Frances Done: This government isn't honouring the military covenant
Frances Done CBE, Director General of The Royal British
Legion, outlines her main concerns with the way our servicemen are treated.
A career in the Armed Forces differs from all others. Service personnel agree to sacrifice certain civil liberties and to follow orders; including orders to place themselves in harm’s way in the defence of others. In return, the nation promises to help and support people in the Armed Forces and their families when they need it most. This mutual promise is enshrined in the Military Covenant, which is acknowledged by all Services.
The Military Covenant does not have the force of law but, through convention, custom, and contemporary application, it has come to represent the Nation’s moral commitment to its Armed Forces.
The Royal British Legion believes that certain aspects of the Military Covenant are not being delivered and that the Nation must now bring about change to ensure that our Service people and their families get the support they deserve. It is time to Honour the Covenant.
1. There should be a just compensation scheme which recognises the commitment and sacrifices made when serving the Nation.
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) was introduced in April 2005. It is designed to financially compensate those who have been injured or have an illness that is caused by Service. It also compensates the families of those who have been killed as a result of their Service.
The Legion believes that with the introduction of the AFCS the Government has eroded some of the additional support afforded under the Military Covenant. Because of the nature and risks associated with the Armed Forces and because combat immunity laws mean the Crown is normally not liable for civil court action, we believe that the compensation scheme should be substantially more generous.
2. There should be a greater commitment to support the physical and mental well-being of Service people and their families.
The Legion is concerned that Service personnel, ex-Service personnel and their dependants are not always getting the standard of health care they are entitled to receive.
The King’s Centre for Medical Health Research currently undertakes in-depth health surveillance for personnel on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe in-depth health surveillance should be mandatory for all Service personnel, whether or not they are operationally deployed. There is also a need for additional surveillance of personnel who have been deployed for extended periods of time, and for those who have been medically downgraded.
The Legion also believes that voluntary health surveillance should be offered to families of personnel on deployment. Family members have to cope with a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety for long periods of time. A long period of separation followed by a sudden return home creates its own difficulties.
3. There should be more support for bereaved Service Families.
The Legion is concerned by the distress caused to the family members of Service personnel who have died, by delays and the lack of legal representation during coroners’ inquests.
All in-Service deaths abroad are repatriated and subject to coroner’s inquest. Despite enhanced resources, backlogs still remain. There are still some 120 families in the UK awaiting inquests, 21 of these concern deaths that occurred before May 2006.
In addition we believe that independent legal advice, representation and advocacy should be provided to all families where an in-Service death has occurred, and that this should be provided at public expense.
What do you think?
Thousands of our Service men and women are putting their lives on the line for us at this moment. They do not hesitate to fulfil their duty, and neither should we. We are holding a fringe event in Blackpool at 5.30pm in the Blackpool Hilton on Tuesday 2nd October. We would be delighted if you were to attend.