Veterans: Handforth

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 6 September 2023.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton 11:00, 6 September 2023

The hon. Member is spot on. It is absolutely the case that those charities do a wonderful job, but greater structured support is needed. My constituents are asking the Minister to make the process easier even before discharge. They are asking that people be signposted and helped even before leaving, so that they know the local area that they are going back into, the local groups and the local community. That would make leaving so much easier; it would provide them with stability and a clearer transition to their new life.

In my constituency, there is a very interesting group. These people are passionate about not seeing the experience they had repeated. Sebastian and Gianna Edwards-Beech have set up a support group called NAAFI Break. They welcome veterans and their family members for support. Each week, 18 to 25 people turn up, and they have those discussions, those talks and that helping hand, which is offered over, as they say, a hot beverage. It was at one such session that they asked whether I could relay to the Minister their overwhelming concern that, once discharged, they felt they had nowhere to go. They felt there was a distinct lack of signposting and no central point where information was available. While they appreciated that there was an array of charities, as Jim Shannon has said, they felt that somehow the Ministry of Defence needed to do a little more and not contract out its responsibilities to others. They felt the support was bitty, piecemeal and the exact opposite of the training they were given to enter the armed forces, which was precise and regimented.

For example, when Sebastian was discharged and started showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, his wife Gianna felt as if she had nowhere to turn. She said that the lack of signposting both by the Government and the MOD left her feeling angry and rejected. She was sent from one organisation to another, and found the delay in receiving support for her husband quite shocking. When I asked Gianna what exactly she would like to see happen, she said she would like to see something simple and quite tangible, such as a book, issued to each service member and/or their family member when leaving the forces, containing a list of contacts and the assistance on offer. That way, they would have a first line of response. Therefore, my first question is: will the Minister look into providing something like a physical booklet? Gianna said that that tangibility—if I can say that—was important. Yes, it would be good if that simple advice were online, but she felt that having a book—which she might not need straight away, on day one, or in week one or year one, but which she could go to later as things emerged—would allow her to feel comforted.