There are currently estimated to be more Armed Forces veterans in the UK than at any time since the Second World War. Wales has a long and proud relationship with the Armed Forces and Welsh military personnel have made an enormous contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom and in conflicts around the world. Precise figures are hard to establish but it has been estimated there could be as many as 250,000 Armed Forces veterans in Wales today. This Report examines whether the level of support provided to Armed Forces veterans in Walesboth immediately before they leave the service and once they return to civilian lifeis adequate.
Our key recommendation is that the Welsh Government take forward proposals to establish a network of 'one-stop shops' for veterans across Wales. A great deal of support is available for veterans in Wales, but often a lack of awareness means that support is not taken up. A one-stop shop for veterans would be a convenient way for veterans to access information and receive advice on a range of important issues, such as housing, finances and employment. A similar model has been established in Scotland and we were impressed by its operation.
We are aware that a number of local authorities in Wales have already launched or plan to launch Community Covenant Schemes. We urge the Welsh Government to encourage all those local authorities in Wales that have not yet done so, to review their provision for veterans and plan to sign up and support Community Covenants, in partnership with other relevant local organisations such as health boards and housing associations. Some of these Community Covenant Schemes may involve the setting up of the equivalent of a one-stop shop. To avoid duplication, we recommend that the Welsh Government take into account the support launched or planned by local authorities as part of their Community Covenants, should the Welsh Government decide to proceed with a network of one-stop shops across Wales for veterans.
The mobility requirements of a career in the Armed Forces can be a real disadvantage for personnel trying to access social housing, because of some local authorities' requirements for a 'local connection.' This is a serious concern and more priority should be given to those who have put their lives on the line for this country. We recommend that local authorities in Wales follow the guidance set out in UK legislation and the Welsh Government's Code of Practice to ensure that veterans are prioritised in the allocation of social housing.
A significant minority of military personnel develop mental health problems after they leave the Armed Forces. The establishment of the All Wales Veterans' Health and Wellbeing Service (AWVHWS) is a welcome improvement to mental health treatment in Wales. The Welsh Government should ensure that the AWVHWS continues to receive sufficient funding.
We welcome the resettlement provision given to members of the Armed Forces by the MoD, which has improved in recent years. But we are concerned that some personnel still do not take up elements of resettlement support due to a lack of awareness of the services available. The MoD should ensure that all personnel leaving the services are fully aware of all the resettlement support that they are entitled to. The MoD should consider the provision of more appropriate support to early service leavers, that is, those who have served less than four years. Given the increased dependence on reservists in coming years, the MoD must ensure that reservists are also provided with adequate support to return to civilian life.
Charities make a significant contribution to the support of veterans, but we are concerned that many charities in the Armed Forces sector are operating in very similar fields, without proper co-ordination. This can lead to duplication of effort, inefficient administrative costs, and can sometimes be confusing for veterans as to where to seek assistance. There should be better co-ordination of the work done by the many charities operating in this area. In the light of recent court cases which have illustrated the need for vigilance to prevent fraudsters taking advantage of the public's willingness to give to veterans' charities there should be much more stringent inspection of charities' finances. We recommend that the Cabinet Office look into this as a matter of urgency.
We are particularly concerned about charities providing treatments for complex psychological issues that do not meet NICE guidelines. The regulation of charities may be insufficiently robust in this area. The Charity Commission should insist that veterans' charities which offer medical, psychological or counselling services provide documentation from the relevant professional bodies to confirm that they have the appropriate endorsement for the services they offer. We recommend that the Cabinet Office look into this as a matter of urgency.