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This briefing paper details the support available to Armed Forces Veterans in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Annual Population Survey of Veterans residing in Great Britain and the Census 2011: Working Age UK Armed Forces Veterans Residing in England & Wales produced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provide a range of statistics about the veteran community. The MOD estimated in January 2019 that there were 2.23 million UK Armed Forces veterans residing in Great Britain, and that this will fall to 1.64 million by 2028. Whilst the overall number of veterans residing is projected to decrease, the percentage of veterans of working age is projected to increase from 37% in 2016 to 44% by 2028. 0F[1]

The Armed Forces Covenant was introduced in 2011 and is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces in return for the sacrifices they make. Its core principles were enshrined in law in the Armed Forces Act 2011, although the Covenant does not create legally enforceable rights for service or former service personnel. The Covenant outlines two core principles which influence the support and policies directed towards the veteran community:

  • No disadvantage: no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families, should be at a disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
  • Special consideration: special consideration is appropriate in some cases, particularly for those who have been injured or bereaved.

The government pledged in the Queen’s Speech 2019 to “honour the Armed Forces Covenant, which will be further incorporated into law”. The government has not yet expanded on how it proposes to do this.

The Government published a new Veterans Strategy in November 2018.1F[2] The Defence Secretary described it as a “statement of intent” for UK and devolved Governments with set goals to be achieved by 2028. A consultation by the UK Government on ways to implement the Strategy closed in February 2019.  The Government has introduced a Holistic Transition Policy to take transition support beyond the current focus on employment support, provided by the Career Transition Partnership, and focus more on “life-skills material to help better prepare Service Personnel and their families for civilian life”.2F[3]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson created an Office for Veterans’ Affairs in July 2019.3F[4]  The Office sits in the Cabinet Office and leadership will be shared between the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Minister for Defence People and Veterans.

Service leavers and veterans may attract additional preference in certain circumstances when applying for social housing.  In addition, there is a MoD referral scheme to support recent veterans in accessing housing association properties. The increased risk of experiencing street homelessness is also recognised. In England, “vulnerable former members of the armed forces” and in Wales “a person who has served…who has been homeless” are identified as priority need categories for assistance with housing. In Scotland there is a duty to find permanent accommodation for all unintentionally homeless applicants.

There is also specific support for the healthcare provided to veterans. For example, the Veterans and Reserves Mental Health programme, provides mental health support and services for veterans. For physical health problems, the Veterans Medical Funds programme support those with hearing loss and serious physical injury. In addition, there is support and specialist centres across the UK to provide prosthetic and rehabilitation services. There is also grant funding for local or specific health projects for veterans.

The occupational pension scheme for members of the armed forces is the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). Separate to this are schemes to make payments to current and former service personnel and their families in respect of ill health, injury or death caused by service. In the case of incidents before 6 April 2005, payments are made through the War Pensions Scheme. For incidents after that date, there is the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). Surviving partners and dependent children may be eligible for survivors’ benefits from the AFPS. In the case of deaths attributable to service, compensation payments may be available from the War Pension Scheme (for deaths attributable to service before 6 April 2005) or AFCS (for deaths attributable to service after that date).

There are no Government welfare-to-work schemes specifically for armed forces veterans, nor are there any social security benefits specifically for veterans (with the exception of the Armed Forces Independence Payment), although there are some “easements” for veterans and their family members. Each Jobcentre Plus district should have an “Armed Forces Champion”, whilst there is exemption from the household benefit cap where a member of family is receiving a guaranteed income payment through AFCS or a War Pensions Scheme payment.

The Government introduced the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21 on 18 March 2020. The Bill will establish a statutory presumption against prosecution of current or former personnel for alleged offences committed on overseas military operations more than five years ago, and which have been the subject of a previous investigation.

Plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, VE Day, were scaled back and postponed because of the spread of coronavirus. For the same reason, the Remembrance Day march past the Cenotaph in central London will not take place in 2020.

Veterans can access help and advice via the Veterans Gateway, which is provided by a consortium of charities led by the Royal British Legion.

The Welsh Government published its support for Veterans and the armed forces community in its Armed Forces Covenant: annual report 2019 (30 September 2020).

Information for Veterans in Scotland is available on the mygov.scot website: Armed forces veterans support.

This paper also provides information on the medals and memorials for veterans of the armed forces and links to services to support the veteran community and concessions for which they may be entitled.

[1]     Ministry of Defence (MOD), “Population Projections: UK Armed Forces Veterans Residing in Great Britain, 2016-2028”, 10 January 2019.

[2]      MOD, “The Strategy For Our Veterans”, CM 9726, 14 November 2018.

[3]      MOD, “Strategy For Our Veterans: UK Government Consultation Paper”, 14 November 2018.

[4]      Cabinet Office, “PM Creates New Office For Veterans’ Affairs to Provide Lifelong Support to Military Personnel”, 29 July 2019.


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