Labour MP, Jim Sheridan has voiced concerns about the provision of healthcare funding for veterans who are suffering from mental health issues as a consequence of military service.
During a parliamentary debate on the psychological welfare of ex-service personnel he said, “Veterans are clearly not a priority for this Government; they were not for the previous Government either. They are a priority for the charities, but it is a sad fact that in our society it is charities that are caring for our war wounded. More funding should be directed to the psychological welfare of ex-service personnel, and it should come from the public purse.”
He went on to add“ [charities] rely on the generosity of the public and in the current environment, where donations to charities are down by 20%, according to the Office for National Statistics, we cannot go on in this way.”
His concerns come at a time when the Prime Minister has confirmed that the combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2014, which will mean the return of thousands of troops. Estimates from Combat Stress suggest that 7,600 of the 191,000 personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder, and that 37,600 are suffering from other mental disorders including depression and anxiety.
Charities working with veterans are reliant on charitable donations, for instance the Big White Wall online support network gets almost a third of its funding from Help for Heroes. Combat Stress have also said “[we] simply couldn’t do what we do without the generosity of the great British public.
However, Mark Francois, Minster of State, denied that the Government were shying away from funding ex-military personnel mental healthcare: “We are investing in mental health at every juncture of a service career. From recruitment, to deployment, to discharge and transition into civilian life, the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Health have made funding available for extensive support to serving personnel and veterans who encounter mental health problems.”
“In many cases, this support is provided by a partnership with Government, and that should be celebrated rather than regretted”.
On the specific steps the Government are taking to help veterans, he said that the Department of Health, in partnership with South Staffordshire and Shropshire mental health trust, has put in place a national veterans’ mental health network.