Update from Craig Jones MBE (Chair) and Caroline Paige MBE (Chief Executive)


Welcome to our March Update. In our previous 2 updates, we mentioned the changes we were considering as a charity in preparation for the next phase in our journey together, with our recent Board and team meetings considering our future plans and strategies and how we need to evolve our work and our next steps in this.

Whilst we are reshaping for a future that sees more capacity for community building, as our achievements in campaign, capacity building and research allow us to do this, there is still work to do in all four areas. Changes within the wider veteran support sector surrounding us, in the political arena, and the consequences of the current financial environment are all developing factors that will have impact on this.

One of the most exciting developments within the veterans’ sector is the reshaping of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust’s Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People Programme, the VPPP or V3P as commonly known. This 2-year community-focused programme enabled provision of our vital Veterans Community Workers (VCWs) in 9 regions across the UK but is now undergoing a remodelling planning phase. This will look at transformation of the veterans and families support space over the next 3-years, bringing it together to make service support and provision across the whole sector be the best possible. It will likely have a new identity, but the planning phase will run until September 2024. This will make use of consultations, evaluations, workshops, focus groups, surveys, studies and more, with the aim of creating a sustainable collaborative support network of the future. That’s a huge project, but at the centre of it all is the desire for better, safe and more inclusive health and wellbeing service provision for anyone who has served, our future veterans, and families. Regardless of how, why, where, when, or with who you served, how you left service or whether you saw combat or not, just that you served or are a family member. It is important that you have your say regarding your experiences of veterans services and organisations of today, but especially your thoughts where improvements could or should lie and what you would like to see happen, benefitting everyone.

Although this is a UK-wide programme, it is being planned at regional levels, so this is your opportunity to help shape veterans services that are local to you, whether small to large charities or statutory services provided by local authorities and services such as GPs, health boards, and local government. It is important that the voices within minority communities are heard in these consultations, so please spread the word. FWP will help facilitate opportunities so do please keep an eye on our bulletins, newsletters and social media. Our VCWs will also be at the heart of FWPs role in all of this, and they will of course be your regional points of contact. If you aren’t sure who your regional VCW might be, details can be found on our website and in their update sections within our newsletters, and we will keep you updated on developments within this transformation programme.

We are still connecting with veterans who aren’t aware of Reparations or the MOD’s Application and Registration ‘front-door’ webpage being open, and we are still hearing frequent misunderstandings on matters of qualification or validity of individual’s experiences.

The number of applicants is lower than it should be by now, currently just over 400. We know there are far more of you that should be applying and there is evidence that many individuals aren’t sure whether they qualify, don’t know they can apply or register, aren’t sure how to apply or register, or are reluctant to do so for several different personal reasons. If you are in doubt, that means there is something there on your mind, so there is no doubt, please do apply or register. Or at least reach out to FWP and we will help where we can. Sensitive enquiries will be treated confidentially, and all enquiries are managed within our strict data protection measures.

The reparations are there for LGBT+ individuals who served in the UK Armed Forces in the period of the gay ban, 1967 to 2000, and includes heterosexual service personnel dismissed for being gay when they weren’t. Process is simply MOD doing a ‘confirmation of military service’ check and then actioning your application/registration through the relevant office or offices, for example return of medals, pardons and disregards, service apology etc. Non-financial reparations already in place are open for application now, and those due for completion soon are open for registration. Although the financial reparation scheme for compensation has not yet been announced, it is also open for Registration of Interest now. Please don’t wait for the scheme’s details notice to happen first, registering as much interest as possible now will help quicken development of the final scheme and its delivery.

Craig is continuing discussions with the main parties about compensation, pushing for a deal which does more to recognise the lifelong impact of the ban and brings some sense of justice to this community. These discussions will continue in early April. We would be very pleased for community members to use the newsletter to keep your MPs informed and if you are able please write to your MPs or meet them to impress upon them the need for this to be done well and done quickly, that would be brilliant. Towards mid-April, if significant progress has not been made, we will ask for your help, as we did in November. So standby this channel!! Thank you for all that you have done to support the FWP team, having so many veterans who are prepared to help us push this over the line will help us get this done. Even when it seems quiet we are working to influence the outcome.

So please do spread the word across your own contacts or networks too. We don’t want to see anyone who was impacted by the ban, in whatever circumstance, miss the opportunity for reparations that could help in any way that matters to them, or their opportunity to help influence outcomes.

Earlier in March, FWP bid for the grant offered by the Office for Veterans Affairs for an organisation or group of organisations to create a memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum to those we have lost from the LGBT Community. We don’t normally mention our funding bids at the time of application however we wanted to make an exception for this very important project. We are unlikely to be the only applicant, however, if FWP were successful, we wanted to let you know that we will begin the project with a pan-UK consultation, which will include regional events, online events and a survey, recognising the importance of making sure that everyone has an opportunity to influence this very important community memorial. If we are selected, we will be in touch again before the end of April.

​​We will be holding two events in April in London that we would be delighted to see you at, too. On the afternoon of 11th April, 1-2pm, we have a Panel event being held at the Royal United Services Institute, central London, discussing Compensation for LGBT+ Veterans, and on 24th April, at 6-8pm, we have a London Region social event being organised at the Phoenix Arts Club, in Soho. We are looking to hold events throughout the year regionally across the UK, but if you would like to join us at these two events, follow the link to our March Newsletter at the end of this update for further details and register your interest.

In other news, we are delighted that Lost and Found, our research report published by Northumbria University (NU) in June 2023, has been published as a Phase 1 academic paper with SpringerLink, a reading platform accessed by hundreds of thousands of researchers internationally. Our congratulations and thanks go to Dr Alison Osborne and Dr Gill McGill as authors of the paper. More details including a link to the paper are included in the newsletter below.

As we hurtle towards the 25th anniversary of the lifting of the ‘gay ban’ Craig is editing a new book to help add to the growing number of accounts that are bring together more of the history of the ban. If you are keen to tell your story, or perhaps a part of it, for each chapter the aim is around 5000-6000 ideally with 5-10 images. On Wednesday 27th March and Thursday 28th March there will be online Zooms! between 1800 and 1845 to tell you more about book and how you could become involved. If you feel you have a story you really want to tell but don’t feel that writing is your strength, please don’t be put off, support can be made available, even perhaps transcriptions of interviews. There’s no obligation, if you would like to know more, please come along. An announcement with links to the Zoom! will be sent out on Tuesday. If you would like a 1:1 discussion with Craig, you can email him at craig.jones@fightingwithpride.org.uk

And finally, we were delighted to hear that the team at Dragonfly TV have been nominated for a BAFTA for their documentary, Forced Out. The documentary included outstanding filming of community members Elaine Chambers, Ed Hall, Duncan Lustig-Prean, Robert Ely and Mike Sampson. Craig and Caroline were military advisors to the documentary and provided campaign comment. Congratulations to all the community members who took part, we very much look forward to the next British Academy Awards and have our fingers crossed that it’s a win for ‘Forced Out’.

Best wishes,

Caroline and Craig

You can read the full FWP March Newsletter HERE

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