Remembrance Day gives us pause to reflect on the contributions made by those who have served or currently serve in our armed forces. It is more than anything, an opportunity to remember those who sacrificed everything for our freedom.
It is important we also think about how we, as a country, want to support our veterans not just in November, but all year round.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shown that our armed forces keep us safe in so many more ways than we can even imagine. It was the armed forces that were deployed to test people at the start of the crisis and who ensured that vital supply chains kept running. Even more recently, the army will be drafted in to help support with deliveries during the fuel crisis.
Given how each of us benefits from the safety our armed forces community provides, it should be seen as a responsibility and a duty of all of us to support the armed forces in any way that we can.
In the UK today, there are around 320,000 people without a home. Of those without a home, the Royal British Legion claim that 6,000 are men and women who served this country as a member of our armed forces.
Earlier this year, we hosted a fringe event at Labour Party Conference with SME4Labour on how we can tackle homelessness amongst veterans. At that event, the Labour Housing Group highlighted that the pandemic has shown us exactly what is wrong with our housing market.
At the same event, Sarah Church, former armed forces personnel, spoke about how many veterans feel a shock to the system when leaving the army after serving for decades. What is needed, she said, is support to help with the military to civilian transition. It is because of this that Community is committed to campaigning year-round to support our armed forces.
As part of our campaigning, Community has ran, walked and cycled to raise money for a local charity to help end veteran homelessness and between us we raised over £6,000.
We have created a bespoke learning and training offer for veterans and have been setting up bespoke learning plans, and our members up and down the country have been collecting warm winter clothes, toiletries and other necessities to support veterans. We offer skills courses such as CV writing exclusively to veterans, to support them in the military/civilian transition and equip them with skills needed for everyday life.
Earlier this year, Community resigned the Armed Forces Covenant to reaffirm our commitment to the armed forces community.
We want to ensure that those members of the armed forces community who are currently employed by us or will be in the future have the conditions and working environment that suits their needs and their service.
Another one of our renewed commitments is to encourage those employers where Community is the recognised union to also take the step to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.
As a first proactive step to standing true to that commitment, we have written to every employer we have a good relationship with and asked them to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant.
Community also intend, as part of our campaign to end veteran homelessness, to continue to work alongside the armed forces to secure better protections and extended rights for those currently serving or who have served.
As part of a broad coalition of organisations and individuals working together, we will ensure that no one who has served our country ends up on our streets, and instead is offered safety and protection and for those who want it – good quality, highly skilled employment and the safety net that provides in every aspect of life.
Community will be continuing to work with a wide range of organisations and will make supporting our veterans part of the core of our campaigning work. We pledge to support our veterans, not just in November, but all year round.