Having successfully campaigned for the creation of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), we welcome the increased focus which has been placed on veterans at the heart of government.
The Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan contains some promising commitments to boost employment, modernise services and help us better understand the needs of the veteran community. We also very much welcome the review into the impact on LGBT veterans to address historic hurt, as well as the positivity of the OVA in working with veterans and charities to improve and shape the policy landscape until, and beyond, 2028.
That said, we are disappointed by the Action Plan’s limited focus on the wounded, injured and sick, and upon improving existing care pathways to deliver a step change in support. Currently we see a greater urgency in addressing gaps in support around the medical discharge process and improving rehabilitation pathways for veterans with complex needs, rather than further highlighting available funding for the continuation of existing support.
Indeed, many challenges stem precisely at the point of transition, arguably before responsibility for their healthcare passes to the NHS. If we are serious about ensuring better long-term outcomes for those who leave the military as a direct consequence of their injury, that is where the focus and investment must be.
There is also little mention of social care provision, which for many is closely linked to their healthcare needs, while the closure of the Veterans Mobility Fund last year is having a detrimental impact on the quality of life of many veterans with mobility issues. For instance, it has been left to service charities, such as Help for Heroes and Blesma, to step in and foot the bill, which is something we simply cannot sustain financially.
While the Action Plan acknowledges that implementation of services remains inconsistent across the UK, its suggestion towards improving this fails to specify how co-ordination across service deliverers will be improved in any detail, or on how information will be shared between public sector bodies to achieve a greater understanding of local differences in veteran needs.
However, it is welcome that the OVA is taking steps to ensure better collaboration and coordination with the Devolved Administrations, as well as engaging with, and gathering policy input from, local government and service charities.
Overall, we are encouraged by the positive intent of the Action Plan and that the Government will review its delivery of these commitments by 2024. Indeed, we would welcome greater clarity on measures of success for outcomes, as well as an opportunity to work more closely with the OVA as it continues to develop its ‘five focal points of success’.
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