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UK Government working to introduce Veterans Commissioner for Wales

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Secretary of State for Wales and Pembrokeshire MP, Simon Hart has announced that the UK Government is working to introduce a Veterans Commissioner for Wales. 

The announcement followed on from calls earlier this month from fellow Welsh Conservative MP, Fay Jones who represents the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency, for the creation of a commissioner who would work to ensure that devolved powers are fully utilised to support current and former armed forces personnel.

With vital public services devolved in Wales, Miss Jones argued that a commissioner is needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to veteran’s affairs, focusing on welfare, mental and physical health, education and employment. 

During last month’s Armed Forces Bill, Miss Jones told the Veterans Minister, Johnny Mercer MP that Wales is the only nation in the United Kingdom not to have a dedicated Veterans Commissioner.  She said “The Conservative Party is the party of the Armed Forces and The Union. Without a Veterans Commissioner in Wales, the voices of former military personnel in Wales are not being heard.”

After a number of meetings with Minister Mercer and the Wales office, the Secretary of State for Wales acknowledged Miss Jones’s work during a St David’s Day Debate in Parliament. He went on to confirm that the UK Government is “actively considering” options for a Veterans Commissioner for Wales to be created.

Commenting on the announcement, Fay Jones MP said: “At the beginning of February, I called for the creation of an Armed Forces and Veterans Commissioner for Wales. By the end of February, the UK Government was making plans to deliver one. 

“This move would make a tangible difference to the lives of veterans, serving armed forces personnel and their families. Their voices will now be heard in vital devolved areas, from education and employment to mental and physical health, and we could ensure a joined-up approach to the support they receive. 

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“I am so grateful to Johnny Mercer MP and Simon Hart for their swift work on this campaign.  From the many veterans in Brecon and Radnorshire who have been in touch with me, I know that there is an urgent need to create this post. I want to honour their service and so does the Government. Establishing a Veterans Commissioner for Wales is a clear commitment of our support for the Armed Forces and I am delighted to have achieved it.”

Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart said:  “The Armed Forces have a long and important tradition in Wales and we are exceptionally proud of our Welsh veterans. Our ex-servicemen and women and their families deserve recognition, support and respect throughout the duration of their service and beyond.

“The recruitment of a Veterans Commissioner for Wales will go a long way towards increasing the support available and highlights the UK Government’s commitment to the welfare of our Armed Forces veterans.”

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “The Armed Forces protect the entire United Kingdom and so it’s right that we do everything we can to support veterans when they leave service.

“A Veterans Commissioner for Wales would be an important step forward for supporting ex-service personnel in the nation and recognises Wales’ proud military contribution.”

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Armed Forces

Swansea dignitaries mark Armed Forces Day

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The Lord Mayor of Swansea Cllr Mike Day and other local dignitaries honoured those who’ve served their country in the armed forces at a special ceremony at Swansea’s Guildhall Rotunda this morning.

Cllr Day along with the council’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Wendy Lewis, HM the Lord Lieutenant Louise Fleet JP and the High Sheriff of West Glamorgan Stephen Rogers paid tribute to those who have served.

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Dignitaries at the Armed Forces Day event at Swansea’s Guildhall (Image: Swansea Council)

The tributes took place on the Guildhall Rotunda at 11am and also present were representatives from the armed forces, reservists, veterans and local cadet units.

The Lord Mayor said: “Armed Forces Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our armed forces and give thanks for our serving personnel and those who have served in World Wars and other conflicts and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.”

“Our Armed Forces deserve the respect and admiration of us all and we are immensely proud of them.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Armed Forces

Free swimming in Wales to continue for the Armed Forces

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On Armed Forces Day, the Welsh Government has announced the continuation of the Armed Forces Free Swimming scheme.

The scheme enables serving members of the Armed Forces and Veterans to swim for free at participating leisure centres and pools, using their Defence Privilege Card.

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The Armed Forces Free Swimming Scheme (AFFS) was first introduced in 2016 and represents the continued commitment to provide the Armed Forces community with access to services which meet their specific needs and recognise the service they have given to their country.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m very pleased that we are able to continue to support this scheme which is designed to ensure members of the Armed Forces past and present are able to benefit from the physical, and mental, health benefits swimming can offer.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We are committed to supporting our Armed Forces personnel and recognise how initiatives like this can boost their mental and physical wellbeing. I hope they can enjoy the benefits from this scheme over the next three years.”

Chris Llewelyn, WLGA Chief Executive said: “Local government is proud to deliver free swimming for our Armed Forces personnel and Veterans. We hope that even more people take part in the scheme in the coming year, taking advantage of the significant recuperative and social benefits physical activity offers. There are participating pools in each of Wales’ local authorities; to find out where your closet facility is, visit your local authority website.”

Throughout the 2021-22 financial year the scheme was taken up on average each quarter by 569 serving military personnel and veterans across Wales. The trend shows an increase in uptake as restrictions have been lifted, with the last quarter recording a peak of 879 people benefitting from 2641 visits to their local community swimming pools.

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To support the scheme, £45,000 to be issued every year over a three-year period; in 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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Armed Forces

Free breakfast for Armed Forces as Tesco recognise Armed Forces Day

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cooked food

Members of the Armed Forces will be able to get a free hot breakfast at Tesco cafés across Wales to mark the Armed Forces Day celebration in June.

As a thank you for their service, on Sunday June 26, all serving Armed Forces personnel, around 159,000 regulars and 32,000 reservists, can present their MOD90 identification card at any Tesco café and get a free full cooked breakfast, vegan cooked breakfast, sausage bap or a bacon bap.

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All 295 Tesco cafés across England, Scotland and Wales will be offering the promotion – limited to one free breakfast per cardholder.

Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer at Tesco and Director Sponsor of the Armed Forces Network said: “We’re proud to be able to support National Armed Forces Day which celebrates the tremendous contribution that the armed forces make to our country. It’s an exciting opportunity for store colleagues across the country to celebrate. Everyone loves a free breakfast and we thought it was a gesture that showed how much we value members of the Armed Forces.”

Rhys Little, Chair of the Armed Forces Network at Tesco, said: “We’ve got a long history of getting behind those who have been in the forces. We’ve received the Gold award from the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme twice now (in 2016 and 2020), and we were also the first retailer to sign the Armed Forces Covenant in 2014. We also do our best to give anyone leaving the army, navy, or RAF a chance to forge a new career.”

Over the weekend of June 25 and 26, local events will be taking place in towns, cities, and villages up and down the country, and Tesco stores will be holding a nationwide collection for Help for Heroes.

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