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Bill-032 - Janet Finch-Saunders AM - Armed Forces Bill

Pre-ballot Information

A Member must provide ‘pre-ballot information’ to set out the intended purpose of their proposed Bill before it is entered into the Presiding Officer's ballot. This information is set out below.

Policy Objectives of the Bill

People who have sacrificed so much for their country deserve recognition and support. The Armed Forces Bill will help forces personnel to play a full role in society, and give them the opportunity they need to socialise and make the most of travel, heritage and leisure facilities. It will recognise their service and bravery and will serve as recognition from wider civil society in Wales for all that they do on our behalf.

Most servicemen and women are exposed to stresses that most people are not exposed to in their lives. This level of stress can have a negative impact on the rest of their lives. The rates of post traumatic stress disorder among veterans who have seen active service can be as high as 4%. Furthermore, around 13% of veterans suffer alcohol problems (Combat Stress, 2011). In addition, many veterans are reluctant to ask for help because they are reluctant to admit their vulnerability.

Simple measures can be taken to raise awareness of people in the armed forces and to make their time in civilian life easier. The Bill will award all serving and former Armed Forces personnel with a personalised card entitling them to a range of benefits, for example:

  • Free bus travel, this is only currently available to veterans who have been seriously injured in combat (BBC News, 7 February 2011, 23 June 2010).

  • Free entry to council swimming pools and Cadw sites.

Furthermore, the existence of such a card will raise awareness of the availability of NHS priority care for service related conditions. Awareness campaigns covering post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems associated with serving in the armed forces will be tied in with the introduction of the armed forces card.

Support received

Many people in the armed forces suffer interlinked mental and social problems as a result of their time served. Neil Kitchiner from the Cardiff and Vale Community Veterans Mental Health Service has claimed that just over half of the 200 patients seen by the project had “a primary diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder with co-morbid problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, or problems with alcohol or drugs, and lots of social problems in relation to housing, relationships, unemployment and so on.” (Evidence to the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee, 29th September 2010)

In relation to NHS priority treatment It is very well documented that ‘amongst both veterans and GPs awareness is low’ (Royal British Legion Assembly Manifesto 2011). A survey by the Royal British Legion has suggested that up to 81 per cent of GPs know nothing or little about veterans’ right to priority care, and that upwards of 90 per cent of veterans are not asked by their GPs if they have a service history (Sunday Times, 24th January 2010).  Of those veterans referred on by their GP, 59 per cent say they are not seen any quicker than other patients (BBC News Online, 22nd September 2010).

Consultation

The policies contained within the Bill were outlined in the Welsh Conservative Manifesto 2011.

During the manifesto process evidence was received from The Royal British Legion Manifesto for Wales 2011 regarding NHS priority treatment that ‘the majority of eligible veterans are not receiving priority treatment. Amongst both veterans and GPs awareness is low’.

Furthermore, evidence has been given to the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee on the 29th September 2010 regarding the problems of stress and social difficulties those in the armed forces can face.

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