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15 Oct 20. Public asked not to gather at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday due to coronavirus.
For the first time, the annual Remembrance Sunday service will be a closed ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Government has provided advice to Local Authorities in England for events at community war memorials
- Culture Secretary urges public to pay tribute at home to protect veteran community
- Service will take place behind closed doors and broadcast to the nation on BBC One
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has asked members of the public to mark this year’s Remembrance Sunday service on Sunday 8 November at home rather than head to the Cenotaph due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
Around 10,000 people usually gather at the Cenotaph each year for the National Service of Remembrance and the two minute silence at 11 AM. This year, for the first time in history, the event will be closed to members of the public in line with the latest expert medical and scientific advice.
The service is expected to go ahead with representatives of the Royal Family, the Government and the Armed Forces, and a small representation from the Commonwealth, other countries and territories, all laying wreaths at the Cenotaph. The annual march past the Cenotaph will not take place, but some veterans will be invited to attend the service which will be made covid-secure by minimising attendance and ensuring strict social distancing measures are in place.
The public are urged to remember all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by coming together for a national moment of silence at 11am as the service is broadcast nationwide on BBC One.
The government has also today provided advice for councils in England on how to ensure that those hosting local Remembrance events can do so safely. Measures include reducing numbers, focusing attendance on those wishing to lay wreaths, and observing social distancing at all times.
All gatherings involving more than 6 people will need to be organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body. Organisers will also be required to carry out a risk assessment to limit the risk of transmission of the virus.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This Remembrance Sunday has a particular significance as it marks one hundred years since the Cenotaph was installed. Whilst we will mark this occasion properly, it is with a heavy heart that I must ask people not to attend the ceremony at the Cenotaph this year in order to keep veterans and the public safe. We will ensure our plans for the day are a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and that our veterans are at the heart of the service – with the nation able to watch safely from home.”
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “We will not let these difficult times stop us from properly commemorating the sacrifices of those who protected this country in our darkest hour, and those who are serving in our Armed Forces today.
That’s why we have published advice for councils, so that local Remembrance Day events can take place safely and communities are able to honour our brave service men and women. We are safer because of the sacrifices they have made and the battles they have fought.”
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “I am as disappointed as the rest of the armed forces community that our usual arrangements for Remembrance Sunday cannot go ahead as normal. However, like the successful VE and VJ Day commemorations, the Armed Forces will join with The Royal British Legion to lead the nation once again in showing our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Bob Gamble OBE, Assistant Director for Commemorative Events for The Royal British Legion said: “The decision not to proceed with the annual March Past the Cenotaph has been taken by the Government based on expert advice to protect the health and well-being of all those would have been travelling to and participating in the event. Whilst it is deeply disappointing that the march will not be taking place this year, we can all still play a part in ensuring we mark the occasion appropriately and pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces on Remembrance Sunday. We are encouraging people across the country to participate in their own personal moment of Remembrance whether that be watching the Service on television or pausing for the Two Minute Silence.”
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “Remembrance Sunday holds a special place in our national life and I know that many people will be disappointed that they won’t be able to attend this year. But the key part of Remembrance is taking a moment to recognise those who have given their lives protecting this country. I hope that everyone will still be able to reflect on this sacrifice this year, despite the different arrangements.”
This year also marks the centenary of the unveiling of the permanent Cenotaph by King George V on Armistice Day 1920 and of the interment of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.
Meaning ‘empty tomb’, the Cenotaph symbolises the unprecedented losses of the First World War and is dedicated to ‘The Glorious Dead’. The Cenotaph was designed by Edwin Lutyens and was initially erected as a temporary structure for Peace Day in July 1919. The structure was so popular a permanent version was commissioned. Since then, the Cenotaph has become the focal point of national commemoration. Details of plans to mark this moment will be announced in due course.
The Unknown Warrior was an idea conceived by a Chaplain on the front, the Rev David Railton, after seeing a grave with a rough cross on which were pencilled the words “An Unknown British Soldier”. He suggested that an unidentified Soldier from the battlefields of Europe be selected at random and transported to England and be buried amongst the Kings and Queens of Westminster Abbey. King George V led the procession and Gun Carriage that carried the coffin of the Unknown Warrior and was Chief Mourner for the service at Westminster Abbey that followed the unveiling of the permanent Cenotaph on Whitehall. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Oct 20. New Veterans Railcard launched. Service personnel often live and work all over the UK, moving regularly from posting to posting, so when they leave the armed forces, they may well find themselves hundreds of miles from family and friends.
Please visit www.veterans-railcard.co.uk for further details and how to apply for a Veterans Railcard.
The new Veterans Railcard, which is for anyone who has served at least one day in the UK Armed Forces or Merchant Marines who have seen duty on legally defined military operations, will save veterans 1/3 off most rail fares to help reconnect them to loved ones and connect them to new training and work opportunities.
This new Railcard will help an extra 830,000 people benefit from discounted rail travel. It is just one of a number of measures being implemented by the government as part of its commitment to make the UK the best place to be a veteran anywhere in the world. The Railcard’s design even pays tribute to those who have made sacrifices to protect and serve our country, by utilising the colours featured on the Veterans flag which represent the three-armed forces: army, navy and air force.
The new Veterans Railcard will be available for a special introductory price of just £21 for a 1-year Railcard or £61 for a 3-year Railcard, until 31st March 2021. It will offer the Railcard holder and their companion 1/3 off most rail fares and 60% off for up to four children aged 5-15 years.
Customers will be able to choose from a physical card that they can carry in their wallet or as a digital version they can keep on their phone.
The Veterans Railcard will be available for use on journeys from 5 November. Anyone who travels by train will be able to do so with confidence due to the extra steps the rail industry has taken to make journeys safer. From cleaning trains and stations more frequently and running more services to help with social distancing to improving information with people and technology helping every step of the way.
For more information visit www.veterans-railcard.co.uk
15 Oct 20. COVID-19: update on changes to Veterans UK Services. Due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions, there are changes to Veterans UK services. You can find the latest information here.
Please be reassured that all Armed Forces Pensions, War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme regular payments will continue to be made as usual into your nominated account. We are also maintaining urgent welfare support for Service leavers, veterans and their families via the Veterans Welfare Service (VWS), Defence Transition Services (DTS) and Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans (IPC4V).
The latest position on changes to our services are as follows:
Veterans UK Helpline: 0808 1914 218
Our Helpline service is now able to offer a limited telephone call facility between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday. However, due to a reduced office capacity and the number of agents being able to attend the office, we would ask people to only contact an agent if your enquiry relates to:
- reporting a bereavement
- Veterans Welfare Service (VWS), Defence Transition Services (DTS) and Integrated Personal Commissioning for Veterans (IPC4V) assistance
- updating bank account details or address for War Pension Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments.
If your call is not for one of these reasons, please continue to use our email service via Veterans-UK@mod.gov.uk.
If you require to speak to someone because you are in need of urgent emotional support then please call the Samaritans directly on 116123, alternatively you can call 0808 1914 218 and listen to the options to be transferred where a Samaritan adviser may be able to assist you.
We have now re-commenced office-based processing and staff are working hard to identify and prioritise the most urgent cases. We are doing all we can to move cases forward as quickly as we can.
Re-joining the Armed Forces
Veterans seeking information about re-joining the Armed Forces during this period can find details on the Royal Navy Rejoiner page, Regular Army Rejoiner page and the RAF Rejoiner Page.
Veterans Welfare Service Support, Defence Transition Services and Integrated Personal Commissioning For Veterans
To protect our staff and the veterans, Service leavers and families we support we have decided to suspend, except in the most exceptional circumstances, all face-to-face meetings with clients. However, urgent advice, information and support is still available via our helpline service (see above) and, for less urgent enquiries, via email to Veterans-UK@mod.gov.uk. Please quote your name, national insurance or reference number and contact details and we will be in touch as quickly as we can. See also “Guidance for Service Personnel with imminent discharge dates” below.
War Pension Scheme and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS)
Please be reassured that all War Pension, War Widows Pension and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments will continue to be made as usual into your nominated account.
In March, we had to pause casework, including new claims and appeals against previous claim decisions, because such work cannot be delivered remotely. We have now re-commenced office-based processing and staff are working hard to identify and prioritise the most urgent cases and we are focused on recovery of our service delivery that was unfortunately impacted by COVID-19. We wish to reassure those affected that we are doing all we can to move cases forward as soon as possible We continue to ensure that no-one will fall out of payment during this time. If you experience a problem with your payments or have an urgent question, please call our helpline service or email Veterans-UK@mod.gov.uk and we will reply as quickly as possible.
War Pension Scheme: Mesothelioma
To protect our staff and veterans, we have decided to suspend, except in the most exceptional circumstances, all face-to-face meetings with clients. However, advice, information and support is still available via our helpline service and email.
Every effort will be made to ensure that procedures are followed to ensure that timely informed choice discussions about lump sum payments are held with those who have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, where an intention to claim is made.
Medical Examinations: War Pensions and AFCS
With effect from 17 March, all planned medical examinations in relation to compensation scheme claims were cancelled. We are currently unable to re-commence examinations, but a pilot scheme has been launched which changes the way we gather medical evidence for War Pensions Scheme claims and reviews.
We won’t be issuing requests for medical board examinations or Hospital Case notes, instead we will be issuing a Primary Care Factual report and a supplementary Self-Assessment Form directly to the claimant. A letter will explain everything and provide instructions to follow so the claimant can complete the relevant forms before returning them to us.
Appeal Tribunal Hearings
With effect from 26 May 2020 the tribunals across the UK began to conduct some appeal hearings remotely. This involved all parties joining using the telephone or a video connection. For the most up to date information regarding your appeal hearing and how it may take place now and, in the future, please visit the relevant tribunal services website from the links below.
HMCTS weekly operational summary on courts and tribunals during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Scottish Courts and Tribunals Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Department of Justice Coronavirus (COVID-19) Continuity Arrangements.
Armed Forces Pensions
Please be reassured that all Armed Forces Pensions payments will continue to be made as usual into your nominated account.
Pension enquiries can still be answered by calling the JPA Enquiry Centre on 0800 085 3600 during the hours of 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday.
Where children’s pensions are due for review, we will contact the payee to determine whether the child is continuing in full time education to assess future entitlement.
All other work is being maintained, although our timescales may be longer than usual.
Guidance for service personnel with imminent discharge dates:
We appreciate that the COVID-19 measures put in place by the government are of a particular concern for those with imminent discharge dates and those in their resettlement and transition phase. The Ministry of Defence and the single Services are working hard on temporary emergency policies to address the myriad of issues which the current situation has imposed on us all at this unprecedented time. Once these are published you will be informed through a variety of means (initially your chain of command).
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), who manage the defence estate, are working on temporary policies concerning move out of Service Family Accommodation (SFA).
The MOD and the Career Transition Partnership have published advice on resettlement activities. Please read the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) response to COVID-19(PDF,86.6KB, 2 pages) for MOD guidance and link to an FAQ on resettlement.
Service personnel should get in touch initially with their chain of command through their unit, as that is how the information will be disseminated initially and it will require chain of command involvement for any measures which may affect retention or discharge.
Ongoing support remains in place through the Career Transition Partnership for employment support /resettlement related activities. Please read the Career Transition Partnership FAQsand for those who are receiving wider transition support through Defence Transition Services(DTS).
Please see the Veterans UK Helpline information above to request welfare support.
The MOD Medal Office is in the process of resuming operations. Regrettably, there are delays in responding and processing applications against normal timescales due to a combination of the COVID-19 lockdown and a number of significant anniversaries falling in 2020 which is increasing demand. If you are wanting to apply to obtain a medal entitlement or a physical medal(s) for either yourself, or a relative please follow the guidance on the medals GOV.UK page. We will then deal with your application as soon as possible. We acknowledge that this may be frustrating. Please be assured that our officials are endeavouring to action all enquiries and applications as soon as feasible. Your patience and understanding during this challenging time are appreciated.
General information on medals can still be obtained by calling the JPA Enquiry Centre on 0800 085 3600 during the hours of 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, or via DBS-Medals@mod.gov.uk. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
ExFor+ CIC is a relatively new organisation but has been established with the objective of becoming a National overarching organisation within the Veterans Support Sector. Our aim is to bring about, positive Social and Economic change for the country as well as a significant
transformation of how Service leavers, Veterans, their families and communities are supported. We will do this through effective collaboration, communication and management of a number of services and departments, ranging from engaging with Government, The Third sector and also the supporters of, those who’ve served and often sacrificed so much for their country. We are currently supporting a number of service leavers and veterans with a range of issues ranging from housing, unemployment, benefits, personal development, education, and are constantly looking for employers who see the positives in recruiting and supporting individuals in to work to create longterm and sustainable futures.