I was surprised to learn recently that there are no definite figures on how many armed forces veterans live in Stockport. The national census, which happens every ten years, does not collect information on the Armed Forces community – information which could help us improve support for our armed forces, both serving and retired.
I met some of these men and women when I visited the Stockport Veterans Breakfast Club earlier this year. They have served our country in conflicts including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Club, which takes place on the first Saturday each month at the Eddy Bears Picnic café in Brinnington, is friendly and buzzing, with great food and conversation. Organised by veterans for veterans, it’s a place for all ex-forces to meet and chat. The camaraderie is great and members told me how much they and their families look forward to the Breakfast Club each month.
I support the British Legion’s “Count them in” campaign, which calls for the next census in 2021 to include questions about the armed forces on the questionnaire. This would be a simple way to get additional information about the veterans living in our communities and allow public services to meet their needs better with things like housing, health and social care, education and employment.
As a nation, we have promised through the Armed Forces Covenant to ensure that people who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly. Stockport Council is signed up to the Covenant, and I’m delighted that Councillor Chris Murphy is on board as the Armed Forces Covenant Champion for Stockport.
If the 2021 census could be used to tell us more about where our armed services veterans are living and what their needs might be, we would be in a better position to properly implement the Armed Services Covenant.