A warm welcome and hello to all our December update. As we come towards the end of 2023, we can look back on a truly amazing and historic year of progress that culminated this month with the Government’s statement of response to Lord Etherton’s Independent Review Report and the opening of MODs ‘Front Door’ website, providing the means of application for reparations, including fourteen measures already available and registration of interest for those planned for 2024. An incredible year that we look forward to reviewing in the New Year.
Our campaign will, however, naturally continue into 2024 until ‘Recommendation 28: Financial Award’ (R28), is delivered in a fair and just way too. The reparations debate in parliament, pledged by Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace, in the House of Commons in July, was meant to ensure the reparations measures met the Review’s intent or could be challenged where need be. As soon as we heard the debate would happen in December, we raised a call to Write to Your MPs, to signpost the debate and ensure MPs attending were well informed, and you did, and they were. Your letters were added to by our rousing of advocates and allies throughout the UK’s Parliaments and Government, and many other brilliant allies across the UK. However, when we became aware that the debate was going to be sidestepped and become a statement instead, on 13th December, we invited you to write to your MPs again to challenge this, and we sent an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, signed by FWP’s Coalition, an unprecedented collection of leaders of the UKs largest service, LGBT+ and Age organisations. Our Open Letter called on the Prime Minister to honour Government’s commitment to the promised full parliamentary debate and to scrap the £50M cap on the ‘financial award’. A copy with signatories, can be found on our website’s Current News page.
This wide and all-inclusive approach meant that when Dr Andrew Murrison, Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, delivered the Government’s statement of response, MPs were empowered to demand the debate and to challenge the cap through written questions and in the House of Commons on the day itself. Consequently, the debate will now happen in full, in Parliament; however, the campaign for removing the cap and determining the Government’s plans regarding the ‘Financial Award’, must continue.
In Scotland that same day, we were delighted that MSP Keith Brown led the way with a members business debate in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, attended by several of our local veterans, during which he raised awareness of the impacts of the ban, the Independent Review’s reparations recommendations and also called on the UK Government’s need to remove the cap. More details of this debate can be found in Dougie’s report, later in this newsletter.
The ban was illegal and devastated the lives of so many who had stepped up in service of their country. The focus of financial reparation must be fair compensation not degraded by an arbitrary limit, but it needs to be swift, accessible and go to the right people too. There is much speculation about who will qualify and what the payments will be, who should qualify, and who shouldn’t, but none of this has yet been decided and nobody even knows the numbers that might apply. We must be careful that false supposition at this stage doesn’t cause diminished hope. Hope is still fragile for some, and we are already seeing the negative impacts of rumour on so many, yet no detail has even been discussed beyond Government yet! There is good reason to remain strong. Lord Etherton’s recommendations could all very well still be part of the resolution, but without the cap. We don’t yet know, but we are listening to you, and we are pushing as hard as we can for the answers.
This has been a critical campaign aim for FWP since our formation in 2020; we won’t let go, but your help has been consistently empowering, and critical to success. Look at what we have achieved together in such a short time, and we look forward to working together even more when we pick up the pace again after the festive break. Together we will win this.
You can still help now, over the festive break and before Parliament returns. Although R28 is not yet available, you can still register interest through the Application and Registration survey on MODs front-page. This is important. For the ‘Financial Award’, the Government has stated it needs to ‘learn more about the affected community and thereby design the most appropriate scheme possible’, through registration of interest in a ‘Financial Award’. This doesn’t determine eligibility, but the sooner it has that snapshot of interest, the sooner it will move on with the process of delivery.
But we mustn’t forget those incredible positive outcomes of this year. Many LGBT+ Veterans who served in the ban years, and others who were falsely treated as being LGBT+, are interested more in the non-pecuniary reparations. Fourteen of those measures are available now, including the six that were already accessible, and the delivery timetable for the remaining measures has been outlined in the Government’s Response to the LGBT independent review. An application guide is available on the Gov.UK website and on FWP’s website here: Applications For Restorative Measures.
Implementation of these reparations was hastened thanks to the MOD’s reparations delivery team and supporting departments, so please do look at the website and apply or register your interest. The form has been made as user-friendly as possible and does not require any lived experience details, though it includes an option to volunteer individual testimony as part of the historical record of the Ban at the National Archives. It is also available in hard copy on request, but if you need any help completing it please do reach out to us. Please note, the automated reply to online applications of ‘no response to applications less than 6-months old’, doesn’t mean any application automatically goes on a 6-month wait. It means this is new to the MOD team and complex, and as a small team expecting a high volume of applications they ‘just want to ensure our focus is able to stay on processing applications rather than replying to individual requests for updates.’
2023 will have been another difficult year for many of you; the highs and lows of the impacts of the Call for Evidence, the Final Report and its delayed publication, the extended period before the Government’s response, lack of visible progress on financial compensation and inclusion of the cap, and, as we enter the Christmas and New Year period, it may compound other challenges you face. But see how far we have all come in the past 12 months, the amazing community that has grown and the achievements we have all made together. Please never feel that you are alone at this time, or any other time of the year. If you do find this time difficult though, please do confide in a friend or family member, or one of the support services listed in this newsletter link below, and you can still reach out to us through email@example.com should you wish to.
It just remains for us to say Thank You to all our partners, funders, allies and advocates, to our staff, trustees and Patron, and most of all, a Big thank you to You, and the friends and family who support you, for the amazing contributions you make, in so often difficult circumstances. You have enabled this journey, from exclusion and isolation to visibility, community and pride, and it has been our greatest pleasure to meet, see, hear or otherwise connect with you. Thank You.
We look forward to seeing you in 2024, but until then, from all of us at FWP to all of you, we send our Very best wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Caroline and Craig
Full Newsletter available HERE.