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

6  Role of Charities

91.  The charitable sector plays an important role in providing services to the Armed Forces and to veterans in Wales, ranging from funding for capital build projects and grants to individuals, to practical and emotional support. The Armed Forces charity sector is complex in structure, consisting of both registered and unregistered charities.[108] The Charity Commission[109] estimates that there are 2,000 registered charities associated with the Armed Forces in England and Wales and several thousand unregistered Armed Forces charities. We heard three main concerns in respect of charities: the sustainability of current funding; the high number of Armed Forces charities; and charities offering medical treatment.

Charitable donations

92.  The Charity Commission estimates that registered service charities had a combined gross income of approximately £700 million in 2010-2011. We heard that there had been an increase in the amount of charitable donations associated with the Armed Forces, possibly due to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the injuries sustained by Armed Forces personnel.[110] Bryn Parry, Help for Heroes, commented that there had been "an emotional" response from the British public to the injuries sustained by veterans in overseas campaigns.[111] However, COBSEO and Combat Stress told us that there were concerns that public sentiment and monetary support for the Armed Forces and veterans would decrease once the British Armed Forces withdrew from Afghanistan.[112]

Number of charities

93.  Some witnesses believed there were too many charities associated with the Armed Forces, many of which had a similar or almost identical focus.[113] We were told that several new charities associated with the Armed Forces were created each year, and that the Charity Commission was unable to prevent this happening.[114] The Charity Commission told us that provided a charity "meets the minimum requirements, we have nothing else to do but to register it".[115] The Commission was attempting to strike a balance between a "simple registration process for newly formed charities without imposing an "undue burden".[116] Recent court cases 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.

94.  Witnesses expressed concern that multiple charities operating in similar areas could lead to duplication of effort and also mean veterans were sometimes confused about where to turn to seek assistance.[117] Many wanted a more efficient charity sector, and advocated that charities should co-ordinate their services and merge where possible.[118] The Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO) exists to facilitate co-ordination between its members (including charities) and with the MoD and the Armed Forces. The Chairman of COBSEO agreed that historically there had been "duplication of effort—if not triplication" with the delivery of services, but argued there was now a recognition of the need for charities to work together.[119] Efforts were underway to establish "cluster groups"[120] of charities within COBSEO but he acknowledged this was a "slow process".[121]

95.  Both the Welsh Government Minister and Scottish Government Minister expressed concerns about the high number of Armed Forces charities in existence. The Welsh Government Minister wanted a review in the way charities operate in the UK.[122]

96.  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. The MoD, Charity Commission and The Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO) should work together to review the current focus of charities operating in this sector, and encourage opportunities for better co-ordination between charities where appropriate.

Charities offering medical treatment

97.  There are a number of smaller charities offering medical treatment, particularly to veterans suffering from suspected PTSD. The MoD Minister expressed concern that these charities, while well-meaning, might not be providing treatment that met clinical best practice.[123] Professor Bisson, Director of AVWHWS, said the treatments provided by some charities failed to meet NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines:

... there has been a lot of research done to show what treatments are effective and which ones are less effective […] there is a lot of publicity going on with different bodies saying they have the miracle cure perhaps and, sadly, often that is not true.[124]

98.  Combat Stress told us that it was the only veterans charity registered and regulated by the Care Qualities Commission which provided treatment in accordance with NICE guidelines and best practice. [125]

99.  We respect the right of people to set up charities but we cannot support their role in providing treatments for complex psychological issues which do not meet NICE guidelines. We are concerned that the regulation of charities may be insufficiently robust in this area. We recommend that 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 professional endorsement for the services they offer. We recommend that the Cabinet Office look into this as a matter of urgency.

108   Ev 124 Back

109   The Charity Commission is an independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales. Back

110   The Charity Commission told us that the aggregate income for a group of 28 established armed forces charities had increased by 29% over three years. Back

111   Q 162 Back

112   Q 153; Q 264 Back

113   Q 15; Q 16; Q 112 Back

114   Q 254 Back

115   Q 253 Back

116   Q 254 Back

117   Q 190; Q 258 Back

118   Q 42; Q 473 Back

119   Q 264 Back

120   Cluster groups bring together charities working in the same area, such as welfare delivery, criminal justice support, and residential care homes. Back

121   Q 265 Back

122   Q 404 Back

123   Q 441 Back

124   Q 110 Back

125   The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates all health and adult social care services in England, including those provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies or voluntary organisations. Back

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Prepared 12 February 2013