The people of Britain owe the “greatest debt of all” to the men and women who fall on hard times after serving their country in the Armed Forces, David Cameron has said.
In an interview with Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of The Independent, the Prime Minister issued a personal message of thanks to those who donated to the Homeless Veterans appeal, which raised more than £700,000 for two charities helping vulnerable veterans.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the record-breaking campaign – which was run in partnership with The Independent on Sunday, i, the London Evening Standard and television station London Live – had resulted in more money being set aside to help veterans.
In December George Osborne announced a £3 million grant for Veterans Aid, one of the two charities being supported by the appeal, while Mayor of London Boris Johnson also pledged £200,000 from the Greater London Authority budget to the organisation.
“I think that we revere our military because they represent the best of British — the values they live by, the courage, service above self, teamwork, patriotic belief in service,” Mr Cameron said. “Full credit to your campaign because I know it has raised awareness of a very important issue, and I know it has brought forward funding from, for instance, the Mayor of London...The truth is there’s always been a role for veterans’ charities.”
Thanks to the financial boost from the appeal, Veterans Aid has already begun the renovation of its successful hostel for homeless ex-servicemen in Stepney, East London. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, the other organisation being supported by the donations, will use the money to continue its work helping veterans in need all over the UK.
“I think we have an enormous duty to those who serve us,” Mr Cameron added. “Obviously many veterans find their place in life afterwards and get on with life. But some tragically do fall through the net and suffer from problems of mental health and other issues, and it’s to them that we owe the greatest debt of all.”
The Government had tried to improve the lot of veterans by donating fines from the Libor rate-fixing scandal to projects dedicated to helping ex-servicemen and women – and also by enshrining the Armed Forces Covenant in law, the Prime Minister argued.
“There’s a whole list of things from the pupil premium [going to veterans’ families] to dealing with inquests better, to scholarships for those who lost mums and dads in action, to council house discounts, to better rights to healthcare,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Cameron also suggested that the reason the Conservatives were trailing Labour in the polls was because some of the public still had to be persuaded that the Coalition’s austerity policies had been the right approach.
“People had a very tough time in this country,” he said. “We had a recession where people lost jobs, [with] pay cuts and pay freezes. People sometimes had the number of hours they could work cut, or frozen. And it takes time to recover from that.
“The central question for the Government was, can you get Britain on a more secure path... You need time to demonstrate that that will benefit everybody.”
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