Thursday, 13 October 2011

An 'Armed Forces Covenant' for Brighton and Hove

 At this afternoon's cabinet meeting I outlined plans to develop an 'Armed Forces Covenant' for Brighton and Hove.

Ex-servicemen and women suffer some of the worst social outcomes of any group in our society.

They are more likely to be homeless, more likely to end up in prison, more likely to become addicted to drink or drugs, more likely to suffer long-term illness - and so on.

Of course the council has a duty to try and tackle these problems whoever is suffering from them.

The experiences of service men and women after they leave the service that leaves many of them so vulnerable, needlessly creates a group of people whose needs we have a duty to meet, which we of course will strive to do, in the same way we would meet the needs of any other individuals or groups that find themselves disadvantaged.

Of course you could argue that former service personnel are a 'vulnerable' group by virtue of the fact that they have, usually, been abandoned so spectacularly by the state that has asked them, often, to put their lives on the line, then tossed them aside when they are too old - or injured - to be useful.

Let's be clear - our heroes are being abandoned by an uncaring and under-resourced military that fundamentally views them not as people, but as a resource.

I think this is wrong: and that the first step towards improving the lives of ex-service personnel must be for the Government to stop sending young men and women into foreign battlefields to risk their lives for political ends in the first place.

The military could ensure that welfare officers work alongside careers officer - like those based in Brighton - to do two things: look after the welfare of ex-service personnel and to honestly explain the risks of later life exclusion to youngsters attracted by a career in the military.

Anyway, today outlined plans to develop an Armed Forces Covenant for the city, which will look at these questions but set out this council's duties to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

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