Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business
Earlier in 2013, the former Minister for Health and Social Services asked Professor Rosemary Kennedy to undertake a review into the need for a dedicated veterans’ residential facility in Wales. Following discussion with the former Local Government and Communities Minister, Professor Kennedy was asked to expand her remit to include the wider needs of veterans and how these could be catered for.
The examination of residential facilities followed a 2012 Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) Report into ‘Healthcare and the Armed Forces Community in Wales’, which recommended the Welsh Government should ‘consider the utility of establishing a form of residential facility’. The report provided little information supporting the recommendation. It suggested a facility would serve as a tangible example of commitment to servicemen, as ‘something you can see, touch and feel’ and ‘of real psychological benefit’. It suggested a facility could act as a central location, where signposting for the Armed Forces community might be coordinated. The Report did not specify that any facility should meet veterans’ health needs, though many assumed it should support veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Coinciding with the decision to review residential provision, the Local Government and Communities Minister’s Expert Group on the Armed Forces, which advises the Minister on Armed Forces and veteran issues, identified the need to consider the provision of information and advice services which meet all veterans’ needs. It was, therefore, agreed to combine these work streams and ask Professor Kennedy, herself a senior figure within both the Welsh NHS and military, to review the two issues together.
To support her work, which commenced in February 2013, Professor Kennedy convened a Task and Finish Group of key public and Third Sector agencies working with veterans. Evidence was also taken from other individuals and organisations and a series of fact-finding visits were undertaken to veteran facilities across the UK.
The final report has now been presented to Ministers. It concludes there is no evidence, nor strong support from the key charities and other bodies working in the field, to warrant a residential facility which supports veterans with PTSD, so long as sufficient capacity exists within existing NHS and Third Sector providers. This supports NICE guidance which advocates a community based approach to treatment.
The Report states that unlike other parts of the UK Wales has no dedicated residential provision for veterans, noting that residential provision is designed primarily to meet the social need of the individual rather than be part of any therapeutic programme. During deliberations the Group came across a number of veteran accommodation issues, such as homelessness. However, the Group did not consider this issue in any detail given the short timescale for the work and the original remit, though the Report does reference these in the non-therapeutic context in relation to issues such as resettlement or when required to access services.
The report also advocates for the development of a co-ordinated network of appropriately located welfare and support hubs, linked to major service providers and charities. It points to the network of hubs proposed by the Royal British Legion as a potential model upon which to build activity.
The report makes four further recommendations:
- To ensure the All-Wales Veterans Health and Wellbeing Service develops adequately resourced community based assessment and treatment provision.
- Establish standards and accreditation for groups intending to deliver psychological assessment and therapies.
- Showcase good practice to establish consistent, high quality services.
- Maintain dialogue with the Ministry of Defence and others to ensure the needs of current and future veterans are reviewed and emerging needs identified.
Ministers are now considering how best to take forward Professor Kennedy’s recommendations, having regard to existing and developing activity and our obligations under the UK Armed Forces Covenant, along with our own Package of Support to the Armed Forces Community in Wales. However, we are aware of the interest in Professor Kennedy’s work, particularly among AMs and, have therefore, agreed to make the report available immediately. It can be accessed on the Welsh Government’s Internet Pages. We commend the report to Assembly Members.