Debate on Government policy on veterans, House of Commons, 28 June 2023

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Key messages

  • Veterans can face significant barriers to accessing services and tailoring them to meet their needs is vital to ensure they’re not left behind.
  • Councils work with partner organisations to provide a range of services that support serving personnel and their families. Councils are committed to supporting veterans living in England and Wales and those who continue to serve their country and play a key role alongside local organisations to provide a range of services including housing, money advice, employment support and health and wellbeing services.
  • To improve the lives of the armed forces community across the whole country, councils want to work closely with the Government before, during and after the transition of service personnel into civilian life. With adequate funding, councils can deliver the services that they desperately need and prevent the need for longer-term support from the NHS, social care and wider local services.
  • Whilst many councils are already leading comprehensive approaches to the 2021 Armed Forces Covenant delivery, it is important that costs that have arisen from implementing the duty are kept under review and are fully funded by the Government. The LGA welcomes the opportunity to work with the Government to ensure councils are sustainably funded as financial certainty and sustainability will help ensure local government can continue to maintain and improve services, including honouring their important local Covenant commitments.


The Armed Forces Act 2021 introduced a new requirement for some public bodies, including local authorities and the NHS, to pay due regard to the principles of the Covenant when carrying out specific functions in the areas of housing, healthcare and education. Following new guidance released at the end of 2022, councils are still embedding the new requirements into their systems and processes.

There is a great political will to see the Covenant work well and there is a genuine desire to work together, however there is not a great deal of funding going directly into councils. The Armed Forces Covenant Trust does run a few grants a year to look at funding local council services. Under the Strengthening Delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant Programme, the Armed Forces Covenant Trust awarded £6.6 million through two rounds of funding to clusters of local authorities. A majority of local funding goes directly to organisations that provide specialised support services.

Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan

The Government also published their Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan: 2022 to 2024 which sets out the steps the Government will take towards their ambition of making the United Kingdom the best place in the world to be a veteran by 2028. The five focal points for success within that plan are:

  • Delivering a step-change in support for veterans and their families
  • Maximising veteran employability
  • Addressing the historic hurt or disadvantage that veterans have experienced
  • Dealing with historic operations and the continuing impact on veterans
  • Making sure veterans receive the same standard of support across the whole UK

Any strategy must consider that veterans are classed as being one of the groups who have higher levels of mental health problems and were already at higher risk of some adverse mental health outcomes before March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these health inequalities and the cost-of-living crisis may further compound this. NHS England will be providing £18 million more over three years for veteran health services, so that Op COURAGE for mental health and the Veterans Trauma Network for physical health are easier to access.

The LGA is also supportive of the considerable investment in digital and employment services for veterans to help them access pensions and compensation online, and fast track them into careers in prisons, the civil service and schools.

A recurring challenge for councils, however, is identifying veterans. More information about the number of veterans in our communities would help councils better plan their local services to make sure we have the right services in place.

Following the first ever veteran question in the Census, analysis of the data from the 2021 Census is being undertaken to further understand the needs of the veteran community. Using this data, the Government will publish official statistics on the frequency of suicide amongst veterans. Experts from academia and charities will be convened to understand the effect of the withdrawal from Afghanistan on veterans and their families. Better data on veterans who approach councils who are homeless will also be collected. The LGA welcomes these plans and believe councils would benefit from being involved in this work.

Appendix A

Support for UK Veterans

A House of Commons paper published in June 2023 provides a comprehensive outline of the Government policy on veterans.

Key areas include:

  • Number of UK veterans
  • Evolution of policy
  • Housing for veterans
  • Healthcare for veterans
  • Veterans’ pensions and social security
  • Additional information and support for veterans.


Arian Nemati, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

Email: [email protected]