More support for veterans is desperately needed

The War Memorial outside the Town Hall
The War Memorial outside the Town Hall

This Sunday, I’ll be attending the Remembrance Sunday service at Peterborough Town Hall to commemorate those who lost their lives and fought for our freedom in WW1 and WW2 (writes columnist Fiona Onasanya, MP for Peterborough).

2018 is the First World War Centenary year – 100 years since the end of the conflict. It’s important that we take this Remembrance Sunday as an opportunity to honour those who fought for peace and justice.

I feel that this year, remembering the evils of the past and the fight for a peaceful world is particularly poignant.

The rise of the far-right across the Western world is a dangerous threat to the freedom and liberty that our heroes fought and died for.

As a country and a world, we have come so far, and it would be a disservice to all those who lost their lives fighting fascism if we 
regress back towards the politics of hate, division and hostility.

This has been echoed by WW2 veteran and activist Harry Leslie Smith, an inspirational character who has visited many refugee camps and met those still suffering from the scourge of war.

This compassion and tolerance is what Harry and British soldiers fought for, and we should be honouring these values as well as those who lost their lives.

Another issue to reflect on at this time is the state of our armed forces today. While the government like to portray themselves as the party of defence – this is detached from reality. Our Armed Forces are facing a further £1.2bn budget cut over the next four years – having already been subject to a huge reduction in funding over the last eight years. One former Army Chief, General Lord Richard Dannatt, has gone as far as saying that the army is ‘half as capable’ because of punitive austerity measures.

Not only are we not taking care of those who would put their lives on the line for us all in a heartbeat, but we’re also neglecting those who have already done so.

It is a national travesty that veteran Gus Hales has gone on hunger strike over the disgraceful lack of mental health provision for soldiers coming back from conflict. Many veterans struggling with PTSD are subject to invasive, unnecessary face-to-face medical assessments to access benefits.

Is this really how we treat those who keep us safe at home and abroad?

Figures suggest that around 13,000 war heroes are left homeless after leaving active duty.

The reality is that these servicemen and women deserve much more support than they are currently getting.

Housing schemes and mental health provision must be improved if we are to tackle this crisis.

As we all don our poppies over the weekend and attend services to honour and commemorate the contribution the Armed Forces have made – we must step back and reflect that there is much more we can do to truly honour our troops in 2018 – I’m sure that we can all agree that they deserve much better.