The Government has been accused of shirking its responsibilities to the country’s veterans by “passing the buck” to cash-strapped local councils.
Writing for The Independent’s website, the shadow veterans minister Gemma Doyle said there was “a vast difference between the warm words of ministers at the dispatch box and what is actually happening on the ground”.
The Labour MP added that ministers were “not doing enough” to ensure that decisions were being informed by the Armed Forces Covenant, the promise of care for Britain’s troops and their families enshrined in law by David Cameron three years ago.
Giving her backing to the Homeless Veterans appeal, which is raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Veterans Aid, Ms Doyle said those who have served their country “deserve more than a bed made of cardboard boxes”.
She added that while Labour supported the work of the Armed Forces Covenant and the related Corporate and Community Covenants, which lay out the roles of businesses and local councils, there appeared to be confusion within the Government over how they are managed.
“The Government don’t know whether veterans injured in service are being given priority NHS treatment, and they have no idea whether local authorities have the right resources and expertise to meet the obligations of the Community Covenant. Frankly that’s not good enough,” she wrote.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
Brigadier (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, chief of staff at The Soldiers’ Charity, said there was “only so much” the Government could do to support veterans and that military charities played a crucial role in filling the gaps.
Dr Hugh Milroy, the CEO of Veterans Aid, added: “For those who need it, the Military Covenant should be more than just an enabling document and I welcome any moves to make it more effective and relevant to real needs.”
Last month a report into the workings of the Covenant was published by the Ministry of Defence. It stated that a large number of families whose relatives are on active duty with the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force have never even heard of it.
A government spokesperson said: “This Government enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant into law in 2011 and last year alone awarded over £100m through the Covenant to schemes that benefit personnel, veterans and armed forces families.
“This disproves the assertion that the Government is failing to implement the Covenant and shows our absolute commitment to ensuring that serving and former members of the armed forces, and their families, are not disadvantaged by their service and that they are given special consideration if appropriate.”