A roundtable discussion in Bramley debated the issues and barriers veterans face in the UK following their service.
The Veterans’ Voice discussion drew over 20 veterans and veterans’ organisations to Bramley Villagers Club – and one of the main topics of discussion was veteran ID cards, which the government has not rolled out to the vast majority of veterans.
The Government promised to provide every veteran in the UK with a card in 2019, designed to provide speedy access to health, housing and charity services.
But figures from the ONS confirm there are more than 1.8 million veterans in England and Wales, and only around 70,000 ID cards have been given out since 2018, meaning less than 4% of veterans have been given a card in five years.
According to the latest figures, just 1.68% of veterans in Leeds have received an ID card. That means just 342 veterans ID cards have been rolled out to a total of 20,401 Leeds veterans.
Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer has promised to rollout all remaining ID cards this year. To keep his promise, Mr Mercer needs to deliver 1.7 million ID cards.
The Veterans’ Voice roundtable was hosted by Councillor Tom Hinchcliffe (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) was joined by Shadow Veterans Minister Rachel Hopkins MP, Leeds Armed Forces Champion Councillor Caroline Gruen and Councillor Kevin Ritchie.
At the event, Councillor Tom Hinchcliffe accused the Government of failing veterans and said: “It’s clear that there is far too much bureaucracy and red tape which preventing veterans accessing the support they desperately need.
“I was appalled to learn of the lack of support being provided to Leeds veterans on financial welfare and by the NHS. We held this event to listen to veterans and it’s vital that we have a General Election so Labour can resolve these issues.”
Leeds Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Caroline Gruen said: “I’m proud of all the veterans who attended today’s discussion to speak with us about the problems they face every single day. We must take every issue seriously and I’m proud that Leeds City Council is leading the way on providing support on housing and other problems, where this government has failed.”
Shadow Veterans Minister Rachel Hopkins said: “The Conservatives like to talk up their support for our forces, but it’s clear that they are failing our veterans. The veterans ID card is supposed to help our society keep its promise to those who serve by ensuring quick access to services like healthcare. But Conservative ministers have delivered just a fraction of the cards needed.
“Our veterans don’t need empty promises, they need action. That’s why Labour has launched its Veterans’ Voice campaign to hear directly from former personnel and their families, and put their lived experiences at the heart of our future policy offer.”
Last week the Government said thousands more veterans will receive HM Armed Forces Veteran Cards by the end of the year thanks to a £3 million injection to expand the roll-out to veterans who left service before 2018.
The ID card will allow veterans to quickly and easily prove their veteran status where required, granting them simpler access to key support from the NHS, charities and local authorities. They can also be used to apply for Defence Discount Service Cards and the Veterans Railcard.
Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer visited a facility in Gosport today to see progress made on the ID card rollout, and met with veterans who are already benefiting from the scheme.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP said: “Veteran cards provide ex-service men and women with a tangible connection to the important contributions they have made to the defence of our nation.
“We are honouring our commitment to getting ID cards into the hands of veterans by the end of the year so that they can more easily access support.”
Since December 2018, the MOD has been automatically issuing all service leavers with a physical veterans’ card as part of their service leavers pack. When the service opens up later this year, veterans – including all those who left service before 2018 – will be able to apply for a new ID card.
As of July 2023, 71,000 veterans’ cards have already been issued for those who left after 2018. Production will soon start to ramp up to 50,000 cards a month for those who left before that.
Lt Gen Sir Nicholas Pope, Chair of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities said: “Veterans who need timely help, either from the state or from the charity sector, are often frustrated by delays in confirming their status. Veterans’ ID cards provide a significant step forward in speeding up this process and we look forward to supporting their delivery to the entire veteran community.”
In the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan (2022-2024) the government committed to exploring the secure, digital verification of veterans’ status, allowing veterans to access a wider range of government services, as well as speeding up Phase 2 of the rollout of ID cards.
The launch date for this service will be announced by the end of the year. A paper-based application process will also be made available for veterans who are unable to use the online service.