A new report entitled ‘Our Community – Our Covenant’, which was jointly commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and Local Government Association (LGA) to identify ways to improve the local delivery of the Government’s Armed Forces Covenant, has found that 38% of Armed Forces Community members felt disadvantaged as a result of their service…

The Report, released 30th August, and supported by the Ministry of Defence, uses examples of good practice from across Great Britain to provide an outline of the core infrastructure needed to deliver the Covenant’s aims, and offers a number of key recommendations to help better deliver these objectives. The recommendations apply to Government, local councils, military charities and the Armed Forces Community itself.

The Report identified in some aspects a mis-match between what is perceived to be the Covenant’s remit, and what is actually being delivered.

All local authorities in Great Britain have signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant and to better delivering its objectives. Notwithstanding the recent efforts the MOD has put in to better prepare its people to transition into civilian life, the Report finds that the MOD could do more. In addition, not all council Chief Executives reported that they had a ‘good’ understanding of the Covenant, and an active action plan.

The Report also underlines the importance of individuals in the Armed Forces Community taking responsibility for their own transition.

The Report produced a number of recommendations, including:

  • Producing an LGA and Government agreed statement on what the Covenant can and cannot be expected to deliver;
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of local authorities’ Covenant coordinating groups by ensuring each has the core infrastructure in place to meet local needs;
  • Creating an action research framework to support good practice for councils in their delivery of local Covenant pledges;
  • Improving the transition process by better tracing and communicating with all serving and ex-Service members of the Armed Forces Community; and
  • Exploring how to improve internal and external communications between significant Armed Forces bases and councils.

The Report used a broad spectrum of resources including: a literature review; surveys of council Chief Executives, council Armed Forces Covenant champions, stakeholders and members of the Armed Forces Community; and ‘deep dive’ research visits across the country. The Report proposes further work to create an even better understanding of local Covenant pledge delivery, and to establish a learning network to capture and share good practices.

Founded in January 2012, the FiMT aims to provide an evidence base that will influence and underpin policy making and service delivery in order to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to lead successful civilian lives. FiMT awards grants and commissions research, coordinates the efforts of others, and supports projects that deliver long-term solutions to the challenges faced.

The Armed Forces Covenant was introduced in 2011 by the Government to ensure that “those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly”. The Covenant focusses on helping members of the Armed Forces Community “have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.” This includes ensuring that Armed Forces Communities do not miss out on a range of services, including priority housing, school places for their children, jobs and health support.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “When you leave the Armed Forces, it can be a significant challenge to adapt to the pressures and demands of everyday civilian life, and the support of local government working with the Ministry of Defence through the Armed Forces Covenant is vital. The findings of this report provide us with an invaluable evidence-base for how the Armed Forces Covenant is currently working, and is perceived to work.

"It also demonstrates how the development of a stronger infrastructure can ensure that no one in the Armed Forces Community is left behind. I urge the MOD, local councils, military charities and members of the Armed Forces Community themselves, to examine these recommendations carefully, and so deliver the support our Armed Forces, and their families, deserve.”

The Local Government Association’s Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: "Councils are committed to ensuring our Armed Forces and their families get the support they need. Local government has a long and lasting relationship with our Armed Forces community and we are deeply grateful to our servicemen and women for their commitment, service and sacrifice to our country. We are also aware that it’s rarely just the individual who makes sacrifices, but whole families. The Armed Forces community is an integral part of who we are as a nation and an inspiration to us all.

"All councils across the country have signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, which demonstrates their commitment to supporting those in service, as well as their families, our veterans and reservists. We are very keen to continue working with the Ministry of Defence and FiMT to help councils understand where they can better support our servicemen and women, and their families. Clearly there are areas where we can improve and we are grateful for the learning that we can take away from this important report."