This workshop convened some eighty delegates from across the Ministry of Defence, academia, the charity and commercial sector to discuss the findings of the RUSI Whither Welfare paper and the structure of the welfare sector for armed personnel.
The keynote presentation was delivered by Andrew Robathan MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Veterans and Welfare and a summary of the issues came from Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel). Marine Ben McBean gave a sobering but entertaining presentation of his experiences since April 2007 when he was injured by a landmine in Kajaki. The Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Raeffelli was also in attendance.
The workshop was constructed to facilitate open discussion amongst the participants which allowed a consensus to be drawn on the need for better co-ordination across the sector and more local engagement. Tracey Vennai, Deputy Head, Pensions, Compensation and Veterans for the Ministry of Defence outlined pathfinder studies across the country which are drawing together local actors at county level. In some areas, this is the first occasion where the various organisations have convened and coordinated their efforts. There was also a keen sense that local community centres which could be the focal points for veterans to find help would be useful both now and in the long term. These might utilise existing facilities that are owned by Royal British Legion, SSAFA or Help for Heroes.
Air Vice-Marshal Tony Stables, Chairman, COBSEO, outlined a number of efforts that his organisation has been undertaking to coordinate the efforts of the charity sector. He also gave details of a research project to examine systematically the needs of veterans that will be funded by the national lottery.
Most of the participants agreed that those leaving the services after less than 6 years tended to comprise the majority of those requiring significant assistance. The RUSI study should also highlighted areas where there is significant overlap in terms of the welfare provided or equally where there is little or no assistance given to military families.
The need for signposting (i.e., an online support that gathers together the various resources and charities available to serving personnel and veterans) was emphasised by several of the participants and the delegates also debated the usefulness of the proposed national helpline.
Charity Vs. State Welfare
Finally, the participants debated whether or not welfare should be outsourced to the charity sector. The RAF, for example almost exclusively outsource their personnel support whilst the Royal Navy have elected to provide the support themselves. It was agreed that welfare outside of the chain of command was not beneficial and that while it was useful to have expert help, that it was very much the single service's responsibility to ensure the well-being of its personnel.
The Minister's brief can be found here and a fuller report will be available in due course.
For more information, please contact Elizabeth Quintana firstname.lastname@example.org