Welcome to our May update, which is sent in the closing days of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review, a process which has been at the heart of our campaign for reparations.  You will not be surprised to hear that our major focus in the last few weeks has been upon preparations for the publication of the LGBT+ Veterans’ Independent Review Report.  FWP is working across Whitehall to influence the recommendations, the outcomes and the response from the many Government departments involved.   We are a small charity and the pace of our policy and political work will have an impact upon other areas of FWPs work in support of LGBT+ veterans, serving personnel and families.  As ever, we will do what we can, when we can, but appreciate your patience.


Almost 18 months following the announcement of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review and 11 months after we first met with Lord Etherton at his offices in Great Smith Street, we met again to mark the culmination of the most searching investigation into any of the western nations’ ‘gay bans’ ever undertaken.  Whatever the outcome, we are assured that it will have been well-informed.


In the following week, we met with Cabinet Office Minister for Veterans, Johnny Mercer MP and the Director of the Officer For Veterans Affairs, making the strongest possible case for a ‘once and for all’ outcome for LGBT+ Veterans and their families.  The Minister was an early supporter of our cause, but our role here is to ensure that he delivers upon his commitment to bringing an end to this grave injustice.


On 3rd May we co-chaired a Roundtable with senior leaders of key organisations supporting veterans and LGBTQ+ communities with Government Officers.  We are grateful to Help For Heroes who jointly hosted this event and shared the Chair with Help For Heroes’ CEO, James Needham.  The discussions considered the LGBT Veterans Independent Review Recommendations we hope for and was an opportunity for organisations who are in the vanguard of our support group to discuss the need to ensure we leave no one behind in the reparations process.  With our supporters we share responsibility for getting the best possible outcome and for delivering change.  Thank you to dismissed RAF Veteran Professor Andrew Hartle, who has Chaired the FWP ‘Reference Group’ over the last 12 months, it has done much to ensure non-specialist veterans organisations have developed their awareness of the nature and consequences of the ban.


On 15th May, we met with the MOD’s Defence People Review Team to discuss MOD and the serving communities of the Armed Forces and their support of LGBT+ veterans.  It is our role in this campaign to be critical partners, however, we offer credit where it is due!  We left the MOD pleased with their progress to ensure a swift response to any Government decisions on Lord Etherton’s recommendations.  We met a team who are proactively working not just to fully support recommendations that fall to MOD responsibility but are looking for other opportunities that may not be included in the list of recommendations, to ensure LGBT+ Veterans are well served by the Ministry of Defence.  In particular, MOD is building a one-stop website that will provide initial advice to veterans and will be updated as any reparations are agreed.  We will provide a link to that website as soon as it goes live.


On 16th May, we briefed members and guests of the Armed Forces All-Party Parliamentary Group at a working breakfast in the Palace of Westminster, an event attended by most of the Shadow Defence Team and key supporters from all of the Parliamentary parties.  The meeting was chaired by a long-term ally of our campaign, James Grey MP, and brought ministers, and parliamentarians from both houses and invited guests up to date.  We answered their questions and advised of our areas of focus and concern. The events are our opportunity to build awareness cross-party, such that the response of Parliamentarians and Parties to the report is well informed and when needed, helping them ensure that their challenge is ‘bang on target.  The support at this meeting, for reparations for those impacted by the ban, was heartwarming and a number of follow-up cross-party meetings have been scheduled.


We have been delighted to see some of the responses you have received from your own MPs too. This is a crucial part of getting your own voices and experiences heard. Do keep letting us know how you are getting on, and if you need any further advice on how to write to your MP, see the link for the recording of our Town Hall meeting with Anna Cordoso, Senior Parliamentary Officer at Stonewall, or get in touch with us through our website Contact Us.  We will provide further advice on writing to your MP later in June after the report is published, but ahead of that perhaps you might like to meet your MPs and tell them about your experiences of the ‘gay ban’.


Invitations for the Independent Review’s own celebration of the completion of their work have now been forwarded to those who were selected. This event marks the end of the Review’s work and is a celebration of its instigation.  It is not a commemoration of the experiences of LGBT Veterans or a celebration of LGBT+ veterans’ achievements in changing the future of our Armed Forces.  We hope that the recommendations of the Review will enable those events to happen.  We are aware this has caused some disappointment, though if you put your name forward and haven’t yet received an invite, you will have been placed on the Reserve List. This list is comprised only of LGBT+ Veterans.  Where people drop out, regardless of reason or their status, they will be replaced by an LGBT+ Veteran from this list.  It is the Independent Review’s intention to maximise the number of veterans able to attend, though they are constrained by space and budget. We know individual disappointment has been directed at the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review Team for not being invited to their event.  The Review does not hold the details of anyone who gave evidence, those details were anonymised on receipt. So only those who responded to the Call of Interest extended by the Review to FWP, Salute Her and LGBT Foundation, were entered into the ballot for one of the 30 places available. In response to your enquiries, FWP put forward 50 names and we know that the majority of those attending were drawn from our list, however for data protection reasons, we do not know who.  The ballot system was used to ensure that every veteran who expressed an interest in attending had an equal possibility of being invited.


The LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review team has worked incredibly hard in the last year and on behalf of the Board of Trustees of FWP we would like to acknowledge their dedication to their important role.  Every submission has been read by Lord Etherton and we hope you see the influence of your voices and our voices in every page of the report.  The Review has listened to our veteran-informed counsel and engaged with LGBT+ Veterans throughout, whether through the Call For Evidence, at Prides, online meetings, Drop-Ins and in social media and Town Halls. They have been impacted and moved by all those they met and have striven to make sure their Report and Recommendations deliver the real impact and lead to the best possible outcomes. The Review’s Report publication will be a key step on the pathway to restorative justice and their role is now almost complete.  FWP’s work with the Government will continue at this pace.  As we reach 3.5 years since our inception, you will see the same determination and drive until everything that is needed and deserved is enshrined in Government policy and UK law.


Our next Town Hall will be an FWP update on the release of the LGBT Veterans’ Independent Review Report, its recommendations, and any immediate outcomes or consequences. We will hold this towards the end of June to allow time for the outcomes to be understood and immediate actions to be captured, however, we will be addressing some of these immediately after the Report is launched, so watch out for our updates, press releases, and media. We will be adding information to our website too.  Please tell us, or your Veterans Community Workers, what you think about the report when it is published.  Tell us your concerns and let us know if there are statements that are unclear.


Best Wishes


Caroline and Craig

You can read the full  May FWP Newsletter HERE


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