25 Jul Our Community – Our Covenant
From 6 September 2016
The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that, in return for their service, society will “acknowledge and understand that those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect”. It is a step to remove any disadvantage that members of the Armed Forces Community might face as a result of their service.
We were commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to research local delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant, with the presumption that delivery across England, Scotland and Wales was inconsistent.
Our research consisted of the following:
- Literature review;
- 4 surveys;
- 12 deep dives; and
- Advisory group meetings
Our literature review enabled us to develop our emerging approach and identify our key research questions. This included a draft of the core infrastructure which we considered necessary to have in place in order to implement the Covenant well. The complete list can be found in table 1 below:
|Table 1: Core infrastructure to deliver the Armed Forces Covenant|
|· An elected member Champion· An officer point of contact within the council||· An outward-facing forum· A mechanism for collaboration with partners|
|Communication||Vision and commitment|
|· A web page with key information and links· A clear public statement of expectations· A route through which concerns can be raised· Training of frontline staff
· The production of an annual report highlighting the key actions taken that year
|· An action plan that leads to action and is monitored and reviewed· Policy reviews· Enthusiasm and commitment|
We sent 4 separate surveys to every council in England, Wales and Scotland, the Armed Forces Champions of every council, key stakeholders and members of the Armed Forces Community (AFC). Over a third of members of the AFC who responded felt disadvantaged in relation to the treatment of their needs. This demonstrates the importance of the Covenant to the community.
We tested the extent to which components of the core infrastructure were in place and found that the majority of councils have an Armed Forces champion, an officer point of contact and a forum in place. Around a quarter of councils have an active webpage in place and a fifth have an active action plan.
We also found that councils were more likely to reflect the Covenant in policies and criteria than targeted support and special entitlements. This differs depending on public service area, with adult social care emerging as the area in which the Covenant is least likely to be reflected in policies and strategies.
We conducted 12 deep dive visits to councils in England, Scotland and Wales. These included a range of population and council types. We spoke to Armed Forces Champions and officers, members of the council involved in public service delivery, representatives from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), military charities and the Armed Forces Community itself.
We identified evidence of mixed expectations within the Armed Forces Community about the purpose of the Covenant. We often heard about members of the Armed Forces Community thinking it gave them a right to a service, rather than not being disadvantaged in comparison to others because of their service. We recommended that a statement on what the Covenant can and cannot delivery should be agreed by the LGA, COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), and the government.
We found that what can be considered as appropriate delivery differs depending on local context. It emerged that the nature and scale of the AFC in an area has some impact on the level and type of activity carried out by a council in relation to the Covenant. We developed a typology of places to use when thinking about the delivery of the Covenant in the local context. This can be found below in table 2.
|Table 2: Typology of places|
|1. Major AFC presence||2. Significant AFC presence||3. Modest AFC presence||4. Significant known presence of Veterans||5. Minimal known AFC presence|
|The AFC is a very important presence in the area. Many of these places have a major serving and Veteran community.For example, Wiltshire, Moray and Plymouth.||The AFC is a significant presence in the area. Many of these places have a significant serving and Veteran community. For example, Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.||There is a smaller but nonetheless important AFC presence. For example, Surrey.||Often important areas from which members of the Armed Forces are recruited and to which many resettle. There is little if any serving presence in these places. For example, Wigan and Glasgow.||Places where the only presence comprises Reservists and a Veteran population of unknown size.|
In general, relationships between councils, partners and the AFC work best in category 1 and 4 locations where there is often a proactive approach to meeting the needs of the AFC. Category 3 and 5 locations face the biggest challenges in implementing the Covenant, where their approach to addressing the needs of the AFC tends to be more reactive.
To enable more effective delivery of the Covenant, we suggested the MoD improve the processes for preparing Service leavers and their families for transition, and build more effective relationships with council officers, paying particular attention to information sharing during the transition process. We also recommended that consistency is needed in the level of priority that is given to Covenant delivery from the Armed Forces.
To summarise, our research into the delivery of local Covenant pledges found that most councils have the basic infrastructure in place. However, there is a mismatch in expectations of the Covenant and what it can deliver for the AFC. There is a lot of good work happening throughout the country, but there is scope to go further. Taking this forward will not be possible without the support from central government, the Ministry of Defence and councils.