Vulnerable veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq living in supported housing at the UK’s largest barracks are set to lose help with mental health problems, triggering fears of a return to homelessness and lost lives.
A charity that has helped 340 homeless veterans at Catterick garrison has said it will run out of money at the end of the month for the service, which is dedicated to tackling issues including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance misuse.
这 Riverside housing charity is joining with other charities operating similar services to demand new funding from the chancellor, 里希·苏纳克, in next month’s spending review to maintain counselling, training and support for people with PTSD and problems with substance or alcohol misuse. They have warned ministers of “the significant risk of collapse of the majority of supported housing services for veterans”.
“I feel let down,” said Dave Karan, 33, who completed two tours of Afghanistan in 2008 和 2010 and who lives at the Beacon centre in Yorkshire, which is operated by Riverside. “You do your bit for Queen and country and then have mental issues and physical injuries and there is no support network. The veterans will be hit hard.”
The centre will continue to house homeless veterans, but they will not have access to support, Riverside said.
Kerrie Addison, a specialist support worker at the centre for the last eight years, 说: “Our service people are conditioned not to be in touch with their emotions. By the time veterans reach us they are usually psychologically vulnerable. The loss of these services could [mean] an increase of deaths among veterans – this is the reality we face.”
James Heappey, the armed forces minister, has said that after last month’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan, veterans would be feeling “more vulnerable” and questioning whether their service had been worth it.
The four main providers of supported housing for British military veterans, Riverside, Launchpad, Alabaré and Stoll, which together provide 558 beds across the country, have asked the chancellor for £5.5m over two years to prevent the service cut.
Andrew Lord, the chief executive of Alabaré, said that without funding there would be more homeless veterans. It is estimated that between 100 和 400 veterans a year sleep rough.
Last month the health secretary, 萨吉德·贾维德, announced a £2.7m extension of the NHS Operation Courage service, which provides mental health support, with an expansion of services to support those experiencing complex mental and physical trauma or alcohol and substance misuse.
然而, veterans at Catterick fear abandonment when the funding for their service ends.
“One [veteran] came to me saying ‘please promise me when the funding ends in September that we won’t just be left’,” said Sheryl Bartliff, a service manager. “It is devastating for myself and my staff to be having these conversations, yet this is the reality for those who benefit from our services.”
Karl McMichael, 47, who was a soldier in Kosovo and a security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, 说: “Without institutions like this, reaching out to ex-servicemen, and servicewomen, it’s very difficult, because there is a trust issue for a soldier, and they know nothing else but soldiering. Without this place I wouldn’t be here now.”
McMichael had PTSD but is now looking to find independent accommodation after receiving treatment, and he has found work.
The Ministry of Defence highlighted the £2.7m extension of Operation Courage, £5m in funding for military charities and priority access to social housing for veterans.
“Our serving armed forces and veterans represent the very best of us, with recent events in Afghanistan yet another reminder of their dedication and sacrifice,” a government spokesperson said.