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TORY Veterans’ Minister Tobias Ellwood MP was confronted today with a dossier of failures about Britain’s leading charity for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Campaigner Gus Hales, 62, travelled to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) headquarters in London for a crunch meeting with Mr Ellwood about the controversial charity Combat Stress.
Mr Hales, who is the son of a Nuneaton coalminer, has compiled a litany of failings by Combat Stress since he was discharged by the charity without reason.
After launching a hunger strike last year, Mr Hales set up a permanent protest camp outside a Combat Stress treatment centre in Shropshire.
The protest caused alarm at the MoD, which outsources veteran care to charities like Combat Stress.
Mr Ellwood, himself an armed forces veteran, offered to meet Mr Hales in a last-ditch attempt to defuse the situation.
Mr Hales has spent weeks compiling complaints against Combat Stress from armed forces veterans across Britain.
He handed the minister scores of complaints today and plans to submit more at monthly intervals to pile on the pressure.
“We gave the minister 20 complaints,” Mr Hales told the Morning Star. “We will try to present 20 a month going forward. That way it keeps the issue alive and means we are not going away.”
Mr Hales said the meeting was a “constructive dialogue” and that “progress was made.”
He commented: “I do believe the minister is concerned, but he needs to be a bit more proactive and get out there and meet more veterans.
“The minister said he would release a document which we will wait to analyse.”
The meeting lasted for over an hour and Mr Hales said: “Let’s keep the pressure on.”
Fellow veterans joined Mr Hales outside the Defence Ministry.
Some were enlisted at just 16 years old and described the difficulties they now face in accessing disability support and universal credit.
They also highlighted the crisis of ex-soldiers in prison and sleeping rough on the streets.
Combat Stress head Sue Freeth said: “Our primary concern has always been for Mr Hales’ health and wellbeing. We committed to and have resolved the personal issues he raised with us.”
She said that the charity has resumed treating veterans at its Audley Court centre this week after temporarily relocating services in November due to the ongoing protest outside the centre.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said: “I was pleased to meet with Gus today to hear his concerns about the shortfall in support that he rightly deserves.
“I am committed to work with him and other veterans to ensure former service personnel get the support they need.
“We have agreed to meet again in the near future in order to examine how best to advance support for veterans but I would urge any veteran that has experienced similar problems to Gus to please make contact with Combat Stress so that they can be identified as part of their review.”
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