Strengthening the Covenant in Legislation

January 29, 2021

Strengthening the Covenant in Legislation

 This week saw the Armed Forces Bill 2021 officially introduced to parliament for debate.  This is legislation which has to be passed every 5 years to enable parliament to approve the continued existence of the Armed Forces!  The Bill also presents an opportunity to include additional legislation related to the Armed Forces and it specifically mentions the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Covenant, in its current form, has been in operation for nearly ten years, during which time significant progress has been made to improve the lives of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families.  Since 2011, over 6,000 organisations and every local authority in Great Britain have made pledges to support the Armed Forces Community.

While good procedures and initiatives have been put in place by service providers, the Government is concerned that some members of the Armed Forces Community are still suffering disadvantage in accessing public services. This is often caused by a lack of awareness of the Covenant and the unique nature of service in the Armed Forces.

The legislation will impose a new Duty on relevant public bodies, when exercising certain aspects of their public functions in the areas of housing, healthcare and education to have due regard to the three principles of the AF Covenant:

  • the unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the Armed Forces;
  • the principle that it is desirable to remove disadvantages arising for service people from membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces; and
  • the principle that special provision for Service People may be justified by the effect on such people of membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces.

This will mean that in the future service providers will have to demonstrate that they have considered the principles of the Covenant when making decisions in these key areas.  Further information is available here.

The Bill will become law later in the year.

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