Support Available for Veterans
I am writing further to my letter on 18th August. I had originally written in the immediate aftermath of the events in Afghanistan, to provide you with further information that can be shared with your constituents on the specialist support available to veterans, their families and the bereaved, should they need it.
Since my last letter, we have worked tirelessly to pull together and announce additional funding for Op COURAGE. We are committed to enhancing health and wellbeing for veterans. Op COURAGE simplifies access to the NHS England veteran’s mental health services, bringing together three existing bespoke services for veterans under a single point of access: Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, Complex Treatment Service and High Intensity Service. In 2020-2021 NHS England provided £16.5 million for veteran specific mental health services. That is increasing to £17.8 million for 2021-2022. In addition, MOD is also accelerating the NHS England High Intensity Mental Health Service for veterans with acute mental health needs and in crisis. Last week, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced a further £2.7 million for Op Courage, which expand services for veterans with complex mental or physical trauma and alcohol or substance misuse issues. Dedicated care co-ordinators will provide a single point of contact to better enable veterans to navigate the health and care system, with the ultimate aim of reducing suicide rates within the veteran community.
This week the Prime Minister announced a further £5 million of funding this year to support veteran care through the charity sector. This will enable us to make significant improvements to the Veterans Gateway, so that veterans can easily find the right help they need, and put in place additional services to meet the needs of Afghanistan veterans. It will also enable charities providing vital mental health and crisis support to surge capacity to meet the growing demand for help at this time. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs is working at pace to determine how best to utilise this additional funding, working with our counterparts in the Devolved Administrations as appropriate.
This nation is justifiably proud of its Armed Forces, and the brave men and women who step up to serve their nation in spite of great personal sacrifice. All those who served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years should be proud of their professionalism and what they have helped achieve. They have helped to keep this country safe from the threat of terrorism, and enabled development that has improved millions of lives in Afghanistan.
As I have said previously, I fully recognise that processing the events of recent weeks is distressing and is causing a significant amount of pain. The impact can be even greater for anyone who served or supported military operations. I would like to repeat the message of my previous letter, to those who served, the wounded, their families and friends and most importantly for the loved ones of the 457 who sadly lost their lives in service to our nation:
This nation will not forget those who served Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in support of the operations in Afghanistan. As a nation we are forever grateful for their courage and commitment and are proud of what they achieved. Our outstanding Armed Forces did everything that was asked of them by the Government to protect and improve the lives of millions both in the UK and abroad and keep us all safe from terrorism. They made the world a better, safer place for so many, and should be extremely proud of their contribution. Recent events must not detract from their incredible undertaking.
Please remember that there is help available if veterans or their families need it. It is more important than ever to spread the word about how to access specialist support for mental health and wellbeing, wherever you live in the UK.
- Veterans and their families in England can be referred to specialist NHS Op Courage services by their GP.
- In Wales, you can reach out to Veteran Therapists in each Local Health Board.
- There are also dedicated resources available through NHS Scotland and the Northern Ireland Veterans’ Support Office.
- Anyone in the UK or overseas can also contact the Veterans’ Gateway website or helpline on 0808 802 1212 for around the clock advice and signposting to further support across the charity sector, including for families and the bereaved.
- You can also reach out to friends, family, or other members of the Armed Forces community. It’s normal to feel distressed. I would encourage everyone, whether a veteran or not, to check in with those around them who may be affected by the current events.
I strongly urge anyone affected by the recent news to access the specialist care available to them. In the case of an emergency or crisis, please contact the Samaritans for free on 116 123. I would be grateful if you could share these sources of support with your constituents and on social media so that we can spread the word about what is available and get our veterans and their families any help they may need.
We have a collective responsibility to offer the best support we can during these challenging times, and I join the entire nation in thanking our Armed Forces for their service.