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Veterans Care Sector: Government Role

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee 6:01 pm, 25th October 2016

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. We are not asking for the moon on a stick; there are some brilliant practices out there—not only in this country, but internationally—that we could learn from quickly. The services are there, but the Government have a job to do to bring everything together.

The third sector remains deeply challenging, and that is the reason for this debate. There are almost 2,500 military charities and funds in the UK today. Okay, many are regimental or sub-unit funds that are not in day-to-day use, but that figure gives a picture of the chaos. I would not have called this debate if I thought that every single one of those charities was doing good. This is an awkward conversation, but if we did not have it we would be doing a disservice to those whom we are trying to help.

Some charities struggle with financial management; some are plainly criminal. Some practise evidence-based therapies or treatments; some are a vehicle to further their own unproven treatments, however well-meaning they may be. Some are run professionally, with complaints structures and staff management routines; others are a disaster.

We must now sort out that problem, for as time goes on the Iraq and Afghanistan generation of warriors will fade from memory. We will be on the same pages as the Falklands and the Gulf war, and in the same chapter as the Americans in Vietnam. Moreover, the public will stop giving, and understandably so. The income of some of our major charities is down by a third this financial year. No organisation can sustain that. The LIBOR funding that has sustained us for so long will eventually run out. Yet the duty to our veterans will only increase as the scars of our recent wars reveal themselves in communities up and down this land. Referrals to Combat Stress are up 71%.

Now is the time to have this fight—this dirty fight—of sorting out the third sector. I cannot help feeling that most of the sector would thank us for it. They loathe the criminal charities as much as I do, and they feel as sick as I do when, as they struggle like everyone else, unproven methods or groups attract Government funding. They curse the lack of a common needs assessment, which means that they have to start each case from scratch, causing more trauma to the individual using their services. If we do not have this fight—the Government are the only ones who can do it—it will look like we do not care and do not want to have this conversation because it is too difficult, too dirty, for us to get involved.

I am afraid that this comes back to what I discussed at the beginning, namely duty. This Government have a duty, not to always deliver, for the charities do that better than we ever could, but to ensure the provision of veterans care in this country. That includes ensuring that it is accessible to all, particularly our most vulnerable communities, perhaps through a single point of contact; too many have no idea how to access some of the brilliant services provided by our third sector. It also means ensuring that the care is of a standard and safety applicable to those who have served—and, indeed, to any other UK citizen—and that it is evidence based and correctly staffed by qualified personnel. We also need to ensure that cases are managed and individuals guided through the enormously complex treatment pathways, and that the great British public, who have carried this torch for so long, do not get ripped off by individuals raising money for a cause to which they will never stop giving.