As we approach Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, it is important to keep a focus not only on the past, but on how our country actively supports its former and current Armed Forces personnel.
At a national level, cross-government co-operation is vital. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs, a new ministerial unit in the Cabinet Office, was established last year. It holds responsibility for championing the interests of veterans at the very heart of government.
One of the key issues which is a reality for those leaving the Armed Forces is the transition back to civilian life. It is right that the Government and the NHS are working together to deliver tailored support.
In England such assistance includes the Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention & Liaison Service (TILS), an enhanced service for veterans which helps tackle early signs of mental health difficulties, and the Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS), which helps veterans who have complex mental health problems originating from their time in the military.
The NHS have confirmed that accessing these services needs to be done through the TILS, which can take place either by contacting the service directly, or by asking a GP or a military charity to refer you.
In the Crawley area, the TILS can be contacted directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling: 020 3317 6818.
Support with mental health and a range of other issues is also available through the Veterans Gateway, which is funded by Government and managed by the Royal British Legion. This support can be accessed via: www.veteransgateway.org.uk or by calling: 0808 802 1212.
We also need to provide assurances to service personnel who serve our country with honour that they will not face the threat of repeated investigations. The Government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel & Veterans) Bill is due to return to Parliament this week, with this legislation providing stronger legal protections for serving and veteran members of the Armed Forces.
This delivers on the Government’s manifesto commitment to take action against vexatious claims and end the cycle of re-investigations against service personnel. I would like to be able to say that this Bill secured widespread support across the House of Commons, but unfortunately that is not the case.
It is right that we support service personnel and I welcome the introduction of the Veterans Railcard, which will help a further 830,000 people benefit from discounted rail fares.
The Government are also committed to establishing a new ID card for veterans to make it easier for them to verify their time in the Armed Forces and access specialist help and support.
We should never lose sight of their service and the need to show our gratitude through public policy.
Henry Smith MP