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Veterans: Monitoring Schemes

Volume 663: debated on Monday 8 July 2019

Our resettlement programmes continue to develop to ensure that the transition from service to civilian life for all personnel is conducted as smoothly as possible. I am sure that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the fact that 95% of personnel who participate in our career transition programme are in work or education within six months of departure.

I am grateful to the Minister for that encouraging reply. What case will he be making, as part of the forthcoming comprehensive spending review, to increase support for charities that provide mentoring for veterans, including particularly those in the criminal justice system, such as Care after Combat, which does brilliant work in that area?

My hon. Friend raises two issues. I join him in paying tribute to Care after Combat; what it does to provide support for those who find themselves imprisoned or on the wrong side of the law is absolutely brilliant, and we should all tip our hats to that. However, we must also recognise that the defence budget is under strain. It was affected by the spending review and austerity measures. In 2011 and 2016, we were obliged to find £5 billion-worth of efficiencies, which we did. We have subsequently been asked to find another £7 billion-worth of efficiencies. There is only so long that we can do this before it starts having an impact, and that is why it is important that we argue now, with the next spending review coming up, that we need more money for defence.

If we are to get this resettlement programme right for all our veterans, do we not need to make sure that we have properly assessed the medical injuries that they sustained during their period of service? In that light, is it not a shame that while the United States of America makes sure that every single person in the perimeter of a bomb blast is assessed for brain injury, we are not yet able to do that? We may still be misdiagnosing people who are suffering from PTSD when they have actually had a brain injury.

I know that the hon. Gentleman knows a lot about this issue. He is absolutely right to say that the advancement in the science now reflects the fact that even if someone can walk away from a blast, they can be affected long term by what has happened, and we are learning from the Americans on that. We have our transition programme, which can last up to two years to make sure that we manage the transition from the world of the armed forces to civilian life, but I absolutely agree with him that more can be done in this area.