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

A warm welcome and hello to all our October update. Over the past two months, we have seen sign-up to our newsletter grow to over 700 veterans and allies, with many hundreds more accessing it through social media.

Over the last four weeks, we have been continuing our conversations with the UK Government, Parliament, the devolved administrations, the Cabinet Office, the MOD, the Armed Forces, Armed Forces Benevolent Funds, and other stakeholders and partner organisations. We’ve also taken part in the Wales Armed Forces Expert Group and the Armed Forces Covenant’s One is Too Many Conferences, the latter summarising multiple strands of work on suicide prevention and Intervention, and we’ve spoken to a variety of employer network groups, including the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, National Audit Office, Department for Levelling Up and companies such as AtkinsRéalis’ Equilibrium.

Following the summer recess and party conferences, the Government’s response to the Independent Review Report’s reparations recommendations, announced publicly on 19th July, will naturally have been at the front of many minds, and we have been working closely with our allies to make sure it stays front of the Government’s too. The party conferences, return to Parliament, and tragic world events have of course, taken primacy in politics recently, but we are still high on the agenda and in response to questions asked in the Commons on our behalf, we are confident a response will come in November.

Our restructured Reference Group met again on 26th September.  The Group’s Chair is dismissed RAF veteran Prof Andrew Hartle and it includes the campaign and policy leads or CEOs of stakeholder organisation’s including RBL, Help for Heroes, Combat Stress, WRAC Association, Cobseo, the Centre for Military Justice, LGBT Foundation and Age UK. Discussions openly focussed upon Lord Etherton’s 49 recommendations and community viewpoints collected from FWP’s Reparations Survey answers and comments, returned by 300 of you in August.  Your feedback helped us make sure that we are enabled to guide the Government towards the right outcomes.  Together you have helped us reach agreement on next steps, milestones and actions, shaping our campaign plan and further empowering our discussions with the Government, Parliament and MOD. Our key focus at the moment is upon the £50M cap recommendation and the Reference Groups Members will work together to ensure that this is lifted and that payments are life enhancing for all those who feel the enduring impact of the ban.

We are advising MOD on their continuous development of the reparations ‘front door’. The MOD’s reparations implementation team have developed their front door website to an advanced stage now, helped by feedback from stakeholders including LGBT+ Veterans and FWP. More on this will follow in a future Town Hall.  Credit where credit is due, MOD is working at pace to get the mechanics of the delivery of reparations in place.

Earlier in October FWP won the Defence Inclusivity Award at the Soldiering on Awards.  This has been our first award as an organisation and there was an audible cheer in the room from representatives of hundreds of military charities.  It was a welcome reminder of how far we have come and how much support we have from our friends in the veterans sector.  There is much work to do, but with the help of friends and with the support of this brilliant community of LGBT+ Veterans families and serving personnel we will win through.

FWP was also the Charity Partner for the inaugural Defence LGBTQ+ Awards held in London.  Army Veteran David Tovey gave a moving speech about his experiences of the ban and helped us raise over £15,000 to support FWPs work.  Last week, FWP also received its Silver Employee Recognition Service Award certificate at an Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme event in the RAF Club, presented by Major General Marc Overton TD DL VR, the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Reserves and Cadets. More information on both these events is included later in the newsletter, but the recognition of Fighting With Pride’s work is recognition of all those we support and further signposts the need for doing what needs to be done. These events always present a great opportunity to network with influencers and organisations who are champions of change and can help us in supporting a better future for LGBT+ veterans, serving personnel and families.  We also attended the National Service for Seafarers at St Pauls in London.

Our whole team met in Birmingham for 2 days earlier in October for a series of training events and to enable our service development.  We meet 3 times per year in different cities across the UK as part of our process of service development.  They have been as busy as ever and you can read some of their own achievements in their regional reports later in the Newsletter. Watch out for news of an exciting FWP LGBT+ veterans break coming up in December in the South-West of England too, currently being planned by our VCWs in the south, George and Anthony. The event is part of our partnership with the South-West Veterans People, Places and Pathways (VPPP) portfolio led by Invictus Games and supported by VPPP partners. Keep an eye on our bulletins though for the formal announcement and details. If you are accessing this newsletter via social media, but haven’t signed up to our Newsletter, please note that sign-up is the best way of making sure you receive any of our bulletins too.

As we approach November, we are really looking forward to meeting over 40 LGBT+ Veterans for the National Remembrance Weekend ceremonies and everyone attending FWPs Reception following the Cenotaph marchpast. Registered participants should already have received the Admin Instruction by email from Alex, as FWP’s Event Lead. Please get in touch if you haven’t received it. We’ll provide an update at the October Town Hall, and include details of other locations throughout England, Scotland and Wales, where FWP or representatives are laying wreaths at other ceremonies.

We very much look forward to seeing you at our next Town Hall, Monday 30th October, and over the Remembrance Weekend for anyone joining us there.

Best wishes,

Craig and Caroline

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