UK Politics

Government rejects creating veterans' department

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Media captionUK veterans left to battle for funding

The government does not want to create a new department to care for veteran service personnel, a minister has said.

Defence Veterans Minister Mark Lancaster told the Victoria Derbyshire programme government as a whole should be responsible for veteran care.

He said the government would continue working in partnership with charities.

Brenda Hale, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan, says there should "absolutely" be a dedicated department for care of veterans and families.

Mr Lancaster said he believed the government had a duty of care towards service personnel after they left the armed forces.

"But it is a partnership, we've always worked with charities, and I imagine that we always will," he said.

"I don't want to go down the American model of having a dedicated veteran's department.

"I think it's right that government as a whole should be responsible for our veterans.

"I may be the only minister with veterans in their title, but I don't want to be the only minister who is interested or committed to looking after our veterans."

Image caption Mark Lancaster believes that government partnership with charities is the right model for UK veteran care

Mrs Hale's husband, Mark, died in 2009, leaving behind her and their two daughters.

It took her six months after his death to receive his pension payments after a dispute with government over his will, leaving her in serious financial trouble.

She said if there were a minister in charge of a new department to care for veterans and their families, they would have to have wide-ranging powers.

"That minister would need to have full responsibility across government departments to compel people to act," she said.

"What we don't need is a tick box minister, where the [government] says, 'That box has been ticked and the veterans are being looked after.'"

In 2010, the government announced that the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, set up in 2005, would be overhauled for troops injured fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This led to one-off awards for individual injuries being increased by more than 50% in some cases, while the rule of limiting compensation to the first three injuries suffered in a single incident was scrapped.

Image caption Former Royal Marine Mark Ormrod has had to battle for funding for his prosthetic limbs

Johnny Mercer, the Conservative MP for Plymouth, says that while he is not calling for a dedicated veterans department, he does think the care for ex-service personnel and their families must be improved, and that this effort should be led by the government.

"What we need to do now is professionalise this industry, make sure the charities are good enough for what our people deserve, make sure somebody cares about these people, drag some through a care pathway, so that we deliver that duty we talk about all the time in the House of Commons," he said.

"Until we ask these people what it's like going through that system, how it works for them, there's no point endlessly pouring money in, and announcements from government about X amount of billion pounds being made available. It means nothing unless it actually gets down to these people and changes their lives.

Former Royal Marine Mark Ormrod had a triple amputation after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2007, and now has prosthetic limbs.

He says he was told he could not receive funding to go to America to have them replaced.

"The first time I needed replacement sockets I asked for the funding to go back to America and get what I needed, and they told me it wasn't available and that I'd have to go with what the NHS provided me," he said.

"My injuries are not the cause of my stress. It's constantly battling to try and get the funding that I need for my prosthetics to overcome my injuries that causes me stress."

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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