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South Shields MP attacks Government for 'total abdication' of responsibility towards military veterans

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

An MP has attacked the Government for its “total abdication” of responsibility for military veterans once they leave the forces.

Emma Lewell-Buck, the Labour MP for South Shields, was speaking after the Gazette told yesterday how the true figure for suicides by ex-United Kingdom personnel may be hidden.

Health experts, politicians and former military figures have called for tighter monitoring of the problem so that the Government is better informed on what levels of aftercare are needed to help veterans suffering from illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Mrs Lewell-Buck has now joined the debate, saying: “A lot of people come up to me in South Shields and do talk about the after care on offer to soldiers and not just those who are suffering from PTSD.

“The services that are out there are generally charities and, while we appreciate the work they do, it is once again the Government shirking its responsibility and expecting charities to do its work by filling the gap.

“It is their responsibility to look after people who have fought for their country and what we are seeing is a total abdication of that responsibility.”

As the Gazette revealed yesterday, South Shields-based Veterans Response has helped around 300 veterans and their families with issues ranging from addictions to homelessness since it was founded five years ago.

PTSD is among the increasing problems the not-for-profit company has faced with founder Ian Driver having to assist people with suicidal thoughts and refer them to experts.

While praising the work of charities such as Combat Stress, which tackles PTSD among veterans, the Ministry of Defence has also highlighted initiatives in the last 18 months such as an online Veterans’ Gateway to streamline access to help and a tailored NHS service to help personnel leaving the armed services.

A Veterans’ ID card to allow ex-servicemen and women to identify themselves and access services is also in the pipeline.

Another gap Mrs Lewell-Buck feels exists in the aftercare system, however, is the lack of help specifically for servicewomen.

“The majority of help on offer for veterans is aimed at men,” she said.

“But women leaving the armed services may face a whole different series of problems such as caring for children or elderly relatives and even suffering abusive behaviour in their own relationships.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck has urged female veterans to contact Forward Assist, a charity she is patron of, which campaigns for “gender specific” mental health interventions for women.

Forward Assist, based in Dudley, Northumberland, can be contacted on (0191) 2504877 or here.

Also read: How South Tyneside veterans can get the help they deserve