On Monday 14th January Labour launched their campaign urging Local Authorities to appoint Veterans Champions. A position dedicated to help provide ex-service men and women with a smooth transition from military to civilian life.

Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary came to Barking and Dagenham and met with Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham, Council Leader Liam Smith and Deputy Leader Rocky Gill to launch the campaign. Council Leader Liam Smith will be taking on the extra role personally to oversee the progress of the campaign in the local area.

When asked about the role Jim Murphy MP commented:

“Transition from military to civilian life can be difficult and distressing. A one-stop-shop for access to services and entitlements would make an enormous difference.

“A Veterans Champion would help those who have performed heroics overseas find a new home or job back home.”

Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham and Labour’s policy review coordinator has backed this campaign from the beginning. Earlier this year Jon Cruddas urged local companies to join a new initiative to get former members of the armed forces back into work. The idea was to secure guaranteed job interviews for applicants that had recently served in the armed forces. Many national companies signed up to the initiative including O2, Greggs and John Lewis and Jon urged local companies to get involved.

 

The decision to take the idea of ‘Veterans Champions’ on as a national campaign could not have come at a better time. Many service men and women in the UK Armed Forces are being made redundant and in difficult economic circumstances there will be an increasing number looking for employment and housing.  They have a wide range of experiences and skills arising from service and Labour believes that as a nation we must do more to support our returning soldiers.

Jon Cruddas MP said: “Initiatives such as this underline our country’s respect and goodwill towards the Armed Services. It is wrong that someone who has served in our forces is expected to join the back of the queue at the local job centre; and in many cases return from serving the country homeless.  This is not about special treatment but overcoming barriers to provide a level playing field for service people."

“It is all of our duty to help provide a smooth transition from military to civilian life.  Increasing veterans’ wellbeing and opportunities is a key priority. The talents of those leaving the Services are a big asset to business, but we must raise awareness of their skills and increase access to employment."

The veterans' champion should provide a "one-stop shop" for those resettling into a local community. A few local authorities already have a dedicated veterans' champion, but Labour wants every council to consider employing one. The fear is that many service men and women return home finding it hard to access the services they require. They are also unaware of the benefits available to them. By establishing this new role within Local Authorities Labour hopes to tackle this issue head on and start to break down the barriers preventing returning soldiers from an easy transition.

With a dedicated person to go to, former members of the military could find out which charities work in the area, and what support they could rely on – particularly if they are suffering from mental health problems.