Evidence of meeting #60 for Veterans Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was within.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rob Rowntree  Deputy Head, Welfare and Support, Veterans UK
Carolyn Short  Assistant Head, War Pensions Scheme and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, Veterans UK
Yvonne Sanderson  Assistant Head, Operational Policy, Planning and Training, Veterans UK
Paul Kingham  Chair of Chairs, Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, Veterans UK
Captain Mark Heffron  Deputy Head, Service Personnel Support, Welfare, Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom
Beryl Preston  Assistant Head, Service Personnel Support, Compensation, Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom
Martin Goudie  Business Development Manager, Veterans Welfare Service, Veterans UK

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Thank you so much.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Thank you.

Mr. Fraser, you have six minutes.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much. It's my pleasure to be here. Ordinarily I'm not a member of this committee, so it's truly a unique experience for me to be here with you today.

I'd like to pick up where some of our previous questioners left off on transition to civilian life for members of our armed forces. We recently announced a new veterans education and training benefit in Canada, and it seems like there are some differences between how this benefit would operate and the process that you just described. My understanding, from the testimony I just heard, is that in the U.K. there's an in-house service provided with the seven weeks of training with interview techniques and CV development, those sorts of things. Is there a program as well where the government would help veterans obtain university or college education or small business training provided by a third party provider?

11:50 a.m.

Business Development Manager, Veterans Welfare Service, Veterans UK

Martin Goudie

Yes, fully. When someone joins the armed forces they are asked to sign up for what is called enhanced learning credits. During their service, if they serve four years, they receive 1,000 pounds up to three years in a row post-discharge which they can use, or if they serve eight years-plus, 2,000 pounds per year for three years. That is to allow them what is classed in the U.K. as a level 3 or above qualification, which is just one level below a degree qualification. It also allows them to use that to fully fund, if they haven't used any, a degree qualification as long as it is their first degree. You couldn't have someone have a degree and then use that funding to get a master's, for example, but they can use it for a first degree.

Career transition partnership is also linked with a program called X-forces, which is particularly for entrepreneurial and small business aspects and which people can use as part of their transition in order to develop their own, as you say, entrepreneurial and small business development post-discharge, not just going to work for someone else.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Do you monitor the success rate of transition into civilian life amongst people who've taken advantage of these programs compared with those who have not?

11:55 a.m.

Gp Capt Mark Heffron

Yes. We can only go back to the over 80% at the six-month point when they transition out of the armed forces as being in full employment within the six-month period of leaving. It's over 80%.

Of course, we are constantly developing the career transition partnership, though of course this wasn't available 10 years ago, so we're not able to make a comparison with those who did it and those who do it now. Part of the transition work I was talking about is where we're trying to bring these things together in more of an overarching way with a transition partner that guides the whole thing through so that people receive all this right through their careers. We believe there are two points. First, a veteran can be anybody who served one day or more in the U.K. Armed Forces. Also we believe that transition begins on day two when you join the armed forces. Everything is geared up to when you leave. This is a move in the right direction, which you can't compare with the past.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I'll switch gears a little bit to talk about the delivery of care. I heard you mention the NHS earlier. Am I correct in my understanding that the NHS is responsible for the administration of care to veterans and that it would be paid for by the Ministry of Defence, or Veterans UK? Can you describe to me how the payment scheme versus service provider works in the U.K. for veterans?

11:55 a.m.

Gp Capt Mark Heffron

As I said, there is no veterans agency or department or anything here. Veterans are a part of society, so each government department has to do its best. When a veteran leaves the armed forces, as a member of society he will register with a general practitioner like anybody else. That is where he gets all his assistance once we have moved him out. It is all done through the National Health Service of the Department of Health, and that is where the funding comes from also.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I'd like to interject for just a moment, as I have limited time remaining. Does that include in-home care provided to elderly veterans?

11:55 a.m.

Gp Capt Mark Heffron

That is correct, yes.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Just while we're on the subject of in-home care, are there programs that allow for social supports to let veterans stay in their homes? It could be accessibility features that could be built into their homes. Is there other funding available that helps veterans stay in their homes longer?

11:55 a.m.

Business Development Manager, Veterans Welfare Service, Veterans UK

Martin Goudie

Again, in general, that is through the local authorities. Our local councils have funding in place in order to adapt homes and ensure the installation of guide rails, stair lifts, wet rooms, etc. It's not specifically for veterans. However, with regard to those who are wounded, injured, sick, and transitioning out of service, there is funding for our internal Defence Infrastructure Organisation to adapt transitioning armed forces members' homes in order to ensure they are fit for purpose if those veterans have injuries.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Thank you.

Ms. Wagantall, you have five minutes.

June 19th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you so much for being here with us today. This is very helpful.

I would like to ask Paul Kingham a few questions with regard to the veterans advisory and pensions committees.

I understand that the individual chairs are appointed by the minister. Can you give us some background on how it is that you gather intel, the perspectives of the various veterans? Of course, it's a broad range of services and a broad range of veterans who need those services. How do you ensure that you're hearing from your veterans?

Noon

Chair of Chairs, Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, Veterans UK

Paul Kingham

The strength of the system, as Rob mentioned earlier, is that there are 13 committees. If you don't mind, I'll use my own committee as an example. My own committee is in the northeast of England. Whilst we're connected nationally to everything that's going on and to the support and service that is delivered by Veterans UK, we're also interconnected with the charities that are right within our region and with the local authorities.

The previous questioner was asking questions about support for veterans to stay in their own homes. For example, as a former regimental secretary, Mark Heffron mentioned the regimental system. One of the strengths of the regimental system is that it provides welfare grants and welfare in aid by keeping in contact with the elderly veterans. It does the first-line support, and there are other larger charities—for instance, ABF The Soldiers' Charity, which is the army benevolent fund—that would underwrite larger care or care beyond what a regiment could provide. As a regimental secretary some 15 years ago, for example, we delivered a housing adaptation that cost almost 6,000 pounds by splitting it amongst the charities. That's available, but equally, there's more support available from the local authorities, some of which is statutory and some of which varies by region.

One of the earlier questioners asked about the delivery of mental health care provisions in particular. One of the issues we have—and hopefully the Veterans' Gateway will help with this—is the myriad of both statutory and non-statutory providers, particularly with regard to homelessness or those who are involved with crime. Northumbria University, which is up in my patch, has actually been commissioned centrally to carry out a study about how veterans can better access the support and how the clinical commissioning bodies—that's the bit of the National Health Service that actually buys the service in—can try to ensure that it's buying in the appropriate care at the appropriate level and that veterans are able to access it.

Notwithstanding our being a much smaller country than Canada, frequently the issue is being able to put the person with the need in contact with the people who can actually meet that need.

The Veterans' Gateway is obviously an automated system, but the whole regimental system for the army and RAF Benevolent Fund and the Royal Navy Benevolent Trust, along with some other specialized service charities, fill the rest of that void.

Noon

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

I'm sure it's similar for you. We're finding that veterans' groups, veterans helping veterans, are a very positive way to deliver services because they're so in touch and are aware of how to meet needs very effectively.

We have so many cropping up all over the place, and to determine how to use those services is almost.... Are you talking about within your network, having a directory of some kind of those who have been affirmed by the ministry that they can choose from, or are they told which services they're to go to?

Noon

Chair of Chairs, Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, Veterans UK

Paul Kingham

I wouldn't say they're told; they're guided. But part of the Veterans' Gateway is to give the veteran choice.

If the veteran goes onto the gateway obviously they can speak to an individual and they don't have to do it just on a computer screen. We look at the issues they're facing, and they can get a whole list of people who can potentially support them, so there is a bit of choice in that way.

Noon

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Pain and suffering compensation is an indicator to our veterans of how much we value what they've sacrificed for us. I notice in the U.K. you've doubled the maximum lump sum since 2008, and it's significantly higher than what we have in Canada.

What's the rationale behind that? Do you see that as a means of affirming them so their mental health, everything...? Is it a more positive statement to them?

12:05 p.m.

Chair of Chairs, Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees, Veterans UK

Paul Kingham

It was largely formed from the unfortunate horrific injuries that people were sustaining in the more recent conflicts. At the start of the scheme, which was very loosely based on the criminal injuries compensation scheme, that type of injury wasn't really catered to, so you could have the possibility of a veteran with three or more serious injuries being awarded compensation for only two of them.

Quite clearly when you look at a full compensation scheme, yes, those with a higher tariff have a guaranteed income for life, but to cater to their ongoing care and housing needs, particularly if they're not able to work at all, that's why the higher figure is required.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Okay, thank you.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Ms. Mathyssen, you have three minutes.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We've been talking about the mental health needs of veterans. It's very important. When a veteran serves, his or her whole family serves. I wonder what kinds of mental health supports are available for the families of veterans.

Since I have a very limited amount of time I'm going to throw a second question at you. Do you have supports in place for veterans struggling with military sexual trauma?

12:05 p.m.

Gp Capt Mark Heffron

I can answer about the families.

From the transition work we are going through at the moment, we are doing more for the families who are affected. I won't go through that again, because I don't want to waste your time. In terms of mental health, it's an area we wish to go into where the spouses and families are concerned.

I didn't hear your second piece with regard to sexual...?

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

What supports do you have in place for veterans suffering with military sexual trauma? Is it considered an operational stress injury, or a “related to service” type of injury?