Support for Armed Forces Veterans in Wales - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  The involvement of British personnel in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere over the last decade has reminded us, once again, of the courage and commitment of our Armed Forces. Partly as a result of these conflicts, the UK currently has more veterans than at any time since the Second World War. More Armed Forces personnel are also surviving injuries which would have been fatal in previous conflicts because of advances in medical treatment.

2.  Wales has a long and proud relationship with the Armed Forces. Welsh military personnel have made an enormous contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom and in conflicts around the world, and continue to do so today. Precise figures are hard to establish but it has been estimated that there are about 250,000 veterans in Wales. The Welsh Government, however, believes that this figure represents all members of the "Armed Forces community in Wales", which includes serving personnel, reservists and cadets, as well as their families and veterans.[1]

UK policy framework

3.  Overall policy responsibility for veterans' issues in Wales is divided between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. At the UK level, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has responsibility for issues such as resettlement provision, pensions and compensation. The Welsh Government is responsible for devolved matters such as housing and healthcare. Additionally, local authorities and NHS bodies provide specific services for Armed Forces veterans.

4.  Successive governments have placed an emphasis on veterans' issues over the past decade. Between 2000 and 2010 the UK Government introduced several measures to attempt to recognise the special status of the ex-service community. These included:

  • the creation of the post of Minister for Veterans in 2001;
  • the launch of the 'Veterans Initiative';[2]
  • the publication of the Strategy for Veterans in 2003;
  • the establishment of a Veterans Badge in 2004;
  • the introduction of annual Veterans Day (now called Armed Forces Day) in 2006; and
  • the publication of the Command Paper, The Nation's Commitment: Cross Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans, in 2008.

In the last General Election in 2010, the three main parties all included policies aimed at veterans in their manifestos.

5.  In 2011, the Coalition Government published the Armed Forces Covenant, which sets out the relationship between the nation, the state and the Armed Forces. The Covenant—which applies to veterans as well as serving personnel—declared that the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families. It stated that Armed Forces personnel should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services—for example, in housing, healthcare and education—and that special consideration was appropriate in some cases, especially for those, such as the seriously injured, who have given most. The MoD publishes an annual Armed Forces Covenant Report—the first was published in December 2012—which makes various commitments to support the Armed Forces Community in line with the principle of the Covenant.

6.   Many areas of the Covenant fall to the devolved administrations to deliver. The devolved governments in Wales and Scotland have published their own documents to support the Armed Forces Covenant and make their own commitments to members of the Armed Forces Community. The Welsh Government published its Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community in Wales in November 2011.

Our inquiry

7.  Given the high number of Armed Forces veterans in Wales, and the increasing public profile of veterans' issues, we launched an inquiry to examine the adequacy of support services for veterans in Wales. We particularly focused on:

  • The provision of support services to Armed Forces veterans and their families in Wales by the Ministry of Defence, including resettlement provision;
  • The provision of medical and mental health services for veterans in Wales;
  • The co-ordination of service delivery between the various levels of government; and
  • The role of the charitable sector in providing support to veterans.

8.  As part of our inquiry, we visited Blind Veterans UK Llandudno Centre (previously St Dunstan's), MoD St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, and Veterans First Point in Edinburgh. These visits were invaluable to help us identify areas of concern for serving personnel and veterans.

9.  In the current Parliament, we have been committed to holding regular evidence sessions in Wales. As part of this inquiry, we took evidence at the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff, and at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. We also took evidence in Edinburgh from the Scottish Government's Minister for Housing and Transport, who is responsible for the Scottish Government veterans' policy. A full list of those from whom we took evidence can be found on pages 37-38. We are grateful to everyone who provided oral and written evidence to our inquiry.

10.  The Committee was assisted in this inquiry by its Specialist Adviser, Brigadier Robert Aitken.[3]

1   Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community in Wales, Welsh Government, November 2011 Back

2   This has evolved into the Veterans Programme, which provides an essential channel of communication between veterans, Central Government departments and Devolved Administrations. Back

3   See Formal Minutes of 11 October 2011 at Back

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Prepared 12 February 2013