UK charities struggle to cope with wounded soldiers

The Army is putting too much pressure on charities by expecting them to care for 5,000 wounded troops, according to Tony Banks, an ex-paratrooper and campaigner for services charity Combat Stress.

"Until now, troops wounded in Afghanistan but medically unfit for service have been given desk jobs or light duties," said Mr Banks, who served with 2 Para in the Falklands.

The MoD briefing paper leaked yesterday says that 5% of the Army's strength is no longer fit for combat. Inevitably, as the war in Afghanistan continues that figure will increase but the Army has a responsibility for care for those men.

The MoD seems to be preparing itself for a media storm surrounding any attempt to discharge wounded servicemen.

Difficult decisions will inevitably need to be made about individuals who already have a significant media profile. These will require careful handling, writes Belinda Vern, a senior civil servant at UK Land Forces headquarters.

"Many of these men will also be suffered from mental scars that have not had time to surface yet. On average it takes ex-servicemen 14 years before they approach Combat Stress for help. How do we know that charities will have enough money to care for these troops long term?"  said Mr Banks, who is also MD of Balhousie Care Group.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the ex-head of the Army, had promised that soldiers disabled in combat would stay with their units.

Mr Banks is currently working with the board of the Enemy Within appeal, which hopes to raise million for Combat Stress.  

Established in 1919, Combat Stress is the UK's leading military charity specialising in the care of Veterans' mental health. Many of the conditions we treat are chronic and long term in nature.

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, told ICN: "This statement highlights what for the most part is a hidden cost of warfare, one that is rarely acknowledged, the physical and psychological toll on the service men and women.  This is not just a cost of the moment... for many the consequences may be life-long and may also have a dramatic impact on  family life and so the on-costs to society will be great.  Those who make decisions about taking us war have a responsibility for  these decisions and the lives, both here and in Afghanistan and Iraq, that have been ruined by the wars.  

"The 5,000 wounded troups mentioned in the statement are a reminder that we do not have 'winners' in war and that there is no glory in war.  War brings only losses.. loss of life, loss of hope, loss of future the words of Pope John Paul II war is a failure of humanity."

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