Armed forces deserve homes fit for heroes

Parliamentary Secretary Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP.
Parliamentary Secretary Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP.
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I have been contacted in recent weeks, in my role as Chairman of the all-party Parliamentary group for the Armed Forces Covenant, by a huge number of service families, both locally and across the country, who are struggling with their accommodation, both in seeking repairs and in the new rental banding scheme that has been introduced.

It is of key importance to me that our armed forces and their families should have good living quarters, and a clear and fair way in which they can raise concerns about this important issue.

They should not have to fight for their homes to be of a decent standard.

We owe them that much under our commitment to the military covenant.

The company charged by the Ministry of Defence with administering service accommodation and maintenance, Carillion Amey, has received a lot of criticism, and the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Select Committee, on which I sit, will be investigating this contract in the coming months as it is clearly failing.

Armed forces personnel can contact me about this issue, in complete confidence, via my website.

 It was an honour to go along to the Rotary Club’s award ceremony held in the House of Lords last week to witness local Rotarian Joy Palmer Cooper, of Chatton, receive its coveted Champions of Change accolade.

Joy, pictured, was one of only 11 Rotarians from across the UK selected for their humanitarian work, either at home or abroad, to be presented with an award by the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson.

 Last week was also Autism Awareness Week, a topic very close to my heart, and I am delighted to be able to support the fantastic work of the National Autistic Society in its local and national campaigns.

Our all-party Parliamentary group on autism had a big turnout to discuss the problems of diagnosis times for children and adults on the spectrum, a problem which I struggled with when my son was little and we were seeking help over ten years ago.

Progress on this is slow, but I was pleased to hear from the minister and his civil servants on the steps forward they are taking.

It was interesting to hear the minister admit that one of his biggest frustrations in government was the variability of provision and quality across the country.

This is something I know we can do better on, and I look forward to doing what I can to assist the Government in working towards a better service and more professional support for families.

 Finally, as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, my colleagues from all parties and I get to meet some incredible people working hard to keep us all safe.

Some of them have challenged us to take part in the Royal Marines’ 10K Commando Challenge.

My colleague and friend Ruth Smeeth, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove, and I will be submitting ourselves to being trained by a marine to get us up to scratch for the big event in October.

We first met some of our bravest personnel, the Royal Marines, this February, which is why we have decided that a really tough challenge was needed.

Those men and women are extraordinary in every way, from their cheerfulness in adversity to their resilience and bravery.

This is our salute to them.