Combat Stress ponders closure of welfare service

The ex-forces charity says it completed an internal consultation after demand for its services rose; 14 full-time posts and two vacant roles were under review

Combat Stress, the charity for ex-forces personnel with mental health issues, is considering closing its welfare service, putting 16 jobs at risk.

A statement from Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said that having experienced increases in demand for its services, the charity completed an internal consultation on 23 August about the future of the welfare service.

Freeth said referrals to Combat Stress for clinical treatment increased by 28 per cent in 2014/15 and another 6 per cent in 2015/16, which made a rethink about the services the charity provides necessary.

According to the Charity Commission website, Combat Stress had an income of almost £15m in the year to 31 March 2015, but spent approximately £17m in the same year.

A spokeswoman for the charity said 14 full-time posts and two vacant roles were under review in the consultation, although no decisions on staff redundancies would be made until after a trustee board meeting next month.

The charity employs 282 people, according to figures on the Charity Commission website.

Freeth’s statement said the pressures on the charity had led to it prioritising its specialist mental health treatment services, which she said were unavailable anywhere else, above work that was replicated in other charities.

"As many organisations – such as the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and other local veteran charities – also provide welfare support to veterans, a key part of the consultation considers whether we should make more effective use of existing services by working with these organisations so that they can better understand the challenges facing veterans with mental illnesses," she said.

"This option could avoid duplication of services and make best use of the limited resources we all have available. "

Freeth said transitional arrangements would be put in place if the welfare service was closed.

"Following the completion of the consultation process, if there are any changes to how welfare support is delivered, our community psychiatric nurses and occupational therapists would provide transitional arrangements so veterans can access support from the most suitable local organisations," she said.

"Veterans will continue to be supported by our community teams and will have access to our free 24-hour helpline."

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