New Veterans Commissioner assesses how far we’ve come in making things better for Scotland’s veterans
Scotland’s Veterans Commissioner (SVC) today published her assessment of progress in the delivery of recommendations made to Scottish Ministers which aim to make things better for Scotland’s 250,000 veterans and their families.
This is the fourth year the progress assessment has been published; the first for Scotland’s third Veterans Commissioner and former Royal Navy Marine Engineer Officer, Susie Hamilton.
The Commissioner’s assessment shows considerable progress, despite fears that the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic would result in a slowing pace of delivery.There does however remain some stubborn challenges in putting SVC recommendations into practice that she intends to take a very close look at in the year ahead and a concern that the cost-of-living crisis may derail priorities.
Susie Hamilton commented:
“There is always more to do but I’m pleased to report on what is currently a positive picture overall, much having been achieved through solid partnership working across the public and third sectors.
“Of particular note is significant steps in implementing our recommendations with the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action plan delivered last December; the Veterans’ Homelessness Protection Pathway published in January this year and the five year programme which has been set in place to attract veterans to employment in the NHS in Scotland – a win: win for veterans and NHS Scotland.”
The annual assessment offers an overview of meaningful progress but also flags-up where things are not going so well and where more attention is needed.
“Providing scrutiny and supportive challenge is a key aspect of my role and I am pleased to have been given the space and authority to do that. No veteran should have to struggle to get the services and support they need or be left behind because of system failure or unfairness.
“However, there remain some stubborn challenges to delivery of a small number of SVC recommendations that I intend to take a very close look at in the year ahead.
“I do have a serious concern over the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Not only over the risk that we could see some actions de-prioritised or even set-aside completely but also over the impact of spending cuts to public and third sector services and greater numbers of people, including our veterans, living in poverty. The crisis could see increasing numbers of veterans facing homelessness or unable to afford sufficient food or keep a home warm.”
Significant steps forward in the delivery of SVC recommendations include:
Veterans Health and Wellbeing – The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan recommended by SVC was delivered last December and work to implement the new service has begun under the leadership of Dr Charles Winstanely. This is a significant piece of work, with the potential to transform veterans’ access to timely mental health support and treatment services. Separately, the development of a new treatment Pathway for the small number of Veterans in Scotland who have experienced polytrauma addresses two recommendations made in the SVC report – Veterans Health and Wellbeing: A Distinctive Scottish Approach, 2018.
The Veterans Homelessness prevention Pathway has been co-produced and published – No one who has served their country should face homelessness or have to sleep rough. The specific Veterans’ Pathway was published in January this year. It’s needed to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home and I’d like to see it implemented in full as soon as possible. That includes action to address the issue of ‘delayed homelessness’ identified in the SVC’s Housing report of June 2021.
On employability and skills development – A 5 year programme has been set in place to attract veterans to employment in the NHS in Scotland – a win: win for veterans and NHS Scotland – which makes good on a recommendation in the SVC’s 2018 Health and Wellbeing report. In-roads have also been made to SVC recommendations on the alignment of military and civilian skills and qualifications and on ensuring that advice and guidance is relevant to local labour market conditions.