MOD Press Release 199/2011 20 December 2011
Local Veterans Support Groups
A regional network of support groups to help military veterans get access to local services has been launched and forms part of the Government’s wider commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant.
Thirteen groups have been created across the UK, staffed by former service personnel, to give advice to veterans about the range of services available to them. This could be anything from helping a veteran get specialist medical care to assistance for a widow to claim a pension.
The groups, called Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees (VAPCs), support the Government’s pledge to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law and ensure service personnel and veterans are not disadvantaged.
After a successful one-year pilot scheme, the (VAPCs) will now be permanently established. They will help deliver better services to ex-Service personnel by providing advice to veterans, Health Authorities, Local Government and charities on issues affecting veterans at a local level.
Each VAPC is made up of a chairman and between 12 and 20 unpaid volunteer members drawn from the local ex-service community. The committees aim to:
- Give a regional focus providing advice, assistance and support to the Service and ex-Service community and local public service providers.
- Advise all public bodies on the needs of veterans and their families.
- Raise awareness of veterans’ needs with public bodies and the local community.
- Assist and provide guidance on accessing public services, and assisting with claims and complaints (including War Pension and Armed Forces Compensation Schemes).
The Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan, said:
“The Government is committed to supporting the whole of the Armed Forces community, including veterans and service families. The Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees give us assurances that Government policies designed to help former service personnel are being delivered across the country.
The committees embody the principles of the Government’s Military Covenant and play a vital role in developing relationships and agreements with regional organisations to enhance the services delivered to veterans and their families. They also provide crucial support to individual veterans, particularly those who are vulnerable.”
Stephen Coltman OBE, Chairman of the South West ;VAPC, served in the Army for 36 years. Having worked for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association (BLESMA) for seven years, he volunteered to join the Eastern War Pensions Committee, then transferred to the South West and became Chairman of the VAPC in 2010, to continue helping ex-Servicemen & women & their families.
Mr Coltman said:
“With my background in the Army's Welfare field and working for BLESMA, I have a lot of experience in helping those that are seriously wounded. I know that life outside the Services can be difficult for some as they make that adjustment so I felt I and my Committee could help.
The South West VAPC has extensive relations with the Armed Forces in the SW, the major Local Authorities and NHS Trusts along with the Department for Work and Pensions’ Pensions Service and Department of Employment Job Centre Forces Champions.”
The VAPCs have worked closely with the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA), the MOD organisation that delivers personnel, pensions and welfare to members of the Armed Forces and veterans.
The VAPCs have independently monitored the service the SPVA provides by accompanying welfare managers in visits to clients and acting as an independent complaints panel.
Jon Parkin, Head of Veterans Service at SPVA, said:
“Having worked closely with the VAPCs over the last year I am delighted that they have been the green light as they will be a major driver improving the service delivered to veterans.”
The Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO) and all the principal service charities have contributed to the review.
Veterans can get contact details for their local committee by calling the Veterans-UK helpline on 0800 169 2277 or visiting www.veterans-uk.info
Tom Frizell, Chairman Of the Wales VAPC, is a former soldier with 38 years service. He volunteered to join the Wales VAPC after his service to help others who had had to leave service through injury or illness. Mr Frizell said:
“As a veteran myself I have experience of what ex-service personnel need and know it can be difficult to come to terms with living on civvy street. As a committee we have helped many veterans. One former soldier who had fallen ill as result of an injury in service did not realise he was entitled to claim a pension which we helped him obtain. On another occasion a veteran suffering mental health problems was successfully put in touch with the appropriate medical help to lead a normal life.
John Davies MBE, Chairman of the Northern Ireland VAPC, joined the Royal Air Force in 1965. Following almost 28 years service, he left the Royal Air Force in August 1992 to take up an appointment with the Royal Air Forces Association as Director Northern Ireland, a post he held until he retired from his professional life in April 2010.
John has been a Member of the Northern Ireland Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee and its forerunner, the War Pensions Committee, since January 1993 and was Vice-Chairman from 2000 to 2004; he was appointed Chairman in July 2004. Mr Davies said:
“With many years of experience with the wider service community, both in and out of uniform, it was a natural step for me to become closely involved with the local Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. My colleagues within the VAPC in Northern Ireland also have a widespread background in caring for both service personnel and veterans, as such, as a team we network effectively within the local community and work closely with a number of statutory and voluntary bodies to ensure the needs of these individuals are met.”
David McGrath, chairman of East of Scotland VAPC is a former Army Officer and Company Director with 54 years combined experience in both fields. Mr McGrath said:
“Having been lucky enough to have enjoyed both a service a civilian career, I decided that it was time to ‘give something back’, and in the first instance became a SSAFA Forces Help Caseworker. Whilst performing in this role I soon realised that for every veteran/family helped, there were lots more in similar circumstances who were unaware of the assistance available to them, despite regular media campaigns. When I was made aware of the committees’ existence via last year’s recruitment campaign, I saw this as an ideal opportunity to make a difference. To date our particular committee has been able to help several veterans, in one way or another.”