The Welsh Conservatives are today leading a debate in the Senedd to highlight the need for action from the Welsh Government to support Welsh veterans. The debate coincides with centennial anniversaries of the battles of the Somme, Mametz Wood and the Battle of Jutland.
AMs will pay tribute to those who fought in these and other battles during the First World War, whilst highlighting the need for better support for Welsh veterans.
In particular, Welsh Conservatives will call for an Armed Forces Commissioner to support and represent the specific needs of veterans to Welsh Government.
The motion of the debate calls on the Welsh Government to provide greater support to Wales’ armed forces and veterans during the Fifth Assembly, including through:
- Establishing an Armed Forces & Veterans Commissioner, prioritising their specific needs;
- Introducing a Veterans Card Scheme to extend privileges to former service personnel;
- Increasing funding for the Veterans’ NHS Wales service, to enhance its capacity and improve its ability to help veterans in need;
- Improving data collection to establish the needs of veterans, identify the support needed by family and carers, inform commissioning and service provision, and highlight the engagement needed with people in the armed forces, serving and/or at transition into civilian life.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Shadow Secretary for Communities, Mark Isherwood, said:
"It is vital that we honour our brave and selfless servicemen and women across Wales, both past and present. However, we must also ensure that their service is recognised in the improved provision of services and outcomes for our armed forces community.
"There are around 220,000 veterans and 8,000 regular and reservist personnel living in Wales, and our proposals recognise the immense contribution that they make to Welsh society.
"Given these numbers it’s important to offer better support to settle veterans into civilian life, as too many struggle after they leave the structured environment of the armed forces."
Suggesting specific measures to improve provisions for veterans and armed forces personnel, he said:
"There are several specific and straightforward steps that the Welsh Government could take to better reflect the contribution made by our armed forces and ensure that they get the dedicated support, service priority and Wales-wide benefits they need and deserve.
"We want this government to address the chronic underfunding of the Veterans’ NHS Wales Service, to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner, and to introduce a Veterans’ Card Scheme.
"Under this proposal, support would be given to local authorities to provide free travel on registered local bus services for all residents who have previously served within the armed forces.
""While many veterans will already qualify for a free bus pass, Welsh Conservatives are committed to expanding this scheme to include the thousands of men and women who have served their country, yet currently remain ineligible.
"The Veterans Card will also provide ex armed forces personnel with a number of other benefits, including free entry to CADW sites and local authority swimming pools and prioritisation for NHS treatment and home adaption that is related to their service."