Labour is calling on the Government to introduce a £1m research fund for veterans’ ‘legacy issues’ from Afghanistan and Iraq, with a particular focus on mental health. Charities would be able to bid for the funds to support long-term policy research in this area.
This would be funded by rebalancing our Services. Our Forces are ‘top heavy’ and while the Government says they are cutting the top “in broad proportion” to cuts to personnel throughout the Forces we believe they should go further at the top to tackle rather than perpetuate the imbalance.
In-service support is the rightly the focus for welfare provision, but we are concerned that there is a potentially long time lag between leaving the services and experiencing mental health problems, and an increasing number are at risk. We therefore want to see meaningful work on improving long-term, post-service support.
Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said:
“We must prevent an epidemic of invisible injury.
“The country owes it to all those who have served to provide real post-service support. Whether in dealing with mental or physical injury, depression or stress, the courage shown by service personnel is not just on the battlefield but in recovering from the long term affects of conflict.
“With thousands having experience of Iraq and Afghanistan legacy issues are more important than ever. The Government’s rushed defence review had just two pages on service welfare and we are determined that that never happens again. Charities must be enabled to work on the solutions which are currently lacking. “It is right and necessary that the Government corrects the imbalances in our Forces by making real savings at the top. By redistributing part of this saving to serve veterans we’re showing this is a real priority for Labour.”
A spokesperson for the Royal British Legion said:
“The Royal British Legion welcomes the hugely important debate of how the nation will support our Armed Forces, veterans and their families after operations in Afghanistan have drawn to a close.
“The Armed Forces community is facing a “perfect storm” of health and welfare needs in coming years as the legacy of Afghanistan and Iraq combine with defence cuts and strains on public sector support. It is the nation’s obligation under the Armed Forces Covenant to ensure that these issues are addressed in a comprehensive manner providing for long-term and meaningful support.
“For many of our brave Armed Forces, their injuries – both visible and invisible – will have a lifelong impact. As a nation, we must prepare to support them now, whilst the sacrifices our Service personnel are making are at the forefront of the public’s mind. Issues relating to the legacy of the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq may not be immediately obvious – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for example, takes an average of 13 years to become evident. We therefore welcome this debate and call on all parties to work together on constructive solutions.
Be informed: Forces mental health
The forces charity, Combat Stress say that a significant minority of Service men and women suffer from mental ill-health as a result of their experiences.
Research suggests that of the 191,000 personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 7,600 people (4%) could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Another 37,600 people (19.7%) may be battling other debilitating mental health problems, such as depression, mood disorders and anxiety.
You can read more from the Combat Stress website here.
The Royal British Legion state by 2020 research estimates that 1.8 million people in the Armed Forces community will be living with long-standing illness; 800,000 will be isolated socially, having little contact with family or friends; and 700,000 will be living below the poverty line.
You can read more from the Royal British Legion website here.
Image: Combat Stress