The military mental health charity Combat Stress has denied that its decision to close its welfare service will result in a significant increase in workloads for its nurses and therapists.
Last month, the charity announced that it would close its welfare service, citing a 71 per cent increase in referrals over the past five years as evidence of an increase in demand on the charity, putting 16 jobs at risk.
Combat Stress said that because its welfare services were replicated in other charities, such as the Royal British Legion, it would focus its attention on its mental health services, which it said were not replicated in other charities.
The charity, which consulted on the proposals throughout August, said the changes would be in place by 31 March at the latest.
But the proposals have been criticised, with one service user, who asked not to be named, telling Third Sector that the decision "was a foregone conclusion" and criticising the charity for what the service user said was poor management of the consultation process.
The service user also said the psychiatric nurses and occupational therapists working with the charity would experience increased workloads as a result of the closure of the welfare service.
The charity has 15 community teams, made up of occupational therapists and community psychiatric nurses, which Combat Stress said would continue to be based in Royal British Legion and PoppyScotland pop-in centres.
Peter Poole, chief of staff at Combat Stress, said: "The workload of our 15 community teams should not increase because we will now be working even more closely with other charities and organisations that specialise in welfare support to ensure veterans can get the help they need."
The charity’s decision means that 16 jobs – 14 of which are currently filled – could be affected, but Poole said the charity was in the process of drawing up detailed plans for the service’s closure and was therefore "not yet in a position to discuss the impact on welfare staff".
Poole said: "The consultation period took place during the whole month of August. As part of this consultation we wrote to every veteran in the UK who was in regular contact with a welfare officer and offered them face-to-face meetings with our regional operations managers, as well as contact details so veterans could phone or email to give their feedback. We appreciate all the feedback provided to us by employees, veterans and external stakeholders.
"I would like to reassure veterans that Combat Stress will continue to provide mental health treatment, and we are committed to supporting every veteran who seeks our help now and in the future."