Speech delivered by Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans at the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre, Colchester Garrison on Friday 11 February 2011.
Thank you Tom [Colonel Fleetwood, Commander Colchester Garrison] for those kind words of welcome, and for hosting me here today.
Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.
It is one year to the day since the launch of the Army Recovery Capability initiative - the ARC.
This joint venture - between the MoD, Help for Heroes, and the Royal British Legion - will take the way we treat our wounded, injured and sick personnel to a new level.
Twelve months on, and we have made real progress, which is why I am delighted to be able to ‘cut the turf’ at the first purpose-built Personnel Recovery Centre here at Colchester.
I’m glad to see that so many of you from the local community could come and see this progress for yourselves, and learn about our future plans for the ARC.
It’s your chance to speak to some of the Service personnel who have benefitted from the enhancements and facilities that the ARC has to offer, and the personnel employed to support them; I encourage you to do so.
I’m also delighted to be sharing the platform with the Adjutant General, General Mans, who is making sure that the Army delivers its part of the bargain to make the ARC a success.
He will explain why the ARC is so important and how it works in a little more detail shortly.
And it’s right and proper that Bryn Parry from Help for Heroes and Chris Simpkins from the Royal British Legion are here today too.
Today’s event would not have been possible without them.
The dedication and financial generosity of both charities, combined with the long-term commitment they have made to this initiative, is remarkable.
It is RBL’s biggest single financial commitment in nearly 90 years, and Help for Heroes - which was only launched in 2007 - have also generated huge support and funding.
We are extremely grateful for all that they do, and it’s part of our broader commitment to a long-term partnership with the Service charities.
I said at the outset that the Army Recovery Capability takes the way we treat our wounded, injured and sick personnel to a new level.
Let me explain why.
The ARC ensures that that those who need it receive the right level of welfare support and access to key services to allow a successful return to duty; or to make the smoothest transition to an appropriately skilled and supported life outside the Service.
I’ve mentioned the contribution of our charitable partners, but it is also a multi-million pound commitment by the Ministry of Defence.
The MoD has committed £35M over four years to ensure the success of this project, and we will be providing the personnel needed to staff the Personnel Recovery Centres - like the one to be built here in Colchester.
Experience shows that injured personnel find a military environment conducive to the best possible recovery, and the strength of Colchester’s connection with our Armed Forces - historically and today - made it a logical choice to be one of the four centres.
In addition to the centres, a key component of the ARC is the Royal British Legion Battle Back Centre.
Battle Back is a Tri-Service initiative which aims to improve and formalise the use of adventurous training and adaptive sport in the aftercare of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel in order to aid their rehabilitation and return to an active life.
We already know how much this type of activity can benefit an individual’s recovery, both physically and psychologically.
Because the focus is on what an individual can do, not what they can’t.
RBL will establish a Battle Back Centre by the summer which will integrate all Battle Back activity on behalf of Defence.
It will be available to all personnel undergoing recovery from all three services, including mobilised reservists.
But as important as the ARC is, it’s just one essential part of the support available to wounded, injured and sick personnel.
Our involvement in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in an increasing number of wounded personnel, some of whom are suffering devastating injuries.
Thanks to the incredible professionalism and capabilities of the medical support - both in theatre and here at home - our personnel are now surviving those devastating injuries that once would have been life-threatening.
The medical care and rehabilitation facilities that are available to our Service personnel are second to none.
We will ensure that this remains the case.
One way in which we are achieving this is by implementing a Transition Protocol between the MoD, the Department of Health, and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to ensure a seamless transition from military to civilian life for wounded, injured, and sick Service personnel with ongoing health and/or social needs.
This protocol was agreed by all stakeholders in September 2010, and is currently being trialled.
This trial period ends in March, and will then become Tri-Service policy, and firm policy for the other Departments involved.
And of course, help from charities like RBL and Help for Heroes extends beyond funding the Recovery Centres.
For instance, Help for Heroes also provide funding in direct support of Individual Recovery Plans, which are tailored to meet the needs of recovering personnel.
I’m sure we’ll here more from Bryn about that shortly.
And all these initiatives - the ARC; first-class medical and clinical care; the implementation of the Transition Protocol - are part of our commitment to an Armed Forces Covenant, which will soon set out the moral obligation that this nation has to those who volunteer to defend it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we owe it to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces to make sure they are fit for life - both physically and mentally.
Even in the difficult financial position we find ourselves in, that is what this Government is doing.
The ARC embodies that effort, and today we mark a major milestone in our progress.
I’m grateful for the hard work and dedication of all those involved, and I know you will make the ARC a huge success.
With that, I’ll hand over to General Mans.