Veterans and the wider armed forces community would benefit from a dedicated commissioner, tasked with providing greater support and improving services in Wales.
The call, from Welsh Conservatives, comes as Remembrance Day is commemorated. It will also form the basis of a Welsh Assembly debate in the Senedd on Wednesday (November 12th).
A Welsh Armed Forces Commissioner would be the first role of its kind in the UK; dedicated both to veterans and the wider armed forces community.
With an overall objective of improving outcomes for veterans and serving forces, the commissioner would engage with the community, as well as all public services. The role would complement the UK-wide position of Armed Forces Ombudsman, recently announced by the UK Government and welcomed by Welsh Conservatives.
Prioritising issues such as mental health needs and housing, the commissioner would also hold public bodies to account for the implementation of their Armed Forces Community Covenants.
This scheme was launched by the UK Government in May 2011 as part of a wider Armed Forces Covenant package. The Royal British Legion describes community covenants as ‘voluntary statements of mutual support between armed forces and civilian communities.’
Today’s call comes just days after Public Health Wales published a review of the Veterans’ NHS Wales Service, in which it recommended a number of improvements.
Welsh Conservatives have also recently called for the full implementation of an Armed Forces Card in Wales, something the Labour government has suggested it would trial. No further detail has yet been published.
The card would include:
•An expansion of the existing free bus pass scheme to include veterans
•Free entry to local authority swimming pools
•Free entry to CADW sites
•Priority treatment for service related conditions/injuries on the NHS
•Priority delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants for home adaption
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Communities, Mark Isherwood AM, said:
“Our armed forces do a truly incredible job on a daily basis and each and every one of them deserves all possible help and support.
“Creating the position of armed forces commissioner in Wales would be an excellent opportunity to ensure that happens.
“Working with charities, local authorities and health boards, the commissioner would be the first point of contact on all issues relating to support for our armed forces.
“He or she would engage with, listen to, and act upon the experiences of all veterans and the wider armed forces community in Wales.
“As well as having the power to make strong recommendations for improvement to the government, the commissioner would also work to ensure those improvements are swiftly made.
“Today is an important opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many during conflict. It also provides opportunity to look ahead and ensure our armed forces get all possible support.”
Shadow Minister for Health and Chair of the Cross-Party Group on the Armed Forces, Welsh Conservative AM Darren Millar, said:
“An Armed Forces Commissioner would be a role entirely devoted to the provision of support for our armed forces.
“Whether its veterans or serving troops, whether it’s issues relating to health or housing, the overall strategic objective of the role would be to ensure an all-inclusive approach to support.
“Liaising with all public services and engaging closely with those who have experienced these issues first hand, the person appointed to this role would also be a strong guiding hand for the Welsh government.
“The freedoms we enjoy in Wales today are a direct result of the dedication and bravery of those who have served in our armed forces.
“We owe them so much – and I remain committed to ensuring the support they receive is at the highest possible level.”