This week, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Veterans and Defence People, Rachel Hopkins MP, visited veterans organisations, Veterans in Crisis and Forward Assist, to hear more about their work supporting veterans and their families in the North East.
The visits are part of Rachel’s aim to visit veteran organisations across the country to find out more about what best practice exists and how a Labour Government could provide support for organisations to improve their impact. The North East has a large veteran community with around 53,000 working-age veterans living in the region.
Rachel visited Sunderland-based Veterans in Crisis to see how the support, training and counselling services help veterans adjust to civilian life. Veterans in Crisis work in partnership with providers to offer training to help veterans into employment, from building and construction to first aid and fire safety. Founder and Chief Executive, Ger Fowler, told Rachel how Veterans in Crisis provide local veterans in Sunderland quick support to take them out of crisis.
Visiting Forward Assist allowed Rachel to see first-hand the variety of support and guidance they provide to veterans, as well as specialist support for those who suffered in-service sexual assault. Founder and Chief Executive, Tony Wright, gave Rachel a tour of their HQ and introduced Rachel to their Women Veterans Lead and Veterans Family First Worker. In June, Forward Assist reported that they have seen an increase in referrals from ex-military personnel since the beginning of the war in Ukraine with symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rachel was joined on both visits by Sharon Hodgson MP, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Keir Starmer MP, and Councillor Andy Newman, North Tyneside Councillor and Labour Friends of the Forces, joined the visit to Forward Assist.
Rachel Hopkins MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans and Defence People, said about the visits:
“It was great to meet the Veterans in Crisis and Forward Assist teams. Adjusting to civilian life can be difficult for some veterans, but the excellent support services these organisations offer are crucial to making that process easier for them and their families.
The failures of the Conservative Government are making the situation worse. Too many veterans rely on Universal Credit during a cost of living crisis, and mental health funding remains shockingly low. Veterans and their families deserve far better.
The Labour Party is incredibly proud of the veteran community’s contribution to our country and would immediately increase veteran mental health funding by £35 million. We are committed to ensuring Britain is the best country to be a veteran.”