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


Conclusions and Recommendations


Conclusions

1.  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. (Paragraph 21)

2.  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. (Paragraph 22)

3.  We are concerned that some veterans struggle to obtain information about the services available to them upon returning to civilian life. We believe that the most effective way to provide them with information and assistance would be through a network of 'one stop shops' across Wales, broadly similar to the Scottish model. (Paragraph 31)

4.  The mobility requirements of a career in the Armed Forces can be a real disadvantage for personnel trying to access social housing, because of 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. (Paragraph 41)

5.  There are arguments both for and against a mental health residential facility specifically for veterans in Wales. We welcome the establishment of a group by the Welsh Government to examine this issue and look forward with interest to its recommendations. (Paragraph 75)

6.  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. (Paragraph 80)

7.  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. (Paragraph 81)

8.  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. (Paragraph 85)

9.  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. (Paragraph 89)

Recommendations

1.  The MoD should ensure that all personnel leaving the services are fully aware of all the resettlement support that they are entitled to. (Paragraph 21)

2.  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. (Paragraph 23)

3.  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. (Paragraph 24)

4.  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. (Paragraph 25)

5.  We recommend that the Welsh Government take forward proposals to establish a network of 'one-stop shops' for veterans across Wales. (Paragraph 32)

6.  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. (Paragraph 41)

7.  We encourage the Welsh Government to use the opportunity of its Housing White Paper to consult on the option of legislating to ensure veterans receive priority access to social housing in Wales. (Paragraph 42)

8.  It is unacceptable that disabled veterans face long delays for house adaptations with the consequent damage on their standard of living and their wellbeing as they learn to live with long-term injury. The Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association must examine the reasons for delays in the administration of the Disabled Facilities Grant and take appropriate measures to speed up the process. Examples of best practice across Wales should be identified and disseminated to all local authorities in Wales. (Paragraph 47)

9.  Developing a historic database of all veterans residing in the UK would be expensive and the benefits would not justify the cost. But there would be advantages if local authorities and the Welsh Government had better data on the number and location of veterans in Wales to assist in policy development. We recommend that the MoD investigate which data could potentially be collected and made available to devolved administration and local authorities within the current legislation. In particular the MoD should improve its system for registering all future leavers. (Paragraph 51)

10.  We encourage Armed Forces veterans based in Wales to identify themselves as they use public services. This information will enable the Welsh Government and local authorities to develop policies and target resources to benefit veterans and their families in future. (Paragraph 52)

11.  We are disappointed that the level of care given to veterans can sometimes be compromised by the failure to transfer medical records between the MoD and NHS. We welcome the introduction of an improved system by the MoD later in 2013 and recommend that the Ministry updates Parliament about the establishment and effectiveness of the system by the end of the year. (Paragraph 58)

12.  The extension of priority NHS treatment to all UK veterans is welcome but lack of awareness of the policy is hampering its effectiveness. It is alarming that only one in five GPs have any familiarity with the policy. The Welsh Government should work with NHS Wales to raise awareness amongst the medical community to ensure that Armed Forces veterans receive the priority treatment to which they are entitled. (Paragraph 62)

13.  Some Armed Forces veterans—particularly those who left the service prior to the introduction of priority access to treatment in 2008—are not aware of this policy themselves. The MoD must ensure the policy is widely publicised to the current veteran population as well as to all leaving personnel as part of the resettlement programme. (Paragraph 63)

14.  The establishment of the All Wales Veterans' Health and WellBeing Service (AWVHWS) across Wales is a welcome improvement to mental health treatment in Wales. The Welsh Government should ensure that the AWVHWS continues to receive sufficient funding. We encourage the AWVHWS to explore ways to work with the charity sector to improve the capacity of the service. (Paragraph 71)

15.  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. (Paragraph 90)

16.  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. (Paragraph 93)

17.  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. (Paragraph 96)

18.  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. (Paragraph 99)




 
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Prepared 12 February 2013