Work has begun to set up a unit in the Cabinet Office to coordinate and drive policy on armed forces veterans’ welfare, the prime minister announced.
Civil servants from both the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence will staff the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, which will work with other departments on policies addressing the mental and physical health, education and employment of ex-armed forces personnel.
It will be headed up by a yet-to-be appointed official who will report to Johnny Mercer, a former Army officer who was this week appointed minister for defence people – a joint Cabinet Office and MoD position – and Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden. The two ministers will share responsibility for veterans’ affairs, the government said in an announcement yesterday.
Dowden will also co-chair the cross-government Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board, which was set up in 2017 to monitor on departments’ progress on initiatives to benefit veterans, with defence secretary Ben Wallace.
Work to establish the structure of the office has begun and Dowden and Mercer will report on their progress to prime minister Boris Johnson by the end of September.
Setting up the unit fulfils a pledge in the Conservative Party's 2017 general election manifesto to set up a board in the Cabinet Office to improve the coordination of government services for veterans.
The manifesto promised to "support former members of the armed forces, who were willing to risk their lives for us, as they move into civilian life" by ensuring the skills and qualifications they had gained in service were recognised by civilian employers, and by introducing a one-year moratorium on employer national insurance contributions for companies hiring fomer armed service personnel.
Announcing the plans yesterday, Johnson said it would be a “dereliction of duty” not to make the most of what veterans had to offer workplaces and wider society.
“It is absolutely right that the government should do all it can to support our armed forces from the day they enlist and for the rest of their lives,” he said.
"By taking responsibility for the full gamut of veterans’ civilian lives – from ensuring they get the medical treatment they require, to further training and skills after they have transitioned from service to keep them in good jobs, to targeted interventions to prevent the scourge of veteran homelessness – Oliver Dowden, Johnny Mercer and our brand new Office for Veterans’ Affairs will do just that.”