A WOMAN whose son was the 200th serviceman to die after serving in Afghanistan warned that if veterans’ issues are not addressed more former servicemen could commit suicide.
Hazel Hunt, from Abergavenny, spoke after the Welsh Affairs Committee said public bodies need to do more to support the 250,000 veterans thought to be living in Wales today.
In a report published today the group of MPs said the level of care given to veterans is compromised by the failure to transfer medical records between the Ministry of Defence and the NHS.
Charities that provide treatments for complex psychological issues that do meet guidelines set out by medical watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) also caused concern.
Mrs Hunt had told the Welsh Affairs Committee during its inquiry that the Ministry of Defence had an “attitude problem” and said there was a lack of empathy with veterans.
Asked what would happen if the issues identified in the report weren’t addressed, she said: “You are going to find yourselves with an awful lot more people committing suicide.”
She said the number of mental health problems was underestimated: “There’s a whole big picture of trouble waiting. They have made a good start but they need to keep the foot on the pedal.”
Mrs Hunt started the Richard Hunt Foundation in memory of her son who died aged 21 in August 2009 a few days after he was injured in an explosion.
Mrs Hunt broadly welcomed the report but said: “The Ministry of Defence needs a complete shake-up. It’s all very well saying there are systems in place but if people aren’t taking up those systems then it’s not working.”
The number of charities set up for veterans was down to areas not being attended to, she said.
While the Welsh Government’s veterans’ health service was a good idea, Mrs Hunt said, current funding of £485,000 a year was not enough and only supported one community health worker in each area.
‘One-stop shop would be helpful’
A NETWORK of one-stop shops for veterans should be established in Wales to help them return to civilian life, a report published today says.
The House of Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee, chaired by Monmouth MP David Davies, said the level of care given to veterans is compromised by the failure to transfer medical records between the Ministry of Defence and the NHS.
Charities that provide treatments for complex psychological issues that do meet guidelines set out by medical watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) also caused concern for the MPs.
Mr Davies acknowledged there were many good services in Wales, but said: “There are some catch 22’s that disadvantage veterans in, for example, accessing housing and benefits, and these must be addressed urgently.”
The inquiry found that veterans can struggle to obtain information about the services available to them upon returning to civilian life, and called on the Welsh Government to take forward proposals to establish a network of one-stop shops for veterans across Wales.
Although there is a great deal of support available, a lack of awareness means it is often not taken up, the report found.
The report said that the fact that armed forces personnel often move puts them at a disadvantage when trying to access social housing, with some councils requiring a “local connection”.
Committee members said councils should ensure veterans are prioritised when considered for housing.
Meanwhile, MPs called for the Welsh Government to ensure that the All Wales Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Service continues to receive sufficient funding.
The report said charities that work with veterans should be sufficiently regulated, with the charity commission insisting that those that offer medical, psychological or counselling services are given documentation from relevant bodies to confirm they are qualified to provide them.
It said a system in place to improve the situation of moving medical records must be monitored.