MILITARY heroes are to be given greater protection and support after a new law was passed today, veterans minister Johnny Mercer has said.

Retired Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel will for the first time be able to identify themselves as veterans in the next Census, following new legislation passed today.

It’s hoped the move will allow central and local government to better understand the ex-forces population locally.

A Whitehall spokesman added: ‘Data from the Census will be an important part of ensuring that mental health support for former service personnel is as effective as possible.’

Veterans charities and military groups have welcomed the inclusion of the question, which building on the government’s first veterans strategy, launched in 2018.

Former army officer Mr Mercer, who is now minister for defence people and veterans, said: ‘Allowing veterans to identify themselves in the next Census is a key step in ensuring that all of government provides the best support possible.

‘Better information means better support and today is a positive step forward in providing that.’

The news has been welcomed by military charity, The Royal British Legion.

Charles Byrne, the organisation’s director general, said: ‘This is an extremely proud moment for the Legion. After leading a successful campaign, the fact that a military question will be in the 2021 Census will significantly improve our understanding of the armed forces community which up until now has been very limited.’

It’s estimated that about 2.2m veterans live in the UK.

Hampshire has one of the largest veteran populations in Britain. with an estimated 60,000 ex-military personnel living in the county.

For the past two years, The News, alongside local veterans organisations and politicians, has been campaigning for the government to offer more support to retired forces heroes.

Chloe Smith, minister for constitution and devolution, said the Census question would be critical in getting veterans to speak out – and getting the support they deserve.

Article by: Tom Cotterill

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