June and July Round-up
Veterans Health and Wellbeing
In June I attended a Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) Veterans Heath & Wellbeing Seminar at Erskine’s Reid Macewen Activities Centre. The event brought together professionals from NHS GGC, Local Authority Veterans Champions from the area, third sector organisations and representatives from statutory services to share best practice. An instructive presentation from the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) and GGC illustrated the benefits to be gained from collaboration between the public and third sectors.
Armed Forces Week
Armed Forces Week was an opportunity to celebrate the forces communities across the UK. As well as honouring current and former Service personnel, reservists and cadets, it was also important to recognise the integral role that spouses, partners and children play in the forces and veterans communities.
I was delighted to celebrate with residents, family members and staff at the Scottish Veterans Residences Armed Forces Day barbeque, as well as attending Edinburgh’s Armed Forces Day, where I had the pleasure of meeting with many individuals from our diverse community. I was very proud to march with some wonderful women from the Association of Wrens, while welcoming other women veterans.
Forces Children Scotland
I had a most interest interesting and useful meeting with young people from vet
eran families across Scotland who shared their experiences of transition to civilian life. I also heard more about their involvement in Forces Children Scotland’s Tornado of Change campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the challenges faced by children and young people with a parent leaving the forces. I’m very thankful to all for their time and openness.
I had a very enjoyable visit to ACVC Hub in Govan, Glasgow, where I met veterans and family members who were painting and making models and pottery. I heard how the activities aided calmness and relaxation and saw the friendship and camaraderie among members. Groups like this can play an important role in boosting mental wellbeing and tackling social isolation.
I had a very interesting day in Moray meeting with various organisations to find out about the issues faced by the local veterans community. At Moray Council I met with Kevin McDermott, Lead Officer for the Armed Forces community, and Clr. Peter Bloomfield, Armed Forces Champion, who told me how veterans and their families were supported via council-run services. I also met with Alasdair Pattinson, General Manager of Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin, and Sarah Medcraf, CEO of Moray Chamber, who filled me in on support and services for veterans in the areas of health and wellbeing and business and professional development respectively. Thank you to all for taking the time to share their insight about the challenges affecting veterans and their families in this part of Scotland.
Similarly, I spent some time in Inverness to learn more about life for the veterans community and accessing support in the Highlands. I met with a number of organisations including NHS Highland, Highland Council. DWP, Combat Stress and 3 SCOTS. I also met with members of Inverness Military Wives Choir and enjoyed a singalong with them.
Lord Etherton’s Report
July saw the much-anticipated publication of the LGBT Veterans Independent Review, led by Lord Etherton. The report examined the experience of LGBT+ veterans who served prior to 2000, when homosexuality in the Armed Forces was illegal. Following its publication, the Prime Minister issued an apology to all those affected.
Around this time, I met with a group of LGBT+ veterans from Fighting with Pride, who discussed the enormous challenges they faced during their military Service. While there have been positive changes in attitude and available support, it's important to recognise the challenges that remain.
I hope that action taken around the review will address these challenges and look forward to the Government’s response to the review’s recommendations.