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

5  Improving co-ordination, communication and clarity

76.  Responsibility for support for Armed Forces veterans is fragmented, with the MoD, Welsh Government, local authorities, NHS authorities and charities each playing a role. Our inquiry identified several areas where improved co-ordination, communication or clarity was necessary. We cover each of these in turn below.

Ministry of Defence: structure and communication

77.  The Welsh Government Minister raised concerns that the MoD sometimes did not provide adequate warning about decisions which would have an impact on the future provision and delivery of veterans' services in Wales. He cited the MoD's recent announcement on the restructuring of the Armed Forces as an example.[89] The Scottish Government Minister raised similar concerns.[90] The MoD Minister stated that he hoped to address these concerns in meetings with the Scottish and Welsh Ministers and to "build some kind of rapport" with them.[91]

78.   Some witnesses criticised the location of the ministerial responsibility for veterans within the MoD. SSAFA stated that it was contradictory for the MoD, with its aim of delivering military capability and the provider of services to its direct employees, to be responsible for those it had ceased to employ.[92] He argued that the role of Veterans Minister should sit in the Home Office or the Cabinet Office[93], and Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd MP agreed that this would give the position a "cross-cutting remit across all vital Departments".[94] Hazel Hunt believed the MoD had a "lack of empathy with the veterans".[95]

79.  In September 2012, during the course of our inquiry, the UK Government appointed Lord Ashcroft as Special Representative for Veterans Transition. He will report directly to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. The purpose of the role is to "champion the cause of servicemen and women making the transition to civilian life, liaising with Armed Forces charities, industry and across departmental boundaries to support access to employment and the package available for those transitioning into civilian life".[96]

80.  We are concerned that the MoD has sometimes failed to communicate to the Welsh Government important decisions that have a direct bearing on the ability of the Welsh Government to provide services to veterans. We trust that the appointment of a new Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans in the MoD gives the opportunity for new relationships to be forged and for communication to improve.

81.  We welcome the appointment of a Special Representative for Veterans Transition, and look forward to receiving information on his role and his objectives. Clarification will be required on the Special Representative's relationship with the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans.

Welsh Government co-ordination

82.  Witnesses commented that there were concerns about the responsibility for the provision of services for veterans between the MoD, NHS, Welsh Government, local authorities and the charitable sector.[97] The Royal College of Nursing said that the levels of responsibility could sometimes be "complex" which could contribute to "disputes about which agency should be responsible for providing services to veterans".[98] The British Medical Association stated that co-ordination, planning, monitoring and provision of veterans' services were often left to the charitable sector.[99]

83.  In 2010, the Welsh Government established the "Expert Group on the needs of the Armed Forces Community in Wales". The purpose of the Expert Group is to advise on how public services can best meet the Armed Forces community's needs. It is chaired by the Welsh Government Minister responsible for veterans, and includes representatives from the Armed Forces and the charitable sector, and has met four times since its establishment in May 2010.[100] The Welsh Government Minister praised the Group's impact in co-ordinating services for veterans at a strategic level:

They advise us of any gaps in the service, and we try to react very quickly on the information that we receive as a Government, as do the partners in local government, in terms of public service delivery.[101]

84.  The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the improved co-ordination at strategic level but wanted better co-ordination at the local level, particularly between the seven NHS local health boards and the 22 local authorities.[102]

85.  We welcome the Welsh Government's formation of an Expert Group to advise on how best to meet the needs of the Armed Forces Community. The Group may benefit from permanent local authority or NHS representation.

Community Covenants

86.  Community Covenants are a voluntary statement of mutual support between a local community and its local Armed Forces Community, and are an MoD initiative. They are intended to complement, at local level, the Armed Forces Covenant, which outlines the moral obligation between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces. The aim of the Community Covenant is to encourage local communities to support the Armed Forces Community in their area and promote understanding and awareness amongst the public of issues affecting the community.[103]

87.  Once a Community Covenant has been signed, local authorities can access an MoD funding pool via a grant scheme. Up to £30 million over four financial years has been set aside to help communities across the UK undertake projects that promote greater understanding between the military and civilian populations. The MoD's website states that £32,888 has been provided for the Little Rascals Crche in the Vale of Glamorgan to fund a new play area where service children and children from the local community can play together. No other examples of funding given to Welsh projects are listed.[104]

88.  The Welsh Local Government Association hoped that the development and adoption of Community Covenants would help to ensure that local authorities in Wales addressed veterans' issues within their policy-making.[105]As of the beginning of February 2013, ten local authorities in Wales had signed Community Covenants: Carmarthenshire; Ceredigion; Isle of Anglesey; Vale of Glamorgan; Powys County Council; Newport City Council; Pembrokeshire; Monmouthshire; Rhondda Cynon Taf; and Swansea. Councillor Brendan Toomey of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) admitted that the process had slowed down after an initial strong engagement, but that the WLGA would continue to press local authorities to adopt Community Covenants.[106] The MoD Minister told us that he would be writing to local authorities in England and Wales to encourage them to sign up to a Community Covenant.[107]

89.  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. We are aware that a number of local authorities have already launched or plan to launch Community Covenant Schemes. Some of these schemes may involve the setting up of the equivalent of a one-stop shop.

90.  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 Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association should actively educate local authorities about their obligations under the Covenant.

89   Q 382 Back

90   Q244 Back

91   Q 413 Back

92   Q 193 Back

93   Q 193 Back

94   Q 468 Back

95   Q 313 Back

96 Back

97   Ev 95; Ev 106 Back

98   Ev 95 Back

99   Ev 106 Back

100   Charities represented on the body include the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. Back

101   Q 359 Back

102   Q 71 Back

103 Back

104 Back

105   Ev 128 Back

106   Q 403 Back

107   Q 414 Back

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Prepared 12 February 2013