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Gwynne column: Armed Forces Covenant must be enshrined in law

In his latest column, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne writes about the brilliant work local charities are doing to support past and serving members of our armed forces but feels the government needs to do more.

Last Saturday, we celebrated Armed Forces Day, and thanked past and serving members of the armed services for their tireless dedication, sacrifices and incredible work.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t celebrate the event in our usual way – with a massive event in Victoria Park – due to Covid restrictions, but we did proudly raise the armed forces flag from Denton Town Hall. Next year, we’ll make up for lost time and return to Victoria Park for a celebration that is bigger and better than ever before. 

Tameside has a proud history of supporting the armed forces. Tameside Council was the first council in Greater Manchester to sign the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Covenant is a promise that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, will be treated fairly. The Council has partnered with Tameside Armed Services Community (TASC), a not-for-profit group with a key focus on the delivery of the Covenant through a wide range of community and local engagement. 

TASC has done some exceptional work in the local community, and alongside organising a variety of initiatives including a Veterans Breakfast, are currently in the process of setting up the Veterans Allotment – a lovely plot on the Rose Hill Allotment site in Denton that is hoped will be used by veterans to take a much-deserved breather. 

This kind of community approach to supporting our armed forces is so important. It isn’t enough to simply remember our veterans and service personnel once a year, we must continuously recognise their efforts and work to ensure that society treats them fairly and with respect.

Organisations such as TASC, Royal British Legion and SSAFA do incredible work in this regard and provide service personnel and veterans with life-changing support. 

However, it shouldn’t be left to charities to pick up the slack on areas that national government have neglected. Our veterans need better access to housing, local services, the right to fair compensation and mental health support.

Additionally, the Armed Forces Covenant should be properly enshrined in law, so that government has a legal obligation to support our armed forces come what may.

It’s the job of parliamentarians like me to fight for these changes to be implemented, so that we can build a fairer future for our armed service personnel and veterans. Our armed forces deserve the utmost respect and gratitude, and that gratitude should be shown not only in words, but in actions too.

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