Gazette & Herald Column: Great progress has been made helping veterans

It has been some of the busiest and most turbulent weeks I have ever known in politics, as we try to find a way forward on delivering the Brexit which people voted for in a way that is in the national interest.

However, I do not want our Party to be defined solely by our position on Europe. We must be a moderate, centre-ground Party that is committed to building a country that works for everyone - the agenda the Prime Minister first set out in her speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street over two years ago. And whilst Brexit continues to dominate the headlines, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to benefit the people we represent.

A very important group nationally and locally are the serving members of our Armed Forces, Military veterans and their families, many of who choose to make their homes locally when they leave the Army.  I know from my local Constituency Casework that for some former soldiers there are significant challenges in leaving the Army. Since 2011, there has been some great progress, including the Veterans Mental Health Complex Treatment Services which adds to the healthcare support available for Veterans, and the Combat Stress 24-hour mental health helpline. However, there is still much more to be done, and the publication of the first UK-wide Strategy for Our Veterans last month represents the first steps towards improving the coordination and provision of support to Veterans across the UK. There is currently a public consultation running on the Strategy, and I would encourage everyone with an interest to contribute.

I know that at this time of year, teachers are looking forward to the Christmas holidays just as much as their students. This is also the time of year when the Education Secretary announces the allocations to Local Authorities of the Dedicated Schools Grant. This year, in recognition of the cost pressures facing local authorities, the government has announced an extra £350m of new funding to support children with special educational needs, so that they can have the right support in place at school by providing specialised support and tailored facilities. I am delighted that Wiltshire has been allocated just over £1m for the 2019-20 year, a welcome boost for our schools’ special education provision.

Finally, my office will be closed over the Christmas period, but please do email in any urgent casework matters, and someone from my team will pick it up. May I also take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.