The Armed Forces Covenant will be extended to cover members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) and the Merchant Navy, it has been announced today (December 10).
The move comes as the fourth annual Covenant report is presented to parliament. The Covenant is a promise from the nation ensuring that those who serve in the Armed Forces are treated fairly. They protect the nation with honour, courage and commitment, and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.
Under the new measures, all those in the RFA and Merchant Navy who have served on a civilian vessel while it was supporting HM Armed Forces will now be recognised and supported by the Covenant.
The government is also unveiling a new ambition to ensure service personnel are not penalised by insurance premiums when posted overseas. And it is announcing the award of 59 small grants, totalling £850,000, to support the Armed Forces community.
The annual report details the highlights of 2015, with every local authority in Great Britain and 750 businesses now signed up to the Covenant.
Amongst the Armed Forces Covenant 2015 achievements:
The Armed Forces Covenant is now at the centre of the NHS constitution, an important step for the delivery of local health care. Now 81% of Service personnel report good access to medical care and 98% of Armed Forces families have good access to GPs;
£2m grant awarded to create a NHS Specialist Rehabilitation Unit.
Children of personnel can now get school places before moving into an area, following an amendment to the Schools Admission Code;
£21m of Service Pupil Premium payments made to support the pastoral needs of over 60,000 Service pupils in state schools;
24,500 children from Service families have benefitted from 154 grants for Education Support Funding to help schools mitigate and manage issues caused by Service families moving as a result of deployment.
Spouses returning from overseas can now immediately claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, as they have been made exempt from the need to be a UK resident for three months in order to claim;
More than 400 spouses of Armed Forces personnel now to be offered £1,000 grants for training and education.
Agreement has been secured with four major mobile phone providers to allow service personnel and their families to put their contracts on hold when they are posted overseas.
Work is underway with the Royal Mail to promote the use of the British Forces Post Office Services (BFPO) address system to the financial service sector so that Service personnel and their families can access the products and services when overseas.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
This report sets out how we are upholding the nation’s commitment to the Armed Forces community.
Last year, Service personnel asked for more support on family healthcare, children’s education, spousal employment and commercial disadvantage. We have delivered substantial improvements, but there is more to be done.
The Armed Forces community can help decide how the Armed Forces Covenant continues to create a fairer society for them. We want their feedback on the report, so that we know where to direct action next year.
Chief Officer Frank Andrews, who served in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) for 34 years and is now chairman of the RFA Association, said:
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary has extremely close links with the Royal Navy and it means a lot to me that today civilian seafarers have the national recognition they deserve for serving this country in the Second World War and subsequent conflicts.
Not all of us came home, and those that did were forever changed by the experience of war. It is only right that the Armed Forces Covenant has been extended to make the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Merchant Navy eligible for veteran support.
Read the full report here.