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Healthcare For Veterans

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Serving in the forces can be extremely rewarding. As the saying goes, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. However, that lifestyle seemingly shares so few parallels with the civilian world it can make re-entrance rather difficult in a number of ways. Let’s look at a few:

Housing:

In the forces having a roof over your head is almost never an issue (unless you are in the field), you are handed keys or given access to shared rooms the moment you arrive at various postings. The rent and bills are hugely reduced and taken directly from your pay packet. Unfortunately, this is a far cry from what it is like on civvy street as it first appears very complex and hard to navigate, and not to mention a lot more expensive.

Many of those who serve do not have to concern themselves with civilian housing issues and can be really shocked when they come to find how much just a small flat can cost. Having all this hit you at once can be extremely disorientating, and ultimately leaves some people having no home at all. Unfortunately, veterans have long been seen as synonymous with homelessness, even in modern day peace time.

Employment:

Again, your role in the forces may not have any overt parallels with the civilian job market, and even if it does, employers can rarely translate what is on your CV. On top of that you have to learn new interview skills, how to adapt to civilian work culture, and figure out what exactly employers want from you. It can also be difficult to figure out the social norms of a civilian workplace, and the dynamic between various levels of seniority and how they are expected to interact with each other.

Health:

In the forces there is often a Med Centre or doctor somewhere on camp that you can access within a couple of hours, you also have easy access to dentists and don’t have to worry about prescription costs. However, on Civvi street you can find yourself waiting weeks even for a routine appointment and have to pay seemingly large sums to see a dentist. With the increased hassle or cost many people unintentionally neglect their health, however, it is important to familiarise yourself with the civilian healthcare system so you can plan accordingly and take good care of yourself.

The Armed Forces Covenant

The government soon recognised that veterans were struggling, homelessness was somewhat normalised, suitable employment was seen as a privilege, and lack of access to appropriate physical and mental healthcare seemed near impossible.

In November 2022 the Government introduced the Armed Forces Covenant, a legal obligation for public organisations to make sure people of the armed forces community were not disadvantaged when accessing vital services. Therefore, such organisations must pay due regard to:

(a) the unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the armed forces; 

(b) the principle that it is desirable to remove disadvantages arising for service people from membership, or former membership, of the armed forces; and 

(c) the principle that special provision for service people may be justified by the effects on such people of membership, or former membership, of the armed forces.

What have Manchester City Council done?

Manchester City Council became a voluntary signatory of the Covenant back in 2013, vowing to align efforts and values to that of the Covenant. This triggered the formation of the Armed Forces Covenant Steering Group to drive the work forward.

Fast forward to 2023, Manchester City Council offers priority housing to veterans, so if you would otherwise qualify for band 2 or 3, you would be moved into band 1. They have also done a lot of work to raise awareness among their workforce to ensure those dealing with potential veterans are educated on the struggles veterans may be facing. This is especially important in departments such as adult social care, housing, homelessness, and work and skills. The Council are also working with GP Practices to both raise awareness and ensure Veterans can get the care they need from their local health practitioners. You can read more about what the Council have done in their annual report here: Appendix – Armed Forces Annual Report.pdf (manchester.gov.uk)

Throughout the UK

The Covenant applies to local authorities, and providers of healthcare, education, and housing up and down the country. Each is working on how they can better serve the armed forces community and meet their obligations under the Covenant.  There is also a significant number of charities dedicated to helping veterans and their families, specialising in areas from employment and housing to criminal justice and drugs and alcohol misuse. If you are a veteran, someone supporting a veteran, immediate family member, or dependent of a veteran and need further support please contact your local council about the Covenant and how they can help you.

An Armed Forces Specialist  

Equality, ​Diversity, and Inclusion ​Team 

People, Policy, and Reform 

Manchester City Council 

Town Hall Extension 

Manchester 

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