Exclusive: Labour says veterans 'at the heart' of future plans as new campaign launched

Watch: In exclusive interview, the shadow veterans minister sees former military 'at the heart' of Labour Party's future plans.

The Labour Party says it wants UK military veterans to be heard and sees them helping to shape the party's future plans.

Rachel Hopkins MP, shadow veterans minister, spoke to Forces News and said the party is launching a Veterans Voice listening campaign to hear military veterans' experiences first hand.

"We want to hear about their experience, we want to hear what barriers they may be facing and also what Labour can do," she said.

Ms Hopkins said while the Labour party has commitments to veterans already, they plan on helping veterans get better access to mental health support.

"What we want to try and tackle is the failings of the Government because it's going backwards.

"Wait times have gone back a week already compared to last year, so by putting the additional funds in that have been costed already, that will make sure, in the wider package, that people will be seen within a month."

The shadow veterans minister said "there's £1bn that's been found, costed for", by Rosena Allin-Khan, the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health.

Watch: Improving military accommodation must be ministers' priority, Labour says.

Of this money, she said £35m will be committed specifically to helping veterans.

"Partly, by having the better services and the guarantee to be seen within a month, that will be for veterans as well," she said.

"We initially found £35m, but actually we know with more improvements to the general service of mental health through this initial funding, more workforce so people can be seen more quickly, hubs up and down the country, people will be seen more quickly."

The current Government set up Operation Courage, an NHS mental health service designed to help serving personnel due to leave the military, and it puts £17m a year into the scheme.

So what is different about Labour's pledges of support, funding and help?

It is about "actual delivery", Ms Hopkins said. 

"So, for example, through the Office for Veterans Affairs, Johnny Mercer saying he wants to deliver Veterans ID Cards by the end of the year," she added.

"Well, let's see if that happens because, quite frankly, it is about delivery.

"We want to make sure that veterans are at the heart of our programme going forward so that some of those day-to-day issues are also tackled that are happening to citizens and veterans... whether it comes to housing, whether it comes to access to services, whether it comes to support when leaving the Army.

She went on: "We want to see some of the commitments that have been made really rolled out and pushed out."

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