Armed Services – Good News and Not So Good
Earlier in the year I wrote criticising not only the Northampton Borough Council but the Government for failing to provide Housing for ex-service personnel on discharge from the services which was widely reported and received an excellent and very great level of support, not least in the local media.
Many may have been sceptical when the Borough Council administration on BBC Northampton responded by giving a clear commitment that ex-servicemen and women with links to Northampton would be given priority to housing and not as the Coalition Government policy was for them to be given priority to go on the waiting list.
It is only right to give credit where credit is due and especially to Mary Markham the Cabinet Member responsible for Housing in Northampton for delivering on the promise which is included in the current housing review.
It has long been an issue that ex-service personnel have been treated shabbily, if not disgracefully when discharged from the armed services and especially when discharged with injuries sustained in the line of duty, many of which are as we see all too often being horrendous.
As we watch the, what promises to be remarkable and fantastic athletes taking part in the Paralympics this week, we will also see how some service personnel have put their lives back together and focussed on becoming an Olympic athlete.
What is shameful is that far too many injured armed services personnel who are still trying to build a new life are being subjected to the humiliation of being cast into poverty and treated as second class citizens by the withdrawal of their benefits as has been reported not only in the national media but by those organisations who support out troops.
It is shameful that the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition Government are unwilling to treat injured ex-service personnel as a special case and in fact I firmly believe that this should also include those who are in the public services and who daily face dangers in protecting the public like the fire service and police.
There has been much talk and praise from politicians for the way the armed services stepped in to provide security for the Olympics but as the old saying goes ‘words are cheap’ it is action and support of our troops that is needed when both serving and on discharge.
Housing is of course an essential and crucial step on the way to providing those who have been prepared to pay the ultimate price for the UK with the opportunity to continue and contribute as valuable members of the society, but it is only an element and the Government should be instructing those who are making the decisions to stop withdrawing funding support as a matter of priority.
There will be in years to come more ex-service personnel who will have to rebuild their lives and there is no more poignant statement than that made by one of the greatest Olympians, Lady Grey-Thompson to MP’s in 2005 when she said
“The fact is, we don’t know some of those who will be competing in 2012 because they haven’t broken their backs yet”.
How many athletes in the current Olympics, who were fit and healthy young people serving in the armed services now fall into the category and how many more will fall into it between now and Rio in 2016?
I’m looking forward to watching all of the GB athletes taking part in the Olympics this week, but will as I’m sure many will, have a special cheer for those who have risen above and overcome their injuries to reach what is the pinnacle of their sporting lives.