Choices for Service Personnel and Families, May 2018, p 32

57 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 5, 7 and 12

60 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001)

61 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 5, 7 and 12

62 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001)

63 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 7

64 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001); see also “Veterans to retain military ID, allowing easier access to services”, Ministry of Defence press release, 7 June 2018

65 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 18

66 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 18; Q74

68 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 20

73 Q84; Further information on the independent evaluation of the Veterans Gateway can be found on the Ulster University website (accessed 12 June 2018).

74 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 18

75 Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2017, 18 December 2017, p 18

76 Q75 and Q86

80 Ministry of Defence (AFC0001)




Published: 30 June 2018