PLANS to gives extra help to members of the armed forces has been welcomed across Wearside.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox unveiled a new military covenant pledging more support for servicemen and women.
The package of measures includes ensuring veterans are given access to decent accommodation, doubling the rate of council tax relief for those serving overseas, making it easier for injured service personnel and veterans to access cut-price public transport and encouraging shops to take part in discount schemes.
Veterans’ campaigner Gary Cameron set up Sunderland-based Military Mental Health last year in a bid to provide support to veterans struggling to adapt to civilian life.
Since then, he has campaigned for a shake-up of the law and he hopes the move marks the start of a change in attitude towards military men and women who have put their lives on the line for their country.
He said: “I’m particularly pleased that the unique nature of service-related issues will now be acknowledged and that no disadvantages will arise.
“This is an impressive package of support, but even more impressive is that the armed forces covenant is written into law.
“Our armed forces will now be looked after on their return to military life and I hope this will mark the beginning of a reassessment of how our Government treats our armed forces and their families.
“In the past all we have had is moral pressure. Now we will have legal pressure as well.”
Under the proposals, benefits in some areas, including housing, health and education, will not be written into law because of fears that the Ministry of Defence could be left “permanently embroiled” in court action.
But they will be published and debated annually by parliament.
Janice Murray (pictured above), whose son Private Michael Tench, 18, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, said the move was a step in the right direction but more needs to be done.
“This should have been done a long time ago,” Janice, of Carley Hill, said. “It is something but there is a lot more to do.”