Welsh Conservatives have today announced a comprehensive package of measures to support members of the Armed Forces in Wales.
The package includes proposals to appoint an Armed Forces Commissioner for Wales; to increase funding for NHS services for Welsh veterans; and to introduce a Welsh Service Pupil Premium.
The Welsh Government and all local authorities in Wales have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and have subscribed to work with partner organisations to uphold its principles. A Cross Party Group of Assembly Members recently called on the Welsh Government to go a step further and appoint a dedicated Armed Forces Commissioner for Wales – a proposal rejected by Labour ministers.
The Cross Party Group on the Armed Forces and Cadets also recently undertook an inquiry into the impact of the covenant on forces personnel. The review found that in spite of positive developments since the covenant’s introduction, issues remain as to how public sector organisations in Wales fulfil their obligations.
Problems identified included insufficient accountability for delivery of the Covenant, a lack of awareness of the Covenant among public sector staff, and unsustainability in how Covenant-related activities are funded.
The Welsh Conservatives’ ‘New Deal for the Armed Forces’ includes proposals to:
- Appoint an Armed Forces Commissioner for Wales
- Improve the identification of the armed forces and veteran community in Wales
- Review and increase funding for Veterans’ NHS Wales
- Introduce a Welsh Service Pupil Premium
- Increase the provision of supported housing for vulnerable veterans in Wales
- Establish an employment scheme for service leavers, veterans and reservists
- Work with Local Authorities and the WLGA to ensure that all of Wales’ civic war memorials are adequately maintained
Commenting on the announcement, Shadow Secretary for Public Services and Communities – Mark Isherwood AM – said:
“Our plans for a ‘New Deal for the Armed Forces’ move the debate forward, and would ensure that Wales continues to build on its proud record of support for veterans and those in active service.
“The Armed Forces Covenant has led to a number of key improvements, but there’s no question that there is more that can and must be done to improve services.
“We believe that these proposals have the potential to make a real difference for military personnel, veterans and their families.
“We urge decision-makers at all levels of government to demonstrate their resolute commitment to the Covenant by implementing them.”
Chair of the Cross Party Group on Armed Forces at the National Assembly for Wales, Darren Millar AM, said:
“We owe it to those who fought in the First World War, and all conflicts since, to ensure that we continue to honour their memory by upholding the Covenant between the people of Wales and those who serve, or have served, in our Armed Forces.
“Wales has a proud record of support for our armed forces and there have been many positive developments in recent years, but there is still more that can and should be done.
“Today’s announcement can be a game-changer for veterans in Wales and reaffirms the Welsh Conservatives’ commitment to ensuring our armed forces personnel are prioritised.”