BBC Breakfast host furiously blasted by Tory MP over Covid impact on veterans ‘Not true!’

BBC Breakfast host furiously blasted by Tory MP over Covid impact on veterans ‘Not true!’

10/10/2020

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Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer joined Rachel Burden and Charlie Stayt on BBC Breakfast today to discuss World Mental Health Day and the support available to UK war veterans. However, the interview became heated when Burden suggested the Conservative Government was partly to blame for any lack of mental health support. 

BBC’s Burden introduced: “You are concerned particularly about veterans and the way they’ve been impacted by the pandemic.”

Mercer began: “It’s been a really difficult time for a lot of people and the characteristics of isolation are not helpful for veterans who have left and who are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life. 

“What we’ve done is work really hard to set up some clear pathways to make sure people who have left who need to access mental health treatment can. 

“The key is now getting the message out there about them and encouraging people to come forward.”

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Burden said: “Well there are charities that do brilliant work like Help for Heroes like Combat Stress but both those charities have seen a drop in funding.

“In part because NHS funding is under great pressure which is a result of your Government’s policies.”

Hitting back, Mercer said: “Well that’s not strictly true. I think the commitments to Help for Heroes and the money going into the sector have only increased.

“I think there is definitely a change going on in the sector where you’ve seen a shift getting underway now as charities have seen their funding constricted and the ability to raise funding constricted.”

“We’ve had to sort of change the way we do things,” he continued. 

“I’ve said for a long time this country as a state needs to step up and see through to its responsibilities towards those who serve.

“We’ve set up three really clear programmes, the TILs programme, the Complex Treatment Service and the High Intensity Service which comes online later this year.

“And charities do bid in and are indeed running elements of that.”

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“We’re all working together to meet this challenge, it is a challenge,” he added.

“But I’m determined this will be the best country to be a veteran and we will have world-class mental health care for all veterans.”

Burden said: “Well that is quite a challenge. Just to give you an idea of the figures, Combat Stress say their income has fallen from £16 million to £10 million.

“They say that’s in part due to cuts in NHS funding support but even if you look at a report by the House of Commons Defence Committee last year.”

“They say that UK military personnel and their families were being ‘completely failed’, they were the words they used, when they need mental health care,” she continued. 

“In part because they say because such a tiny proportion of the NHS budget is spent on mental health services specifically for veterans.”

Mercer responded: “So personally on the House of Commons report that was released over a year ago before we set up OVA.

“That’s exactly what the Office for Veterans Affairs is trying to do. Bring those things together and make sure there are adequate resources going into this sector.”

BBC Breakfast airs daily on BBC One at 6am. 

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