12 Feb 13. The Commons Welsh Affairs Committee says public bodies need to do more to support Armed Forces veterans in Wales, particularly in the key areas of housing and health where there are currently problems with provision. The Committee recognises the commitment of the Welsh Assembly and UK Government but the inquiry revealed some areas where there are problems and more needs to be done. There are currently estimated to be more Armed Forces veterans in the UK than at any time since the Second World War: it has been estimated there could be as many as 250,000 Armed Forces veterans in Wales alone today. A career in the Armed Forces demands a lot of moving around: this can be a real disadvantage for personnel trying to access social housing, because of some local authorities’ requirements for a ‘local connection.’ This is a serious concern. The Committee says local authorities in Wales must follow the guidance set out in UK legislation and the Welsh Government’s Code of Practice to ensure that veterans are prioritised in the allocation of social housing. A significant minority of military personnel develop mental health problems after they leave the Armed Forces. The establishment of the All Wales Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Service (AWVHWS) is a welcome improvement to mental health treatment in Wales. The Welsh Government should ensure that the AWVHWS continues to receive sufficient funding. The Committee is very disappointed that the level of care given to veterans is being compromised by the failure to transfer medical records between the MoD and NHS. It says a new system in place to improve this situation must be monitored to ensure it delivers. There is also a particular concern about charities providing treatments for complex psychological issues that do not meet NICE guidelines. The regulation of charities may be insufficiently robust in this area. The Charity Commission should insist that veterans’ charities which offer medical, psychological or counselling services provide documentation from the relevant professional bodies to confirm that they are fully, appropriately qualified for the services they offer. The resettlement provision given to members of the Armed Forces by the MoD has improved in recent year but the Committee is concerned that some personnel still do not take it up fully due to a lack of awareness of the services available. The MoD should ensure that all personnel leaving the services are fully aware of all the resettlement support that they are entitled to. The MoD should consider the provision of more appropriate support to early service leavers – who may be leaving because of some problem and are therefore more likely to need more support – and must ensure that reservists are also provided with adequate support to return to civilian life. The Committee says there also needs to be better co-ordination of the work done by the many charities providing services to veterans, to avoid wasteful duplication and administration costs. There must also be much more stringent inspection of charities’ finances and the Committee says the Cabinet Office should look into this as a matter of urgency. The Committee found that veterans can struggle to obtain information about the services available to them upon returning to civilian life. The Committee says the Welsh Government should take forward proposals to establish a network of ‘one-stop shops’ for veterans across Wales and encourage all local authorities in Wales that have not yet done so to review their provision for veterans and plan to sign up and support Community Covenants. A great deal of support is available for veterans in Wales, but often a lack of awareness means that support is not taken up. A one-stop shop for veterans – along the lines of the model established in Scotland – would be a convenient way for veterans to access information and receive advice on a range of important issues, such as housing, finances and employment.
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