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Veterans’ charity with Shropshire base stops taking new referrals due to funding crisis

By Mat Growcott | Newport | News | Published: | Last Updated:

New cases will no longer be accepted by a mental health charity for military veterans in England and Wales due to a funding crisis.

Veterans who marched against changes at Combat Stress

Combat Stress, which has a base in Newport, said its income had fallen from £16 million to £10 million in this financial year partly due to a cut in its NHS funding support, and said the decision to turn down new cases had been taken "with great sadness".

The charity recieves about 2,000 referrals for treatment each year, and said until 2018 it got more than £3 million a year from NHS England, but that now 90 per cent of its funding comes from public donations.

Combat Stress still gets more than £1 million from NHS Scotland and will continue to take on new cases there and in Northern Ireland.

It will now send all new referrals from England and Wales to the NHS, which Combat Stress said "needs to demonstrate" it can deal with the increased demands.

Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: "I don't believe the NHS can pick this up. That is why we exist."

Ms Freeth said that 80 per cent of veterans who come to the charity have either used the NHS and have not had their needs met, or have felt unable to use NHS services.

Veterans' minister Johnny Mercer said he will hold an "urgent meeting" over Combat Stress's problems.

Several organisations and charities have warned of a rise in the number of veterans taking their own lives.

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Veterans who had used the services at Combat Stress, Audley Court, in Newport, marched through the streets in protest when residential treatment at the base was cancelled.

In the years since, veterans have tried to run their own respite centre, but have struggled to find a home after being told they would not be able to access unused space at Audley Court.

The Veterans' Respite Centre charity was forced to put out a final call for help earlier this month, asking anybody who has land to reach out.

The grounds need to be big enough for six 40ft containers to be housed, and would act as a home for veterans who need respite services.

If the respite centre charity is forced to close, bosses said they would run a poll asking which other charity its funds should be given to.

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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