Help for Heroes criticised by The Times for allegedly spending millions on unused beds

The Ministry of Defence, which helps the charity to run its personnel recovery centres, says bed-space capacity is not an appropriate measure of occupancy or recovery success

The Times article today
The Times article today

The military charity Help for Heroes has been the subject of prominent criticism in The Times today, when the newspaper claimed millions had been spent on empty beds at its personnel recovery centres, run in partnership with the Ministry of Defence.

The Times said the project, which has developed five personnel recovery centres since 2010, had spent millions more than planned without considering whether it was really needed.

The article ran across the front page and three further pages inside the paper and said an internal MoD review and interviews with senior staff "paint a picture of an ambitious project where costs grew and decisions to spend charity and tax money were made without sufficient analysis of what was needed".

Costs for the project, it claimed, had risen from £70m over four years to £350m over 10 years as plans for the project expanded.

It added that, on average, only half of the bedrooms at the two largest facilities were used by serving personnel between August 2013 and January this year.

But it acknowledged that the figures for the centres did not include veterans and their families, who are also entitled to use the facilities.

A spokeswoman for Help for Heroes said it would be putting out a rebuttal to the article, but this was not available before publication of this story.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: "The defence recovery centres offer a range of recovery courses and facilities to meet the individual needs of wounded, injured or sick personnel.

"Not everyone who benefits stays overnight, so occupancy rates are not a true reflection of usage or success. Courses run at the centres are very well attended and we continually look at recovery provision to ensure it provides the most appropriate services.

"Bed-space capacity is not an appropriate measure of occupancy or recovery success; what is important is appropriate recovery outcomes, not bed-use statistics. There are also day visitors who benefit, and recovery extends beyond the buildings themselves."

She added: "The requirement for the [recovery centres] was identified in response to a growing need to look after our people differently.

"The need for this capability, including personnel recovery centres, was established by the MoD and was developed at some speed in partnership with Help for Heroes and junior project partner the Royal British Legion.

"We believe what we have delivered is a significant achievement in an incredibly short period of time, which meets an enduring need and provides infinitely better support than was available previously."

The Royal British Legion confirmed in its comments to The Times that it had expressed "concerns in the early stages of the project about the scale of the provision... and how the need had been established" and that it had begun its own review.

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