'You must be counted' - Veteran's minister Johnny Mercer plea for Armed Forces veterans to complete Census 2021
A Government Minister has urged military veterans to complete tomorrow’s census to ensure that support can be targeted at the parts of the country most in need.
Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer has made the plea for former members of the Armed Forces to provide details on the nationwide survey, which includes details of military careers for the first time.
The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month that charities involved in providing support for veterans are embroiled in a mounting financial crisis while demand for their services has soared.
Mr Mercer, a former British Army officer, said: “The census is key to aiding local authorities and government departments in understanding the demographics of an area, and what specific resources citizens require.
“The best way to get information on these needs is through the census. By declaring your veteran status if you’ve served, we will be able to get a greater understanding of the numbers, locations and age ranges of our Armed Forces veterans.
“This census data will allow the Government, the NHS and the service charity sectors to get more detailed information about which areas of the country need more resources and expertise, to aid veterans and their families.”
Charities involved in providing vital support to military veterans have witnessed huge pressures on their finances throughout the past year as traditional fundraising has had to be halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo), which represents 900 charities supporting service personnel and veterans, confirmed that by this month the sector will have seen an estimated reduction of £250m since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, requests for mental-health and loneliness support have increased by 70 per cent since the start of the first lockdown and the number of veterans pushed into poverty has increased by 55 per cent.
Mr Mercer admitted the Government has been “bailed out” by charities to support many former Armed Forces personnel, although the key services could come to an end due to a lack of funding.
Cobseo’s chairman, Sir John McColl, said two-thirds of service charities have seen a drop in income, with 46 per cent anticipating they would have to reduce the services in 12 months.
He also highlighted 18 per cent of its membership predicting they would have to close or merge within a year, while 15 per cent expected they would exhaust their cash reserves within the same period.
Some 2.5m former service personnel are currently living in Britain, according to Ministry of Defence estimates – equating to five per cent of residents aged 16 and over nationally.
The Ministry of Defence has stressed that it is committed to helping veterans make the transition to civilian life with the introduction of key new legislation.
The law was brought in by the Government in January to help ensure Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families are not disadvantaged by their service when accessing key public services.
The Armed Forces Bill focuses on healthcare, housing and education and aims to increase awareness among public bodies of the nature of military service.
The full special Armed Forces report by The Yorkshire is here.
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