MENTAL health service providers should have to earn a ‘kitemark’ for quality and good practice, providing clarity for armed services veterans seeking help for often complex problems.
That is the call from charities led by the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), who want the Welsh Government to introduce tighter controls on organisations offering help to veterans in Wales.
They believe the quality of some treatments can be substandard and unproven, and a ‘kitemark’ system would help veterans wanting treatment for a range of problems, such as psychological conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and for substance misuse.
Gwent veteran and PTSD sufferer Denzil Connick, from Oakdale, who served in the Parachute Regiment and lost a leg in the Falklands conflict, said the idea was a good one, but just a small move toward veterans getting the services they need.
“It can be very hit and miss for veterans looking for help, a bit of a lottery,” he said.
“It’s been like that for a number of years, and as our armed forces have been involved in conflicts in recent times, the number needing help is rising.
“A kitemark system would help, because people’s needs can be complex. For instance, combat-related PTSD is different to PTSD caused by non-combat situations. There are thousands suffering and needing help, but not getting the help they need.
“I’ve been an SSAFA case worker for 20 years and seen how difficult it can be. Many people have to rely on overstretched charities.
“It is very debilitating and dangerous, and the country will suffer in the long run.
“The Welsh Government has given grants to charities and think they are doing the job by doing that, but they need a proper investigation into what veterans’ needs are, and to fund properly a service that will do some good.”
The ‘kitemark’ call follows a House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee report, which raised concerns that many organisations are not offering clinically robust treatments, with some not approved by NICE (the National Institute for Clincial Excellence, the UK’s treatments standards body), the NHS or the Government.
Veterans want clear information
MENTAL health treatment is a sensitive subject and it is vital that those offering it provide evidence-based treatment through accredited and trained professionals, said Phil Jones, Royal British Legion Wales area manager.
“This kitemark idea should be developed by Welsh Government, the NHS and the sector in partnership, so veterans can clearly see who the providers are and what treatment they are providing,” he said.
SSAFA regional representative for Wales David Griggs said its volunteer caseworkers come across more and more veterans with complex mental health problems probably attributable to military service.
“From our experience, these mental health issues lead to relationship and marriage breakdowns, alcoholism, debt, prison, and in the worst case, suicide,” he said.
“Veterans and their loved ones need to know who are the health professionals to approach for help.”