The Covenant in depth

Disadvantage

The first principle of the Covenant is: Those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.

Disadvantage is when any member or group in the Armed Forces community has worse access to goods or services than is normal for a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Examples of disadvantage

In the following examples, the disadvantages are shown in bold. All examples are based on real events.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they:

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they pay more for goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 1: The Army re-locates a Service family. They have to cancel their broadband package at their current home, incurring cancellation fees. Therefore, they incur higher broadband costs than is normal for the general population. To remove this disadvantage, the broadband provider waives their cancellation fee. See Financial services for more information about this disadvantage.

Example 2: The RAF posts abroad one of its personnel, who rents out his home. His mortgage provider charges him the standard Consent to Let fee it charges anyone with a residential mortgage renting out their home. Therefore, he incurs higher mortgage costs than similar people in the general population, as they aren’t required to rent out their home by their employer. To remove this disadvantage, the mortgage provider waives his Consent to Let fee. See Housing for more information about this disadvantage.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they are ineligible for goods or services that are available to a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 3: Sandra, the ex-partner of a Royal Marine, moves back to her home area. There, she is ineligible for social housing. This is due to the time she lived with her ex-partner elsewhere in the country while he was posted there. To remove this disadvantage, the local authority disapplies their local connection requirements in her case. She then has the same chance of meeting the eligibility criteria as the rest of the local population. See Housing for more information about this disadvantage.

Example 4: The child of an Army engineer lives abroad with her serving parent. She is undergoing orthodontic treatment when they are posted back to the UK. The original moulds of her teeth cannot be brought back to the UK. Therefore, the NHS cannot ascertain whether she would have met the NHS Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need criteria for treatment. Therefore, she is refused approval for NHS treatment. To remove this disadvantage, the NHS agrees to continue the treatment under NHS funding anyway.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they, in practice, find it harder to access goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 5: James will soon leave the Navy. After discharge, he wants to move into social housing in his home area. However, he cannot view the available properties, sign a contract, or collect keys, as he’s currently deployed to the Falklands. He’s therefore unable to progress his social housing application. To remove this disadvantage, the local authority facilitates his virtual viewing of the property online. A family member views the property on his behalf. Contracts are signed via email, and keys are put in a lock box for him to collect. See Housing for more information.

Example 6: Farah lost both arms while serving in the Army 20 years ago, and needs to have a blood sample taken. However, the nurses are only trained to take blood from arms, so cannot take a blood sample. To remove this disadvantage, the nurses could undertake training to take blood samples from elsewhere on the body.

Example 7: The children of Service personnel living on a military base commute to a local secondary school. The bus timetable prevents them staying beyond the school day. Therefore, they cannot access the after-school clubs. To remove this disadvantage, several schools jointly establish an extra after-school club on the military base. Alternatively, the school could run its club at other times, such as lunch times, or before school. Or, the school could ask the military base to provide an extra, later bus one afternoon a week.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they lose access to goods or services that are available to a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 8: The Navy re-locates a Service family elsewhere in the country. A family member in the middle of a course of medical treatment loses access to healthcare professionals with whom they have an established relationship, and who have experience of treating them and understand their individual healthcare needs.

Example 9: A Service family has a disabled child. Their local authority provides the child with a specialised bed. The Armed Forces re-locates the family, and the bed returns to the local authority. They apply for a similar bed from their new local authority. The child loses access to a specialised bed while they wait to be assessed, and the bed ordered.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they receive lower quality goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 10: In state-funded schools in England, the proportion of Service children attending a school rated Outstanding by Ofsted has historically been slightly lower than the proportion of non-Service, non-Free School Meal children. This is because Service children move schools more often, on average, than non-Service children.

Example 11: The Army re-locates a Service family to a new area. The child’s new school uses different GCSE exam boards with different syllabuses to his previous school. This means he has fewer lessons to prepare for his GCSEs than his peers. To remove this disadvantage, the Service child could be provided with extra tuition, until he has caught-up. Alternatively, his new school could arrange for him to sit the exams set by his previous exam boards. Or, he could be placed in a school that uses the same exam boards as his previous school.

Example 12: The Army re-locates a Service family to a new area. The two children are placed in two different schools in opposite directions, each a significant distance away. The non-serving parent has to take both to school. Due to the time this takes, one child gets to school an hour early each day. The two children travel further to school, and have a much longer school day, than most other local children. This disadvantage might be mitigated through the normal application of the free school transport policy. Alternatively, through the exemptions to class size limits for Service children. Or, one child could be placed in a different school, or a car share arrangement established. See Education for more information.

Members of the Armed Forces community face disadvantage if they take longer to receive goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population, due to Service life.

Example 13: Amy is married to a soldier. She’s on a hospital waiting list with an 8-month waiting time. After waiting 4 months, the Army re-locates them. Amy’s treatment transfers to a hospital at their new location. This hospital places Amy at the back of its own 8-month waiting list, as this is what it does for all its new patients. Amy therefore waits longer for treatment than the general population. To remove this disadvantage, the new hospital tries to move her up their waiting list, to take into account her time already waited. See Healthcare for more information.

Example 14: The RAF re-locates a Service family to a new area. Healthcare professionals in the new location decide to conduct a reassessment of a family member’s condition, and ‘go back to square one’. This results in additional treatment delays, compared to the general population.

Myth-busting about disadvantage

No, not every negative experience for the Armed Forces counts as Covenant disadvantage. For example:

  • A negative experience that still matches the normal experience for a comparable group in the UK general population doesn’t count as Covenant disadvantage. For example, if there’s a national shortage of a particular service, the Armed Forces aren’t disadvantaged if they also cannot access it.
  • A negative experience for the Armed Forces that has no comparator in the general population doesn’t count as Covenant disadvantage.
  • A negative experience that hasn’t been caused by Service life doesn’t count as Covenant disadvantage.
  • A negative experience when dealing with organisations in other countries doesn’t count as Covenant disadvantage.
  • Loss of an advantage doesn’t count as Covenant disadvantage. For example, if a Service person receives superior services from Defence for a while (for example, while posted abroad), but later the service they receive reverts back to the normal level for the UK general population.

Yes, it can still be disadvantage. Experiences don’t have to be unique to the Armed Forces to be disadvantages. Under the Covenant, disadvantage for the Armed Forces is always in comparison with the normal experience for the UK general population. There will always be individuals in the general population that don’t have the normal experience.

For example, children in the general population occasionally move school during the school year, due to their parents’ work, potentially resulting in challenges accessing schooling. However, this is not the normal experience for the general population. Therefore, if a Service child moves school for Service reasons, resulting in challenges accessing schooling, this is a valid disadvantage.

Yes, it can still be disadvantage. Disadvantages often arise because the unique obligations and sacrifices of Service life mean the Armed Forces are unable to access goods and services in the same way as the general population. Therefore, offering the Armed Forces the same service as the general population is one of the factors causing the disadvantage. Removing disadvantage is often about implementing a bespoke solution for the Armed Forces that results in the same outcome for them as the general population.

In the examples above, most of the disadvantages arise as service providers offer the Armed Forces the same service as the general population. The disadvantages are removed as service providers implement bespoke solutions that result in the same outcome for the Armed Forces as the general population.

In other contexts, it might be appropriate to describe one group in the Armed Forces as disadvantaged compared to another. However, in the context of the Covenant, disadvantage for the Armed Forces is always in comparison to the normal experience for the UK general population. Covenant disadvantage is not determined by comparing different groups in the Armed Forces community with each other. The Covenant doesn’t require all members of the Armed Forces community to have the same experience.

In everyday speech, it might be fair to see frequently re-locating and exposure to danger as examples of disadvantage arising from Service. However, in the context of the Covenant, disadvantage is about access to goods and services. Frequently re-locating, exposure to danger, separation from family, unfamiliarity with civilian life, and other factors, are the ‘unique obligations and sacrifices of Service life’ that are potential causes of Covenant disadvantage, and not the Covenant disadvantages themselves.

 

Special provision

The second principle of the Covenant is: Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved. Note that the terms ‘special provision’ and ‘special consideration’ are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Special provision is when an appropriate group in the Armed Forces community has better access to goods and services than is normal for a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community. An appropriate group is usually a group that has sacrificed the most, such as the injured or bereaved.

Examples of special provision

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they:

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they pay less for goods or services, or nothing, or receive higher payments than a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community.

Example 1: The Armed Forces Bereavement Scholarship Scheme was established in 2011. It gives the children of Service personnel whose death is attributable to Service since 1990 a head start in life by enabling them to progress in their post-16 education. For more information, see Covenant support for the Bereaved.

Example 2: The estate of a deceased Service person or veteran may be eligible for an Inheritance Tax exemption. This is if the cause of death is found to be Service attributable. For more information, see Covenant support for the Bereaved.

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they are eligible for goods or services that aren’t available to a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community.

Example 3: The NHS’s Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans Framework (IPC4V) is a personalised care approach for a very small number of veterans with complex and enduring physical, neurological and mental health conditions resulting from injury whilst in Service. The bespoke care they receive ensures they are effectively supported as they transition to civilian life and beyond.

Example 4: The Royal British Legion has administered the Veterans Hearing Fund on behalf of HM Treasury since 2015. It ensures that those whose hearing loss was acquired during their service were able to receive hearing devices, peripherals and therapies that are not available through the NHS. For more information, see Healthcare.

Example 5: A local authority builds some new council houses. They are fully wheelchair-accessible units, reserved for use by injured veterans.

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they are in practice, more easily able to access goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community.

Example 6: Statutory guidance sets out how local authorities in England can ensure that members of the Armed Forces community suffering from mental ill health (wholly or partly attributable to Service) are given appropriate priority for social housing. For more information, see Housing.

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they receive higher quality goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community.

Example 7: NHS England operates a Veterans’ Prosthetics Panel. This is for funding high-quality prosthetic limbs for veterans who lost a limb during or as a result of military service.

An appropriate group in the Armed Forces community receives special provision if they take less time to receive goods or services than a comparable group in the UK general population and the rest of the Armed Forces community.

Example 8: There is an NHS commitment that veterans in Great Britain may be considered for priority access to NHS services providing focused treatment for conditions arising from their Service, compared to non-Service patients with the same level of clinical need. For more information, see Healthcare.

Myth-busting about special provision

The second Covenant principle is that special provision ‘is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved’. Giving the whole Armed Forces, or all veterans, a better experience than the general population usually goes beyond this. The Covenant is not about giving advantageous treatment as a matter of course. Organisations are free to implement such schemes as part of their support to the Armed Forces community. However, such schemes would not normally be regarded as an implementation of the Covenant.

No, not always. It depends on its effect. While some support to the injured or bereaved counts as special provision (if it meets the definition of special provision above), other support counts as removing disadvantage (if it meets the definition of disadvantage above). The injured or bereaved can face disadvantage as much as anyone else in the Armed Forces community (perhaps more). Disadvantage Example 6 (Farah) is an example of removing disadvantage for someone injured in Service. Also, much support to the injured or bereaved meets neither definition, so does not count as “Covenant”.

No, not always. It depends on its effect. While some bespoke actions count as special provision (if they meet the definition of special provision above), others remove disadvantage (if they meet the definition of disadvantage above). As discussed in Disadvantage Myth 3, removing disadvantage is often about implementing a bespoke solution for the Armed Forces. Also, many actions benefitting only the Armed Forces meet neither definition, so do not count as “Covenant”.

 

The Covenant is not…

Rather, it is a promise with two enduring principles about how the Armed Forces community can be treated fairly, which are implemented in different ways and to varying degrees by thousands of organisations across the UK.

For information about all the benefits available to those working in Defence and their families, please see Discover My Benefits.

The Covenant is not about giving advantageous treatment as a matter of course. It does not give any individual any automatic right to the best house, best school, or to jump a queue.

The Covenant does not…

The Covenant is a promise with two enduring principles about how the Armed Forces community can be treated fairly. It does not mandate organisations to achieve any particular outcomes. It is for each organisation to decide how to implement the two principles in practice. Therefore:

  • The Covenant is not an entitlement to particular goods or particular levels of customer service.
  • The Covenant is not necessarily broken if someone receives poor customer service.
  • The Covenant is not a guarantee of being looked after for life.
  • The Covenant is not prescriptive about how to resolve an individual’s particular difficulty.
  • Increased Covenant consideration and implementation does not necessarily lead to different outcomes.

The Covenant’s two principles are about the Armed Forces community’s access to goods and services in comparison to the general population’s access (to those same goods and services). Many aspects of Service life do not fit in this category:

  • Many aspects of Service life are not about provision of goods and services. For example, military activity on operations and exercises, pay and pension, annual leave entitlements, and the application of Service law.
  • Many aspects of Service life are about provision of goods and services that are unique to the Armed Forces, with no comparator in the general population. For example, Single Living Accommodation, military equipment, military training, and treatment for certain Service-acquired injuries.

Therefore, the Covenant is not relevant to many aspects of Service life. This means it should not be assumed that the cause of every problem is a lack of Covenant implementation. Nor that the solution to every problem is better Covenant implementation.

Much support provided to the Armed Forces community does not count as either removing disadvantage or special provision, as defined above. Therefore, it does not count as “Covenant”, and is not covered on this website.

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