Veterans (Health and Wellbeing)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s most recent report on the health and wellbeing of veterans. (S6O-00959)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I have written to the commissioner thanking him for advance sight of the report on veterans’ health and wellbeing. Over the coming weeks, we will consider carefully its recommendations. In due course, I will write to the commissioner again, although it will be the new commissioner at that point, to provide a more detailed response, and our action plan for taking forward the recommendations will be included in that response.

I again take the opportunity to thank Charlie Wallace for all his hard work and dedication to the veterans community, and I wish him all the best for the future.

Photo of Sandesh Gulhane Sandesh Gulhane Conservative

I have been in contact with Poppyscotland, which, once again, highlighted the importance of veterans’ mental health. It mentioned the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s report, which states that mental health is the most common “unmet need” that has caused frustration among veterans.

Last November, the Scottish Veterans Care Network published its “Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan”. However, the Scottish Government has yet to provide a timeline for the delivery of its recommendations. Can the cabinet secretary provide the timeline today, please?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

We are establishing a veteran-led action plan implementation board, which will be led by Charles Winstanley. I am not sure whether that information was in the public domain. The first meeting of the board is scheduled for 19 May.

In the meantime, we continue to fund Combat Stress and Veterans First Point, which will allow existing services to continue over the next few years as a Scotland-wide implementation plan is developed. Support for the board is currently being reviewed by the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care.

In addition, we have commissioned See Me Scotland to run a veterans anti-stigma campaign this year. Veterans Scotland and other third sector partners will contribute to the work to ensure that the experience of veterans can help to shape and influence the campaign.

Given Sandesh Gulhane’s question, it would be useful if he were able to support the Scottish Government’s call for the United Kingdom Government to pay some money towards the establishment of the commissioner’s office. It has done so in Wales, so I do not know what the logic is for the Tory UK Government to say that it will not fund veterans’ activity or the commissioner in Scotland. If he is willing to say that he will support that, that would be most welcome.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

How will the £2 million funding that was announced last month for services that provide mental health support to armed forces veterans be put to use?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

The Government is committed to ensuring that veterans have access to the right support and help when they need it. The Government works with a wide range of organisations and provides funding for the provision of mental health services for veterans. I mentioned in my previous answer that we have continued to fund Combat Stress by providing £1.4 million to it this year. As the member knows, it provides a range of specialist and community-based services for veterans who are resident in Scotland.

We, along with six local authorities, continue to provide joint funding for the Veterans First Point Network, which will offer a one-stop shop for veterans, no matter what their need is. The future funding of veterans mental health services will be determined by the implementation of the “Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan”, which was published late last year.