Benefit not Burden: MPs could do more to encourage businesses to sign up to the Covenant
A new report has found that employers who have signed the Covenant were more likely to understand the value a veteran brings to their organisation. MPs can play a role in ensuring more sign up, says Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock.
When Forces in Mind Trust set up shop seven years ago, little was publicly discussed about the transition from military to civilian life, and the nascent Armed Forces Covenant was not much better known. Leaps and bounds, leaps and bounds. Currently underway are a UK governmental consultation on a ‘Strategy for our veterans’, active Defence select committee inquiries into veterans’ mental health services and the Covenant and an independent inquiry into Service families led by Andrew Selous MP. That’s in addition to an encyclopedia of Ashcroft reports into transition.
This body of work represents a genuine ramping up in the interest Parliament is taking in the treatment of ex-Service personnel and their families, the same population that Forces in Mind Trust was established by the recently re-branded National Lottery Community Fund to serve.
Questions to Members (and their researchers) though – should they contribute, and if so how?
The Armed Forces community, as defined by government, broadly consists of serving and ex-serving personnel and their families, and numbers currently around 6 million in the UK. So with 650 Westminster constituencies, and if we ignore for now veteran over-representation in, for example, the North West, and under-representation in London, that’s an average of 9000 per Member of Parliament. A tidy number of constituents whose hopes for well-being and prosperity are placed in the ballot box.
Our job at the Trust is to ensure that the evidence we generate is acted upon. I’ve written before in The House about the challenges of turning evidence-based recommendations into policy change, and we haven’t been idle – our most recent work, Benefit not Burden, highlighted the part employers in all sectors can play in delivering the Covenant, and we will formally launch our employment programme later this year, adopting a supply-demand-mechanics model. This is ground-breaking (and exciting) stuff.
But to return to Benefit not Burden, we invited 68 MPs to the launch in the Palace of Westminster, and over a third turned up; from experience, that’s an excellent strike rate. I thank those who did attend, and hope that those who weren’t able to, have read through the report that we posted to all Members.
Because there is a way that Parliamentarians can support the Armed Forces community, a way that really requires little effort, yet has the potential to make a big impact.
Put simply, Benefit not Burden found that employers who had signed the Covenant (which merely commits them to treating the Armed Forces community fairly) were more likely to understand the value a veteran brings to their organization. But of the 6 million employers in the UK, our study suggests that more than three-quarter have no knowledge of the Covenant. Our ask, our call to action, is that all MPs, as they go about their constituency business, simply ask every employer they meet whether they know about the Covenant, and whether they have considered signing it. I don’t think that’s a big ask – it’s apolitical, requires no resources, and delivers on a promise our Nation has made that those who have served will not be disadvantaged.
Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE is Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, whose aim is to ensure that policy makers who affect the Armed Forces community are influenced to make decisions based on independent credible evidence.