Update from Caroline Paige MBE (Chief Executive) and Ed Hall (Chair)

    May has been a mix of a month for us all at FWP, with good news, sad news and frustrating news, but it has been another very busy and productive month non-the-less. We are late in the month for our newsletter as it was important to hold on developing outcomes and we are looking forward to the Town Hall on 11th June to tell you more, especially in regard to campaign, memorial and opportunities to help develop future healthcare and support provision. We begin however with a message from Ed as our new Chair.

    My first few weeks in the role have been extremely busy, learning more about the amazing work of our team supporting veterans all over the country, and meeting staff, partners, trustees and politicians.  As part of the old campaigning guard from the 1990s, I’m very conscious how important fellowship and friendship is amongst the community, and I’m going to make sure we never lose sight of how vital it is to know that there are friends here who have shared experiences that many outside our community find hard to understand.  The campaign to bring closure to many through reparations continues, and, like all campaigns, it won’t be able to bring a perfect solution for everyone.  Achieving the best outcome in situations like this is about understanding the art of the possible, as well as seeking a perfect theoretical solution, and that’s what the team at FWP is doing.  I am so proud of the dogged work that Craig and the team are doing to deliver the best possible outcome for all of us.  The election has thrown a spanner in many campaigns, not just ours, but it also gives us a chance to get ready for the next stage.  You can help us do that by making sure that all the candidates in your area know that you are an LGBT+ veteran and that you care about the parliamentary debate, the level of reparations, and future support for our community.  If you need help to do that, just reach out and we will do what we can.
    Ed

    In the week of the announcement of the General Election, Craig met with the Shadow Veterans Minister and subsequently Craig and Ed met with the Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families (Min DPV SF) The Rt Hon Dr Andrew Murrison. The Minister has told us that he is minded that keeping £50M compensation cap is the MOD’s preferred outcome. FWP has stated that £50M cap is unacceptable to our organisation and to the overwhelming majority of those affected by the ban. This level of funding will deny justice for those affected and we will not accept this. Following these meetings, Craig wrote on behalf of FWP to the Secretary of State, Min DPV SF, the Shadow Defence Minister and the Shadow Veterans Minister to raise the strongest possible concerns. We are pleased to be closely supported in this work by the Public Policy Directors of the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes and by the members of our campaign group, which is drawn from many veteran and LGBT+ organisations.

    ​As soon as the election is clear, it is our expectation that the new Government will bring its plans for compensation to the debating chamber of the House of Commons and when that has been arranged we will ask for your help. Before then, if you are able, please do contact Parliamentary candidates in your area and tell them about your experiences, and tell them that the cap should go and be replaced by fair compensation for what happened to you and the impact upon your life (or the lives of others), you could do that by letter or by attending campaign events and asking questions. A good figure to use is to say that if the expected 2000 veterans apply, a £50M cap will result in average payments of £25,000. This figure is derisory compared to the hundreds of thousands anticipated by those affected by Windrush, Tainted Blood and Horizon. Your voices can make a big difference.

    ​The General Election has delayed the debate of a future Government’s plans, however, the Ministry is continuing its preparations to deliver a scheme with a target date in first months of 2025, and they are progressing well with the delivery of Lord Etherton’s other recommendations. If the future Government puts in place fair compensation for LGBT+ veterans after the summer, there is no reason why the roll out of the compensation scheme should be delayed. With your support and the support of hundreds of organisations across the UK we will keep the pressure on. Please hold your heads high, we will fight your corner like tigers and push the pace of work to get this done.

    In addition to campaign support and our planned community consultations regarding the Memorial, during June you will also have a unique and vital opportunity to help influence how support services are shaped to develop and deliver better and more inclusive services for veterans and their families and carers, at a local level. Across the UK each of the regional Veterans Places, Pathways and People programmes (V3Ps) are conducting in person and online consultations, focus groups and surveys, to hear your voices on current service provision as someone who has served in the Armed Forces, regardless of when you served, how, where or for how long. It is important they hear from LGBT+ veterans and families, other minority groups, and organisations, if we are going to help change things for the better for everyone.

    The V3P June/July consultation period aims to develop a strategy for how everything from statutory services, through GP and NHS services, to charitable organisations, large and small, can work seamlessly to provide effective and coordinated care, locally, regionally and nationally. Participation won’t require any submission of service history, it’s about capturing your experiences in approaching services and organisations for support, the good as well as the bad, for example – identifying barriers to seeking advice, information or support, whether existing or perceived: understanding what would encourage reaching out: what happens well when you do, what doesn’t: what could be done better, or what would make a difference. We can all make a difference given the opportunity, and this is a great opportunity to influence support services in your own area, so please do take part where you can. You can check regional sections of our newsletters for any local information or contact your regional VCW for updates.

    We have also added details in this newsletter of The Female Veterans’ Transformation Programme, a separate project seeking the participation of female veterans, please see their article for further information on how you can help, including through an online questionnaire, focus groups and testing of the resulting toolkit.

    In other news, we’re excited our search for a Veterans Community Worker (VCW) for the SW region has concluded and we would like to thank everyone who expressed their interest in joining the FWP team. The applicants shortlisted to interview were exceptional, making the recruiting panel’s decision so much harder. We look forward to introducing our newest VCW once administrative processes and onboarding are complete.

    At the beginning of May, RAF Nurse Sam Pullen raised an amazing £1390 for FWP in his fundraiser, running 5km every 4 hours for 24 hours! Thank you, Sam! And our thanks go to the Officer Cadets of Sheffield University Officers’ Training Corps too, raising over £1100 for FWP running in one of the UK’s hilliest marathons, see the article below for more on this. On a slower and flatter pace, we have been delighted to see several of you at the first of this year’s Prides too, including Swansea and Birmingham, see regional sections in the Newsletter for upcoming Prides, and we are looking forward to catching up with as many of you as we can across the UK right through to September. London Pride this year coincides with Armed Forces Day, so please do check out Alex’s update in the London section.

    We sadly close the month with the dreadful news of David Moreton passing away. Dave was a much loved member of the FWP family who took part in many of our activities and stayed in regular contact through the WW1 battlefields group and the Town Halls. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts remain with his family and friends. Dave’s family have opened an online remembrance book for anyone who might like to add their memories of him and to express condolences.

    June promises to be a busy month as Pride Month, with lots going on, so please keep an eye out for our notices and bulletins and we look forward to catching up soon.

    Best wishes,

    Caroline and Ed

     

    You can read the full May Newsletter HERE.

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