Operational Effectiveness of the Armed Forces   –

April/May 2022 Update

Veterans snubbed yet again – this time by Government refusal to overhaul the system

The Armed Forces Defence Minister, Leo Docherty, has refused to carry out an independent review of both the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and pensions provision for veterans despite the House of Commons (HoC) agreeing a motion on 28 March 2022,  “That this House believes that the current process for claiming War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation payments is not fit for purpose and urges the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the system’s failings.“ The HoC debate identified the myriad of issues [1], with consensus that veterans are sliding further into poverty, physical and mental health problems are being exacerbated, and, notably, suicides are still taking place. Subsequently, veterans have launched a petition for a review to take place.  It is clear  Veterans UK (VetsUK) continues to fail its clients.

Apart from ensuring that veterans are treated properly through having total confidence in the equity of the administration of systems and processes designed to serve them, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is doing little to mitigate desperation building up amongst its veterans. The MoD should take note that last year veterans of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) threatened to march on the Knesset and start hunger strikes. More recently, a disabled IDF veteran attempted to self-immolate in Jerusalem.  https://mirror.co.uk.trem.media/money/gobsmacked-veterans-call-overhaul-benefits-26804764; https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/article-706327?utm_source=jpost.app.apple&utm_medium=share

Patterns emerging – Whistleblowing Bill left out of Parliamentary schedule

 A pattern is emerging in that the Government wants to avoid new legislation, where it could be called to account, with truly independent bodies created. This was clearly the case in rejecting calls to set up an Independent Defence Authority (IDA) in the Armed Forces Bill, which had its passage in Parliament in 2021. The latest manifestation has been the exclusion of the Whistleblowing Act from the current Parliamentary legislation schedule. The Act planned to create an independent Whistleblowing Office, with law to protect the whistleblower and the public interest by ensuring freedom from retaliation, and that allegations are properly addressed and fully acted on. Synergies with the IDA are clear. https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2022-04-26c.598.0&s=prison

RAF appears to be covering up bad behaviour by the Red Arrows

An RAF spokesperson said, “A member of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display Team – the Red Arrows – has been temporarily withdrawn and has returned to the UK for personal reasons. It would not be appropriate to offer further comment at this stage.” However, media reporting is asserting that the real reason for this return to the UK from training exercises in Greece is inappropriate (drunken) behaviour, which may also be more widespread not only within the group now in Greece, but reflect more deep-seated and endemic instances of improper behaviours. For the sake of the reputation of the RAF, Red Arrows and the wider Armed Forces, and to ensure the confidence of the public  and all members of the Armed Forces that inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated and called out, the RAF should admit the truth and lay out how it plans to tackle any inappropriate behaviours.  https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10815185/RAF-probe-drunken-Red-Arrow-airman-sent-Greece-following-inappropriate-behaviour

Continuing Maltreatment Especially of Women in the Armed Forces

It appears the MoD and the military hierarchy are still content to tolerate a steady stream of harrowing instances of, maltreatment, in particular, of women in the Armed Forces, without any recourse to justice for them, and at the expense of their careers and mental health. The attachments below set out recent examples. Recent MoD/ senior Armed Forces efforts to introduce cultural training for the Armed Forces plus the Zero Tolerance Policy introduced in March 2022, (which, in practice, means that anyone on the Armed Forces found guilty of a sexual offence will be immediately discharged from their service with no option to serve elsewhere), are clearly having negligible impact.  Economist film has been published on YouTube here; its website here and multimedia article- here; https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/sexual-harassment-armed-forces; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10797197/Married-Army-sergeant-37-kicked-military-sexually-assaulting-female-soldier.html;

Researching the experience of reporting sexual assault.

The Office of Veterans Affairs has commissioned research focused on women’s experiences of reporting sexual offences against them during their military service. This is a damning indictment of the failure of the current system that such research needs to be conducted. https://twitter.com/laurengmcb/status/1524022834737078274?s=09

Continuing Serious Issues with Recruitment Provider

In March 2022 the website of Capita, responsible for Armed Forces recruitment, was hacked and data was breached. This still has not been fixed. Instead, potential external recruits are being directed to a general jobs listing site. Recently, Capita was awarded an extension contract worth £140 million over two years, as from March 2022.  theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/apr/26/uks-army-recruitment-system-closed-since-march-after-data-breach/

[1] The failings of the AFCS and of VetsUK were laid out in much detail, summarised as -: disrespecting those who have served their country; abrogating the Government’s duty of care and unconditionally surrendering the financial burden of victims’ injuries; the system is loaded with presumptions that veterans are not entitled to compensation, trying to deter applications by making them prove eligibility beyond any reasonable standards and treating veterans as swindlers; the system is mired with complicated terminology and legalese, with little signposting for those who need it most; lacking objectivity and over-riding external professional (medical) assessments; and a poor response rate and length of time into looking into complaints.