WHITEHALL needs to bolster mental health care support for the nation’s military personnel, the Bishop of Portsmouth has tonight told ministers.
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster told the House of Lords that mental health provision for the military was often ‘less than adequate’ – especially for reservists, who are more scattered and less visible.
He also raised concerns about accommodation for military families, condemning the state some people were forced to endure.
Introducing a parliamentary debate about the impact of the Armed Forces Covenant, the bishop said: ‘There have been undoubted improvements in surgical care and rehabilitation for physical injuries, but mental health care provision lags behind.
‘It depends on an NHS which has been chronically underfunded in this area.
‘Despite the Prime Minister’s welcome announcement today, mental health provision is strained at best, and provision for military personnel is often less than adequate.’
He praised the fact that those on the lowest incomes in the forces had seen wage increases, despite the public sector pay freeze.
He also praised the fact that advances in healthcare at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan had been mirrored by specialist centres in the UK.
But he said: ‘Mental health problems are known to put a strain on relationships: and it sadly remains the case that the divorce rate among military families is double that of the civilian world.’
The bishop highlighted the way that Service Pupil Premium Payments had enabled schools to fund projects to support the children of military families.
One example was the Crofton Cabin in Crofton Hammond Infant School, which was built with a £20,000 grant from the covenant.
It now provides a space for children to Skype their parents while they are overseas, and specialist counselling to help with the stress of deployments.