Christmas message to Service families
Right Honourable, Sir Michael Fallon KCB MP, Secretary of State for Defence, has sent a Christmas message to Service families
“As we approach the festive period, our thoughts turn to spending time with our family and friends. I fully recognise, however, that many families will spend the Christmas period without their Service spouse, partner or loved one, as they are deployed around the UK and on critical operations overseas. This is one of the many challenges that you face in supporting the Nation’s Service personnel in fulfilling our worldwide military commitment. As I write, more than 5,000 UK Service personnel are currently involved in operations in 25 countries, including: patrolling the high seas, UN support to Somalia and South Sudan, and air operations in and over Iraq and Syria.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister emphasised her commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, stating that she sees its continued delivery as a key priority. She has supported our work to make improvements that we know are important to you in areas such as healthcare, education, accommodation and spousal employment. The unique nature of Service life can sometimes make it difficult for Service personnel and their families to access the goods and services, which the rest of society takes for granted. Through the Armed Forces Covenant, we will continue to ensure that decisions and delivery across Government, the devolved administrations, local government, and wider society, seek to create fairness and remove any disadvantage where it occurs.
We want to improve our support to you and are exploring the different elements of our service support package with a view to transforming our offer to better meet the needs of the modern family, regardless of age, rank, relationship status amidst a changing defence and social landscape. I have recently announced that we will invest £4 billion to improve and modernise our defence sites and Service accommodation. We will ensure that we have an affordable and sustainable estate that gives our people greater family stability and is aligned to meeting all of our future needs. We are also looking as to how we can better support Service families in the future and give greater choice too.
For example, we are currently undertaking a Flexible Engagements System Study which will look to offer greater opportunity for flexible working patterns to better support modern family needs. We will continue to meet with the Families’ Federations at Ministerial level to ensure your views and needs are considered at each point of our decision making process.
This year, one hundred years on from the First World War, we remembered those who fought in some of the heroic battles in the fields of the Somme and on the seas off Jutland. We also remembered those who have served in wars since then; for both those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and those who live in our community today.
We are greatly indebted to them all. In support of those veterans, I am pleased to announce that the Veterans Gateway programme, funded by a £2 million grant from the Covenant Fund, will provide a one-stop service to better support our veterans’ community needs of today. It will bring together a wealth of expertise from a consortium of charities led by the Royal British Legion. The new Veterans Gateway will provide a dedicated service to make it easier for veterans to access support on a range of issues including housing, employability and health.
Turning back to Christmas, I thank you for all the support you give our Armed Forces personnel, especially if your loved one is away. I hope that you and your families, wherever they are, have a safe Christmas and a very Happy New Year.”