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


Happy Armed Forces Week to all veterans and families, all who have served and all who do serve, and all in the Defence community. It has been an interesting last four weeks for us at FWP, especially with the addition of being in Pride Month, which always opens up more opportunities for us to raise awareness and support. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all those individuals, groups and organisations who have used Pride Month to help raise funds, raised awareness of LGBT+ Veteran history, invited us to speak at events to help raise awareness inside and outside of the defence community, supported our work, or have enquired about ways you can support our work. And a huge thank you to the veterans who have been doing the same in so many different ways.

This year, London Pride is taking place on Armed Forces Day and we have our biggest contingent yet of LGBT+ Veterans marching. If you are watching, do keep an eye out for us behind the FWP banner and in our distinctive branded purple t-shirts.

Our Pride in Veterans Standard has now topped 200 organisations and we’re excitedly looking forward to launching our FWP Yearbook and Review, so you can see who they are and hear from them too. It will be a ground-breaking resource for the LGBT+ Veterans community, support organisation and allies, combining history, lived-experience accounts, a directory of support services and ally organisations, and some special forewords I will leave as a surprise. The Yearbook’s launch will be on the evening of Monday 15th July, so do keep an eye out for more details. It will be available to download on our website as a pdf copy, or to read as a page-turning copy, and we will announce details of how and where to get hold of one of our first-edition printed copies.

Our plans for celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights win, in September 1999, are coming together nicely too. This landmark ruling resulted in the lifting of the Gay Ban in the UK Armed Forces in January 2000. See the NW Region of our newsletter for more details with a save the date, and we will update you as we progress arrangements.

In timely news, we were delighted to see Rank Outsiders being announced as a Finalist in this year’s Soldiering On Awards, to be held in London in October. Over twenty-four years later than it ever should have been, but many congratulations on receiving this long overdue recognition of your work in campaign and peer support until the gay ban was finally lifted. We wish Rank Outsiders the very best of luck on the night.

ImageThere is still time to hear your experiences and ideas for improving regional health and wellbeing support resources, for the LGBT+ Veterans community as well as other minority groups. Please do take part in any final focus groups, consultations and surveys where you can, they will end in the coming weeks. It is your opportunity to help shape the future of health and wellbeing support for all who have served, serve or will serve in the UK Armed Forces, and especially for your own regional and local services. Further details can be found in the regional sections of this newsletter.

At our ‘Town Hall’ meeting in June Craig noted that his role had narrowed to enable him to have a tight focus upon the final months of the community campaign for financial reparations. Fortunately, as the General Election was announced he and Ed had long planned diary appointments with the Minister (Rt Hon Andrew Murrison MP) and the Shadow Minister (Steve McCabe MP). Craig and Ed have made it known to both the Government and the Opposition that the £50M cap is totally unacceptable and the funds made available for financial reparation must be substantially increased. Craig sent letters to the Secretary of State, Minister for Defence People and Families and their Shadows, prior to the General Election purdah which left no doubt of our expectations.

There has been some reassurance from the MOD that the impact of the General Election (GE) overall could be minimal and may not necessarily cause delay in delivery of the scheme. Defence is working on the mechanisms of delivery now, so that when there is a final agreement there can be rapid roll out. Credit where credit is due, the MOD is working hard to prepare for financial settlement and we feel confident that when an acceptable figure is agreed, they will work in good faith to ensure distribution. But before they can do their work, the final pot of money still needs to be decided in the promised Parliamentary debate.

We are pushing very hard to make sure that this long-promised debate will be early in the Autumn, so that the scheme can begin early in the New Year. It is our instinct that there will be ‘just enough’ time for FWP and Veterans to contact our new MPs and Ministers and lobby for our cause. Last December’s community action had such a huge impact in the House of Commons and we ask you to be ready to answer our call for support when it comes. We will send comprehensive instructions. Candidates are listening to their constituents – if you are comfortable and able to, please tell them your stories and let your local candidates know that you’re a part of the community of those who were affected by the ban and will be asking for their help in the future. If you need help with this, please contact Craig at craig.jones@fightingwithpride.org.uk.

We close this update with a message of reflection from Ed, as FWP’s Chair.

“I am writing this sitting outside the Church bar on Canal Street in Manchester. I remember how much time I spent around here during the 1990s when this was one of the centres of campaigning against the ban. We made many friends here, and the city was always special for our community. I’m looking at the LGBTQ+ community out in the sun today, and loving how much the world has changed.

We still have a last push to go to get the campaign for reparations over the line, so as you enjoy whatever summer and Pride season brings for you, I’m giving you a heads up that come the fifth of July we will need to lobby and educate hundreds of new MPs, new ministers and new Secretaries of State on our experiences, our campaign, and our need to see the £50M recommended by Lord Etherton increased.

The days of legal battles are over, if we have any chance to improve the offer it will be a political decision. That’s not something Craig and the team can deliver on their own, we all need to help make sure new MPs know that this matters. Many will never have met an LGBT+ veteran!  It’s going to take all of us to change that, and make sure our new MPs are ready to speak for us in the debate to come.

Let us know if you need support to help do this, it could be our final push!”

We look forward to seeing many of you at London Pride this weekend, and at Prides around the country over the summer.

With best wishes,

Caroline and Ed


You can read the full FWP June Newsletter HERE

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