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23 Sep 21. Veterans’ Minister and OVA Director discuss ex-Forces employment support at The Poppy Factory. The 2 leaders heard how specialist employment support can be truly life-changing, significantly improving veterans’ confidence, financial security and health and wellbeing. The Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Leo Docherty MP, and the Director of the Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA), Jessie Owen, paid a visit to The Poppy Factory to discuss employment support for veterans with health conditions. They talked about the benefits of close partnership working across government and the military charity sector and the potential to streamline processes so that no veteran is left behind. Mr Docherty and Ms Owen also took the time to watch a short film about Afghanistan veteran Gary, who felt lost in the civilian world until he received employment support from The Poppy Factory, and is now using his experience to open a martial arts gym on the south coast. And they met members of the production team, who are supported to work year-round making Remembrance wreaths at the charity’s factory in Richmond-upon-Thames.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Leo Docherty MP, said, “It was terrific to meet the team at The Poppy Factory and hear about the vital employment support this charity offers to veterans. We will continue to work together to ensure all veterans have the support they need.”
Deirdre Mills, Chief Executive of The Poppy Factory, said, “We were delighted to welcome the Minister and the Director to The Poppy Factory, and to have the opportunity to talk about employment support. By working closely with government and our partner organisations, we can reach many more veterans who need the right support to move forward.”
23 Sep 21. Unknown soldiers of the Great War are laid to rest. Unknown British soldiers from the Great War have finally been laid to rest in France. Burial Services for 13 unknown soldiers who lost their lives during World War One have been held in France. The services all took place in the Somme and Pas de Calais regions of France between 21 and 23 September 2021.These were the first burial services organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The JCCC Commemorations Team, also known as the “War Detectives” due to the fascinating work they undertake in an attempt to identify the remains of British soldiers, adhered with local restrictions and UK government guidance.
Despite extensive research carried out by the JCCC, none of the 13 men could be identified. They were buried as unknown soldiers of unknown regiments except for two who were known to have belonged to the Devonshire and the Suffolk regiments respectively. The services were attended by representatives of the Rifles and the Royal Anglians, to which those regiments were antecedent.
Rosie Barron, JCCC, said; “It has been an honour to work with the CWGC, the Rifles and the Royal Anglians to put together this programme of services. It has been a challenging time for the JCCC with ceremonies put on hold due to the pandemic. We are very pleased to now be in a position to travel back over to Europe and ensure that these men are given the burial services they deserve”.
The ceremonies took place at various Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) cemeteries and were conducted by the Reverend Simon Talbot, CF, Chaplain to 6th Battalion, The Rifles. He said; “It is both humbling and a privilege to take the services of our fallen comrades remembering that whilst we may not know their names they are known to God. It is particularly poignant to know that one of the soldiers was a member of the Devonshire Regiment, an antecedent regiment to the Rifles with whom I serve. Riflemen still wear the Croix de Guerre, an honour awarded to the Devons following a gallant stand in 1918. As we remember each of these soldiers before God we give thanks for their lives, their service and remember their sacrifice with gratitude”.
The remains of the Devonshire soldier were found in 2018 during the construction of wind turbines near Ginchy on the Somme. The soldier is believed to have been killed in early September 1916 when 1st, 8th and 9th battalions took part in the fighting around the village. However, there are still too many casualties of the regiment missing from during that period to allow for identification.
The remains of the Suffolk Regiment soldier were found at Wancourt, near Arras, in 2019. He is believed to have been a member of the 2nd battalion, who were killed on 28 September 1918 during the Spring Offensive. 55 soldiers from the battalion are still missing from that day alone, meaning that it has not been possible to make an identification.
The graves and headstones of all 13 soldiers were prepared by the CWGC who will now care for them in perpetuity.
Liz Woodfield, Director of External Relations at CWGC, said:
“These 13 soldiers of the First World War, whose remains we recovered in France, now lie at rest alongside the comrades they fought and died with. While their identities may remain unknown they have been reburied with dignity and honour by the JCCC and we are thankful to see these poignant ceremonies return.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
22 Sep 21. Veteran suicide figures to be recorded for the first time. A new method for recording veteran suicides in England and Wales has been announced today by the government. A new method of recording veteran suicides in England and Wales has been announced, alongside a 10 year look back to examine veteran deaths through suicide. For the first time, numbers of ex-service personnel who take their lives will be recorded officially by the government, following an agreement between the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), the MOD and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This data will be used to further understand where there is a need for dedicated services in England and Wales. The data will allow the government to ensure that these targeted services are signposted to veterans, where they are needed most. The new reporting method will use data collected from the recent veterans question in the 2021 Census and match it with ONS-held data on suicides. This will allow the government to produce a statistic, known as a national measure, of the total number of veterans who die by suicide each year. This is the first time such a figure will be produced. It is expected that the first annual statistics will be published in 2023. To better understand the lives lost prior to 2022, the government is also conducting a 10 year look back to examine veteran deaths through suicide. This research will be published in 2022.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said, “Any suicide is a tragedy and collecting better data on these instances will help government better target support for those who need it. This builds on a number of studies which are already taking place to better understand why some veterans take their lives. Support is out there and hope that today’s agreement will help us reach more people who may be struggling.”
Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, said, “The Office for National Statistics is constantly working to provide new insight that can be used to make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable in society. Understanding an issue is the first step to solving it and producing this new measure will help inform decisions to tackle deaths by suicide of our incredible armed forces veterans. It is important that we invest the time and effort to produce high quality estimates that properly shine a light on this critical issue.”
Hannah Blythyn, Wales’ Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, including veterans’ support, said, “One life lost is always one too many. Their service for our country has enabled us to live in the safe communities we have today. Preventing suicide is complex and no one organisation can tackle the issues in isolation. Strengthening the data is a key element of helping us to understand the risk factors and to better target preventative approaches. We continue to prioritise the mental health of our veterans and have recently invested an additional £235,000 annually into Veterans NHS Wales. This ensures that specialist, priority support is available for individuals who have served in the Armed Forces and are experiencing mental health difficulties related specifically to their military service.”
Current data on veteran suicide is drawn from bespoke research projects examining specific veteran cohorts. The new data from the census will offer a new opportunity to identify veterans and match this information to other datasets to better understand veterans’ experiences. Approaches for replicating this in Scotland and Northern Ireland are being investigated. It is a robust solution that will allow for high quality and consistent data to feed into future policy making.
The statistics will be kept up to date through a new agreement between the OVA, MOD and ONS on data sharing for those leaving the military each year.
The new work will continue alongside existing research into the mental health and frequency of suicide within the veteran community. In addition to this new reporting method, the OVA is funding the next stage of a study by Kings Centre for Military Health Research looking at all aspects of the lives of veterans, including mental health.
Through the statistics and data from the 2021 Census, the government will be able to ensure that support services will be targeted to regions of higher levels of suicide in veteran populations.
The government is also providing £2m from 2019/20 to 2020/21 to the Zero Suicide Alliance, which aims to achieve zero suicides across the NHS and in local communities by improved awareness and prevention training and developing a better culture of learning from deaths by suicide across the NHS.
The MOD continues to monitor deaths in those who served in the 1982 Falklands campaign and the 1990/1991 Gulf conflict to understand the long term impact of military service. They are also finalising a study to track the cause of deaths, including suicides, in all personnel who have served in the UK armed forces since 2001.
This work forms part of the government’s commitment to improve the collection and analysis of data on veterans to inform future policy, as set out in the Strategy for our Veterans. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. In 2020, our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 79,000 people in need, the currently serving (both regulars and reserves), veterans from the Second World War and those who have served in more recent conflicts, as well as their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. And we are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.