Lisa Nandy MP: The Government is letting our veterans down

I am deeply proud of Wigan’s Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families for the enormous contribution they make to our country.
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​The Government likes to talk up their support for our forces, but they are guilty of repeatedly breaking their promises and failing to deliver the support veterans and their families deserve.

A recent example of this has been the failure to roll out the long-awaited Veterans’ ID card. The cards allow veterans to easily verify their service to the NHS, their local authority and charities, helping them to access support and services where needed.

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The Government promised to provide every veteran in the UK with a card in 2019. But recent figures from the ONS confirm there are more than 1.8 million veterans in England and Wales, and just 56,000 ID cards have been given out since 2018, meaning just 3% of veterans have received a card in five years.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

In Wigan only 178 Veterans’ ID cards have been rolled out despite their being over 10,000 veterans in the borough. That means that less than 2% of our local veterans have received their ID card and are in danger of missing out on the specialist support available to them.

In December, ministers promised to roll out all remaining ID cards by this summer. However, at the current rate of delivery, it will take more than a century to give every veteran a card. To keep their promise, the Government will have to deliver 1.7 million cards in the next three months, having handed out only a fraction of that so far.

This is just one example of how the Government is letting ex-Forces personnel down.

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Ministers have also failed to improve mental health support for veterans.

Nearly half of all medical discharges from our Armed Forces are due to mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression but fewer people are being seen by the MOD’s specialist mental health services now than they were five years ago.

Veterans are also struggling financially. Recent analysis suggests that as many as 80,000 veterans may be claiming Universal Credit and as the cost-of-living crisis has kicked in many ex-Forces personnel have had to rely on grants from charities with The Royal British Legion seeing a 20% increase in requests for support in the last year.

Those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe should not have to rely on benefits or charitable support to get by.

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The Government must redouble efforts to get ID cards to veterans; boost specialist support including help to retrain and pursue new career opportunities and bring down waiting times for veterans’ mental health services.

Labour has already made a £1bn commitment to ensure everyone receives mental health treatment within a month.

The Government have made the grand promise to make “the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran” but the experience of many ex-Forces personnel shows there is a long way to go for this to be achieved.

Our veterans don’t need any more empty promises from the Government, they need action.