RT REV CHRISTOPHER FOSTER, BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH: The armed forces deserve our respect

WE'VE all heard about Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion which exist to help service personnel.

Thursday, 19th January 2017, 6:06 am
Bishop Christopher says service personnel should not be disadvantaged by the mobile nature of their role

What you might not have heard about is the Armed Forces Covenant.

It’s a promise by our nation that those who serve in the armed forces and their families should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.

No one joins the forces without being prepared to sacrifice – which includes being prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

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For this our service men and women deserve our respect and recognition.

However, it’s not right that they should be disadvantaged as they have been by the necessarily mobile nature of the role.

Being moved from place to place as your career develops is challenging enough, but it’s made so much worse if you have children to get into new schools, GP surgeries and dentists, and those places have closed their lists.

Service personnel with mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder can struggle to get the support they need from our hard-pressed NHS, particularly if they move during treatment.

Mental health problems are known to put a strain on relationships, and it remains sadly the case that the divorce rate among military families is double that of the civilian world.

Add to this problems with forces accommodation and you’ll understand why the main reason cited by those leaving the forces is the impact of their job on family life.

Last week I led a debate in the House of Lords to discuss how well the Armed Forces Covenant is addressing these sorts of challenges.

I raised some of the issues I’ve mentioned here and I was delighted to mention one local good news story.

The Crofton Cabin was built with a £20,000 grant from the covenant.

It provides a space for children to Skype parents overseas, and specialist counselling to help with the stress of deployments.

But it’s still clear that more needs to be done, which is why I hope the Diocese of Portsmouth will soon be one of those signing up to the covenant.

Whether your business or workplace also decides to sign up to the covenant or not, we all, wherever we are and whatever we do, need to be sincerely grateful and pay due respect to the men and women who are prepared to lay down their lives in our protection.