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


2  Resettlement Provision

Ministry of Defence Resettlement provision

11.  Every year, service personnel leave the Armed Forces as a result of a change of career, ill-health or injury. The average length of service is nine years. Only 2% of service personnel serve a full career to retirement at the age of 55.[4]

12.  The MoD provides a range of support for service leavers depending on the length of military service, not the rank of the service leaver:

  • Personnel with six years or more service, and all those medically discharged, are entitled to the comprehensive Full Resettlement Programme. This includes the use of a career consultation, a job finding service, access to a range of vocational training courses and workshops. Resettlement support is provided two years before and up to two years after leaving;
  • Personnel with between four and six years service are entitled to an employment support programme, which provides a tailored job finding service. Resettlement support is provided two years before and up to two years after leaving;
  • Those who serve less than four years (early service leavers) are entitled to a briefing and advice about available welfare and charitable support.[5]

13.  The Royal British Legion told us that the MoD's resettlement programme was, on the whole, "of a good standard" and that the quality and breadth of provision had increased in recent years.[6] Some witnesses, however, raised concern that many service leavers did not take advantage of the services available. The charity R3 Cymru believed that a "significant" number of service personnel did not take up the MoD's available support, and that this could create difficulties once they had left the Armed Forces.[7] This view was confirmed during our visit to MoD St Athan, where both serving personnel and veterans told us they were unaware of some aspects of the resettlement programme. Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans told us that he believed that the resettlement provision was well publicised but "at the end of the day it is up to people whether they choose to use it".[8] We also received evidence that the level of support given to "early service leavers" was sometimes inadequate.[9]

14.  Three specific areas of the MoD's resettlement programme were of particular concern for witnesses: personal financial education, trauma risk management, and support provided to reservists. We cover each of these below.

PERSONAL FINANCIAL EDUCATION

15.  Charities expressed concern that the institutional life of an Armed Forces career did not prepare service personnel to manage finances, budget for a household, or manage debt. Mrs Hazel Hunt from Welsh Warrior (The Richard Hunt Foundation)[10] commented that this was particularly true of single men in the army:

... they live in single men's barracks and they have their food and their rent all taken out from their wages [...] they want to party, because they have been working hard, and they want to buy the latest clothes, the latest CDs, the latest Xbox 360 game [...] But they are given no sound financial advice to tell them, 'When you go out into civilian life, you are going to have to pay for electricity, gas and rent, or you will have a mortgage'.[11]

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association Forces Help (SSAFA)[12] charity stated that that there was a need for continuous education and financial advice throughout a serviceman's career so that resettlement training "does not become too much of a rush and a big wall to climb at the end of their service".[13]

16.  When questioned on this issue, Rear Admiral Simon Williams, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel and Training) from the MoD, told us that "some degree" of financial advice was now available for service personnel throughout their careers:

The basic tenets of running your finances are now covered all the way through training—right the way from basic training—and about every year or so, in every unit, financial advice is given.[14]

TRAUMA RISK MANAGEMENT

17.  Many witnesses expressed concern that the resettlement programme did not assist service personnel with the "emotional aspects of combat and its consequences",[15] although the Veterans Minister believed that the MoD had "got better" at dealing with it. Service personnel returning from operations now receive an initial mental health check.[16] He highlighted the MoD's introduction in 2008 of a non-medical response to traumatic events[17] called "Trauma Risk Management"(TRiM). TRiM is delivered by trained counsellors (often warrant officers) already in the affected soldier's unit. Those who are identified as being at risk following an incident are invited to take part in an informal interview which establishes how they are coping. The MoD believed that this method helped to reduce the stigma of seeking help.[18]

18.  Some witnesses, however, expressed reservations about the effectiveness of TRiM. The British Medical Association expressed concern that, under TRIM, service personnel were effectively having mental health issues identified by "their mates".[19]

RESERVISTS

19.  Wales has around 2,500 volunteer reservists.[20] Some witnesses expressed concern that the MoD does not provide reservists with any formal resettlement training.[21] Colonel Philip Hubbard, Deputy Chief Executive of Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) for Wales, spoke about the increased role that reservists, and particularly the Territorial Army, have played in operations abroad in the last decade: over 25,000 reservists have been deployed on operations overseas in the last ten years, with 6,900 Territorial Army soldiers mobilised for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Colonel Hubbard expressed concern that reservists were expected to return from operations "and just carry on with their life".[22]

20.  Demands on reservists are expected to increase in future. In November 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence announced a consultation on the future of the UK's reserve forces.[23] It proposes to increase the number of trained reserves to 35,000 across all three services by 2020. The biggest increase will be in the Army, with 30,000 trained Reserves, creating a total land force of about 120,000. The plans are backed by an extra £1.8bn in funding over the next ten years for new equipment, uniforms and training for the Reserves.

21.  The MoD's resettlement programme has improved in recent years but requires further refinement. Some personnel may decide not to take up the MoD's support and this is a choice for them. 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.

22.  Armed Forces personnel require a good grounding in financial management for their transition to civilian life. We are pleased that the MoD is placing additional importance on providing such skills to serving personnel. This should continue.

23.  Although not specifically an element of the support offered to veterans, we note that the effectiveness of the MoD's Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) programme is disputed by some medical practitioners. We recommend that the MoD makes clear to medical practitioners the scope and purpose of TRiM in the overall treatment of veterans suffering from the effects of combat or other traumatic experiences.

24.  Early service leavers include personnel who are leaving because they have problems, and are therefore likely to need support in the transition to civilian life. Currently they receive the least support. The MoD should consider the provision of more appropriate support.

25.  We are concerned that the MoD currently does not provide formal resettlement support for personnel in the Reserve Forces. The number and role of reservists is set to increase in future years, as is the budget available for training. Given the increased dependence on reservists in coming years, the MoD must ensure that reservists are provided with adequate support to return to civilian life.


4   The Telegraph, 1 August 2012 Back

5   Ev 99 Back

6   Ev 112 Back

7   Ev w6 Back

8   Q 423 Back

9   Ev 112 Back

10   Foundation established in September 2009 in memory of Private Richard Hunt. Back

11   Q 324 Back

12   SSAFA is a UK charity providing financial, practical and emotional assistance to anyone that is currently serving or has ever served in the Army, Navy or RAF, and their families. Back

13   Q 166 Back

14   Q 425 Back

15   Q 8 Back

16   Q 434 Back

17   Traumatic events include sudden death, serious injury, near misses and overwhelming distress when dealing with disaster relief and body handling. Back

18   Q 434 Back

19   Q 67 Back

20   Ev 119 Back

21   The Reserve Forces consist of the Maritime Reserve, made up of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) and the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR), the Territorial Army (TA), and the Royal Air Force Reserves.The largest of the Reserve Forces is the Territorial Army, which currently has 15,000 members. Back

22   Q 287 Back

23   Future Reserves 2020: Delivering the Nation's Security Together, Ministry of Defence, 8 November 2012 Back


 
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Prepared 12 February 2013