It was great that St Helens played its part in joining thousands of people up and down the country to mark Armed Forces Day.
I joined the public at local events in St Helens and Newton-le-Willows and was delighted to be with regular and reserve forces, sea cadets from TS Scimitar and TS Warspite and veterans and their families.
But servicemen and women need support every day, not just on Armed Forces Day. They need to be sure that help there is on hand when they need medical treatment or special care.
We have the Military Covenant – introduced under a Labour government in 2000 and enshrined in law five years ago лв that means we have an obligation to the armed forces and their families to make sure they are properly looked after.
It exists to deal with the disadvantages that they can often face which do not affect ordinary members of the public хЪлв like having to move home frequently because of military postings.
The Covenant also allows for special consideration to be given in some cases, especially to the injured and bereaved.
But, for it to work properly we need to know more about more about how many veterans, reservists and dependants there are and where they live.
At the moment, we don’t have that information and it makes it hard to target help for them properly.
Under the current set of questions asked in the national census, we know more about who claims to be a Jedi as their religion than how many former soldiers there are.
That’s why I’m supporting an important campaign by the Royal British Legion calledхЪCount Them In.
The campaign aims to help charities and local authorities get that basic information by adding some extra questions to the next census.
Building up a clear picture about the number and whereabouts of current and former military personnel will help better direct care and improve support for them.
Although the next census won’t be carried out until 2021, possible changes are being discussed now.
So, I’m supporting the call for the Government to include extra questions in the next census that will help veterans and current service personnel who make up an estimated tenth of the population.
As the Royal British Legion says, making these changes would also show the armed forces and their families that we count on them – and we want to count them in.
You can find out more about the campaign here:хЪhttp://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/count-them-in/