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

Welcome to our September Newsletter, we hope you have had a relaxing summer and found plenty of sun. As we approach the end of September, FWP is sharply focussed upon ensuring that the Government honours the commitments made to LGBT+ veterans and families in the House of Commons on 19th July.  In the coming weeks we expect the Government to bring to Parliament for debate, its intentions for reparations that will bring the opportunity of the beginnings of recovery for the generations of LGBT+ Veterans affected by the cruelty of the ‘gay ban’.  The Party Conferences are naturally delaying discussions, but we expect a proper debate in the Autumn and we are ready to ensure delivery on the Government’s commitment if needs be.

On a positive note, we are aware that a great deal of work has been done by a range of Government departments to prepare delivery plans for the 49 reparations recommendations made in Lord Etherton’s Report.  Whenever we meet with the MOD’s implementation team, we are struck by their determination to complete their preparations in the timeliest way and in many cases to an extent that goes ‘above and beyond’.  There is much work still to be done, but MOD particularly is listening, adapting and steadily progressing a wide range of outcomes.

In our discussions about reparations, FWP represents the interests of thousands of LGBT+ veterans and families and we take care to ensure that we have listened.  Over 300 of you responded to our survey and we were pleased to welcome 120 of you to our ‘Town Hall’ meeting on 18th September when we provided feedback, answered questions and heard your observations. We know that these are sometimes difficult discussions, so thank you for doing what you can, when you can.  The survey had a brilliant response and helps us demonstrate that our views combine both the consensus views and individual views, to enable us to push for the widest possible range of options. We will survey you again about reparations in October, please help us hit 300+ responses, we need support from every one of you.

The school holiday period slowed our external diaries a little, giving us time to review and shape FWPs current and future strategies, policies and commitments, though with conferences, meetings and workshops we have now returned to a  ‘pre-holiday’ pace. We were delighted to kick those off in September by attending the Armed Forces Covenant ‘Impacts of Disadvantage’ Community Conference in Newcastle on 14th September, and with a visit to The Bridge For Heroes in King’s Lynn on 20th September, to workshop a supporting partnership with the East of England VPPP. Meanwhile, our Veterans Community Workers (VCWs) have been as busy as ever and you can read some of what they have been up to in the regional updates below.  Requests for information, advice or support have grown steadily since Lord Etherton’s Final Report and recommendations were published and the Prime Minister’s apology was heard by many who were previously unaware of the many changes taking place or of the growing support for reparations that now exists.

With the support of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, we have been delighted to expand our team for 6 months to help us manage a surge of enquiries. This week we welcomed two new temporary VCWs to provide much needed support to veterans and organisations in the South-West and the North-West of England. George Williams will be covering the South-West region and Invictus portfolio, whist John Boyd-Beckett will be taking over from Kenny in the North-West region, allowing Kenny to focus on his Team Manager responsibilities. You will find George and John’s Bios on the FWP website.  John will be no stranger to many of you, he has been a veteran member of FWP for a while now and joined us on our WW1 Battlefields tour earlier this year. John was a leading figure in the 1999 European Court Cases which would finally pave the way for the lifting of The Ban. Beyond his career in the Royal Navy, John has played a leading role in community support and advocacy as a police officer.  George worked in Parliament for an MP, where he had a variety of responsibilities helping to address concerns raised by local constituents, raising issues with Ministers, and engaging with community groups, a role that included supporting the office to understand the outcomes of the Etherton Report. Previously, George worked in an NHS Charity, fundraising to build new facilities to support patients, and working closely with hospital staff so that conditions improved for staff and patients alike. George’s partner is serving in the Army and he joins us well briefed about the ‘gay ban’ and the challenges faced by serving and former members of the Armed Forces.

You may have noticed a change on our website recently as we move to a new community contact management system, more noticeable perhaps in our fresh new layout for the Contact Us forms.  We are grateful to veteran Kevin Bazeley who has joined us in a temporary role to help us digitise our processes, particularly in the area of contract management and triage. We will also soon be onboarding a new temporary digital media team member, who will help us improve our social media presence and our community communications. These resources help us demonstrate our commitment to continuous development and improvement.

October is going to be a very important month. We will be watching the Government’s progress very closely and we will either report to you the date of the debate or we will be asking you to draw your swords!  We look forward to updating you in our October newsletter or earlier if we know more or we need support.  In the meantime though, please keep an eye on our notices and social media for news as it happens.

Best wishes,

Craig and Caroline

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