A New Mental Health Helpline for the Forces
This weekend, the government announced a new mental health helpline for the forces. A weekend launch was an interesting choice; a slow news day ensures a high level of coverage, but this must be weighed against the possibility that at the weekend more potential users are available to call the hotline – which could crash an untested service on its first day.
Pretty soon, word got out. Serving service personnel seemed quite quiet about the launch, but veterans were vociferous; this helpline is designed for serving personnel and their families only. Given that generally, most can only do their 22 before retirement, mental health issues sparked by service – if not promptly treated and cured – will, by simple mathematics, more likely happen in the years after service, than in service. Veterans were not slow to work this out.
Debate raged on social media about the pros and cons of this service, whether veterans deserved better and much more. It was suggested that veterans investigate starting their own service, since they are best placed to know what the needs and wants of the veteran community are. All of this was to be expected and an entirely understandable reaction being made within the first 24 hours of the launch. Certainly, everyone in the veteran community should take heart that there are so many members ready to take up the fight; in very short order there was an influential core group ready to take action to right the perceived wrongs. However, in the cold light of day, 48 hours on, there appear to be other considerations to be taken into account.
Just a few days before this helpline launch, ExFor+ C.I.C had a highly successful launch of their sustainable veterans’ services at the House of Commons with attendance by MPs, wider cross-party support and allied organisations – Veterans Network being one – also at the launch.
This launch received wide coverage in the national papers, despite not having the government press machine behind it. It also set a likely blueprint for moving forward.
It is probable, given the favourable reception of the ExForPlus launch and subsequent comment by allies such as Johnny Mercer MP that we will see collaboration in the manner that the public/private partnerships of the 90’s and early 00’s were intended under Labour.
Early indications are that government are happy to be the constructors of these welfare schemes, with third parties acting as the architects. The exact specification of these schemes will be up for debate, therefore, though the extent to which rank and file get to have their say is very much down to which ‘architects’ are chosen to deliver the plans.
There are major players involved, well-capitalised charities with extensive links to the government will make certain that they are at the front of the queue to win contracts. Whether they represent veterans, as the veterans wish, is debatable. What is certain is that genuine veterans’ organisations – those founded and fronted by veterans – are not insulated from hearing what is happening on the front line, nor have careers based on fronting one cause, then the next.
Only by speaking out – getting involved, following and even disagreeing with the debates being held among organisations such as Veterans Network and ExFor+ can you make yourself a draughtsman of the plans.
Having spent many years of working in the welfare to work environment and also being a veteran, ExFor+ and Veterans Network aim to be the drivers and architects of the government’s implementation of future support initiatives.
Get involved today and be heard.