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Veterans minister Johnny Mercer has been warned that he needs to “get on with it” or it will take 125 years to get all current military veterans the ID card they need to have priority access to services at the current rate of the rollout since 2018. The minister said in an interview earlier this month that he wants each veteran to have a card by next summer but so far, according to a written ministerial answer, only three percent of them have received it.
Mr Mercer 41, has just begun his third stint as veterans minister based in the Cabinet Office instead of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) having been sacked by Boris Johnson in April 2021 and then Liz Truss in September 2022.
Rishi Sunak’s decision to make his position senior enough to attend Cabinet when he was reappointed on October 25 was meant to be a signal that veteran welfare is a priority of the Government.
However, the figures on the ID card have revealed that the flagship scheme is lagging far behind where it should be.
Launched in 2018, so far 56,194 have been given out at a monthly rate of 1195.6 over the 47 months it has been operating.
This means that at the current rate it would take 1,503 months or 125 years to get all veterans their cards.
Shadow Veterans Minister, Rachel Hopkins MP, said: “These figures are further evidence that while the Veterans’ Minister likes to talk, he has actually changed very little for our veterans.
“The veterans’ ID card is supposed to help our society keep its promise with those who serve by ensuring quick access to services like healthcare.
“But the Conservatives have delivered just a fraction of the cards needed.
“Our veterans don’t need empty promises, they need action. For their sake, I hope the Minister can keep his promise but based on his party’s record of delivery, I don’t like his chances.
“The minister needs to get on with it!”
In a recent interview, Mr Mercer admitted that the scheme is lagging behind and has set a target of next summer for all veterans to have the ID card.
He said that there had been “technical challenges” but large military charities had warned that the biggest challenge was “identifying someone as a veteran” when it comes to getting priority services on health or housing which makes the need to speed up the rollout urgent.
The minister said: “I am determined to deliver on that even if it breaks me because we have to get that over the line. I will get it done within the next 12 months. I want to get it out the door by the middle of next year. I will relentlessly pursue that.”
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According to the MoD, the ID cards will ensure the process of validating service is as straightforward as possible, so that ex-forces personnel can access support for issues related to their service quickly, where needed.
The cards will complement the NHS’ commitment to providing specialist health support for veterans in every part of the health service, enabling ex-service personnel in England, Scotland and Wales to access treatment where they have been affected by their service.
Last year, NHS England announced that dedicated mental healthcare services are up and running in every part of the country, backed by £10million of investment, with increasing numbers of GPs and hospitals becoming “Veteran Aware”, in order to fully address the needs of those who have served.
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