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

Thank you, Dame Angela, and I thank my hon. Friend for that honest contribution, particularly with such great first-hand knowledge.

To continue with my other point, I was sat next to a very impressive woman who had served and done well in the Army, but who was struggling now that she had left. She, too, felt abandoned. She had gone into the Army to get away from her life. The Army was a fresh start and a new beginning for her. She had grown there and done well. However, on leaving, she felt she was put right back into the place that she had tried to escape from. That left her depressed, as if she had walked back in time, back into the problems that she had tried to get away from. She felt it was worse for her, as there were no other women close by who she could relate to and who shared her experiences. She had seen a lot during her time in the Army.

That woman is based in Cheshire. The support groups for women were in the cities, in Liverpool and Manchester, and meeting online for her was not the same as seeing people face to face. She wondered how she could connect with other veterans, particularly female veterans, who are scattered across the country, without having to incur all the significant travel costs.

All at the session were concerned about support for those with PTSD, particularly those who had been in Afghanistan and Iraq, understanding how it develops and the treatment accompanying it. I have another question for the Minister. How much research have the Government done—or are doing—into PTSD and its treatment, as well as into traumatic brain injury, which is linked to PTSD? Traumatic brain injuries are often overlooked, but they can have devastating effects on physical and mental wellbeing. They can cause memory loss, cognitive impairment, mood swings and a range of debilitating symptoms that can significantly impact a veteran’s ability to reintegrate into civilian life.

Many believe that, despite the growing body of scientific evidence linked to traumatic brain injury and PTSD, the UK Government have failed to allocate the necessary resources and funding for a comprehensive researched diagnosis into the treatment and conditions. If that is the case, we are doing a disservice to our veterans, which does not live up to the promises made in the armed forces covenant. I hope the Minister can reassure me that that is not the case, and that much work is being and has been done.

When he responds to the debate, will the Minister let me and my constituents know what the Government are doing to support veterans with mental health conditions and how they intend to support them and their families? My constituents are helpfully proposing that, either prior to or after discharge date, the MOD sends individuals to a medical facility for an all-round health screening, to diagnose any injuries that have been missed while on active service. That could also lead to an understanding of what might happen to them in future.

The armed forces covenant, established in 2011, was intended to be a solemn agreement that our Government and local authorities would provide adequate support, recognition and assistance to those who had served our Army in uniform. I would like an update on what the Government are doing to adhere to that covenant.