Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Recognising our Armed Forces

The NHS Futures Forum chaired by Professor Steve Field has ended up endorsing the principles of the Health and Social Care Bill whilst calling for changes to address the concerns of those who work in the NHS.  These changes will be made while the Bill makes its way through Parliament.

In the interests of patients it is important to be absolutely focussed on curing and moderating disease and improving health outcomes.  We must not let the NHS fall prey to vested interests.

Professor Field wants more diversity of healthcare providers.  Good.  If that smacks of privatisation to you, think of the excellent Macmillan nurses who are woven into the very fabric of our health service.

I have taken a close interest in the Armed Forces Bill, which completed its passage through the House of Commons last week.

It is dominated by the writing into law for the first time of the Military Covenant, a matter of great importance in our area.  The Royal British Legion has been central to the development of the Bill and deserves much credit.

It is vital to recognise what our Armed Forces do for us.  This recognition extends not just to those in the Services including Reservists but also their families and veterans, and especially the injured and the bereaved.

I recognise that more needs to do more to ensure our Armed Forces, veterans and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The Covenant outlines the Government’s aspiration that the Armed Forces Community should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services and that the Government will consider positive measures to enable equality of outcome with other citizens, as well as consider special treatment for the injured and bereaved, as proper return for their sacrifice.  Specific measures include:

·         An increase in Council Tax Relief to 50%.
·         Launching the Community Covenant scheme.
·         A new fund of £30million Community Covenant Grant to support the scheme.
·         A Pupil Premium for Service children.
·         An additional fund of £3million per year to support state schools catering for significant numbers of Service children including children of Reservists.
·         Launching a veterans’ information service to provide support on health issues including mental health.
·         Launching a Veterans Card to access commercial discounts or privileges and to consider how this could be expanded to include Service families.
·         Working to ensure AFCS payments are not required to be used to pay for social care.
·         A guarantee that veterans suffering serious genital injuries receive three cycles of IVF.
·         Working with banks and building societies on how they lend to members of the Armed Forces.
·         A Ministerially-chaired meeting with key stakeholders to explore ways to improve access to housing.
·         Launching a Troops To Teachers scheme.

I am looking forward to showing my personal appreciation of our Armed Services at a special service of Celebration on Saturday in St Austell.

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