Veterans and Military Charities: Additional Support

Defence – in the House of Commons on 20th September 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Conservative, Ashfield

What assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the additional support for veterans and military charities announced on 6 September 2021.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

What assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the additional support for veterans and military charities announced on 6 September 2021.

Photo of Gary Sambrook Gary Sambrook Conservative, Birmingham, Northfield

What assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the additional support for veterans and military charities announced on 6 September 2021.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

The Government are committed to providing a gold standard of support for veterans. The additional £5 million announced on 6 September followed a meeting of the Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, me and the service charities to discuss measures to mitigate the impact of events in Afghanistan. That is on top of the £20 million already going to armed forces charities this year.

Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Conservative, Ashfield

Sadly, some veterans end up living on our streets. The solution is not just to give them a bed, a job or a roof over their head; what they need is real, targeted mental health support. Will my hon. Friend please advise me what the Government are doing to make sure that our brave veterans get the targeted mental health support they richly deserve?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I am pleased to confirm that, in the form of Op Courage, we have bespoke mental health provision in the NHS, now running at £20 million this year. But this is not just about money; it is about ensuring that veterans are part of that care, and as peer support workers in Op Courage, they are.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

Will the Minister explain specifically how these announcements will help the veterans community hub recently opened in Newton Aycliffe by the lord lieutenant, Sue Snowdon, and veteran Scott Robertson? That fantastic facility provides mental health support, occupational rehabilitation and sports therapy. Will the Minister commend all those involved with the project, but specifically veterans Scott Robertson and Tommy Lowther? While I am about it, will the Minister also thank 100-year-old RAF veteran William Cooksey, who completed a 100-mile walk—10 miles for each of 10 days —to support County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, raising over £3,000? If the Minister would like to come and visit, he would be very welcome.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I am delighted to put on the record my thanks to veterans Scott Robertson and Tommy Lowther, and to the 100-year-old RAF veteran William Cooksey. They are clearly the best of us. If the Newton Aycliffe hub needs support, it should consider applying to the armed forces covenant trust fund. Of course I would be delighted to visit.

Photo of Gary Sambrook Gary Sambrook Conservative, Birmingham, Northfield

I know that my hon. Friend’s top priorities are the health and wellbeing of those people who have sacrificed so much for our country, especially in respect of mental health. Can he confirm that, if people who require specialist help were to reach out to NHS Operation Courage, they would get the bespoke care packages that they need and desperately deserve?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I can confirm that, and I am pleased to do so. The provision is first class. However, we are also after a change in culture, so that those who have served know that it is the soldierly thing to do to ask for help.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Labour, Denton and Reddish

The Minister must know that 79% of charities believe that the responsibility to support veterans should lie more with the Government and the armed forces themselves. Will he commit to looking in detail at Labour’s proposed duty of care amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, which aims to do precisely that?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I actually commend the long and noble tradition that we have of armed forces charities assisting the Government in their response to supporting veterans, and I am pleased that our support to them this year will top out at more than £20 million.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

The Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board is supposed to drive forward and co-ordinate better Government support for members of the armed forces, their families and veterans. The Scottish Government have asked repeatedly for that group to be reconvened. When can we expect its next meeting to take place?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

I am happy to confirm that that meeting will take place within the next couple of weeks.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Defence)

Combat Stress, a charity supporting veterans’ mental health, has seen its income fall by £6 million in the current financial year. Will the Minister therefore accept that the Government’s recent announcement of £5 million for the entire sector is simply not enough to support veterans’ mental health?

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence)

That is a top-up; the provision is more than £20 million. I look forward to discussing that in detail when I visit Combat Stress tomorrow.