It is always an honour to meet members of the UK Armed Forces and I have had the privilege of speaking directly with veterans and their families in the local area on a number of occasions, including:
• Joining volunteers in fundraising for the Poppy Appeal in Watford. In 2022, I was pleased to help raise approximately £200 for the Royal British Legion.
• Undertook Armed Forces Covenant Awareness Training which provides an overview of unique challenges of Service life and how people can support the Armed Forces Community..
• A breakfast meeting at the Watford branch of the dedicated veterans mental health charity, Minds At War.
• Visited North Watford’s Veterans Support Group who aim to tackle the problem of isolation and loneliness by holding regular meet ups with free tea, coffee and camaraderie.
• Attended the Forces United lunch at West Herts College with England football legend Luther Blissett.
• Supported the Give Us Time charity fundraiser, founded by colleague Dr Liam Fox MP, which matches donated holiday accommodation with military families in need of rest, rehabilitation and reconnection.
• Marked Armed Forces Day in Watford by attending a musical commemoration at the memorial area by Watford Town Hall to thank our veterans and remember those we have lost.
From the 2021 Census, we know there are more than 1.85 million people in England and Wales who have previously served in the UK armed forces.
I share the Government’s ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran who have given so much for us to live in peace and with freedom. Significant progress has been made in a range of veterans’ support and services, including in healthcare, housing and employment, since the launch of the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan in January 2022, underpinned by more than £70 million.
Ensuring our veterans have the right support to enter employment outside of the armed forces is vitally important which is why I asked the Defence Minister about supporting our service personnel within our thriving defence industry. You can watch the Ministers response here: shorturl.at/beT26
It is also vital that we continue to recognise the commitment and service our veterans have given over the years. Therefore, I asked the Veterans Minister for assurances that medals for nuclear test veterans who have passed away will be awarded to their families. You can watch the Ministers response here: shorturl.at/afjQ2
Our troops are deployed across the world promoting peace, delivering aid, tackling drug smugglers, providing security, and fighting terrorism. Whether you are at stationed here in the UK or overseas, thank you on behalf of our community in Watford for your dedication and hard work.
“No one, not least those who have served this country, should be homeless.”
I have passionately campaigned on rough sleeping in Watford, securing millions of pounds. I greatly welcome the recent announcement of an additional £8.5 million to ensure veteran homelessness is ended in 2023.
The investment will create more than 900 veteran supported housing units which will provide specialist help from former armed forces personnel, including with health, education and employment needs. Working with charities, the funding will ensure a single central point for local authorities and charities to identify those in need and refer them to a network of support.