Hunger strike Gus Hales CREDIT Facebook - Deep in my mind where nobody goes
Veterans

Minister Apologises To Hunger Strike Falklands Veteran

Tobias Ellwood also announced new measure to help prevent veterans becoming suicidal and homeless.

Hunger strike Gus Hales CREDIT Facebook - Deep in my mind where nobody goes

Gus Hales did not eat for two weeks in protest at the way Combat Stress discharged him (Picture: 'Deep in my mind where nobody goes'/Facebook).

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has apologised to a Falklands War veteran after he went on hunger strike to protest his treatment by a military mental health charity.  

In the run-up to Remembrance Day this year, Gus Hales did not eat for two weeks in protest at the way Combat Stress had discharged him in 2015.

While serving in the 9th Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers, he witnessed the Argentine bombing of RFA Sir Galahad and he was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

RFA Sir Galahad before it sailed to the Falklands.
Supply ship RFA Sir Galahad before it sailed to the Falklands.

For a while, he received treatment from Combat Stress, but one day a charity welfare officer turned up on his doorstep and he was discharged.

Mr Hales later requested a discharge report but did not receive one.

Combat Stress has issued a statement saying it "unreservedly apologised" to Mr Hales and Mr Ellwood told the Commons that the charity had “got it wrong” in its treatment of the veteran.

Mr Hales’s MP, Chris Davies, described to colleagues how he had been dealing with his case over a three-year period:

"Just before Armistice Day I was sitting in Newport, which is a two-hour drive from my constituency, on a grass verge sitting outside Combat Stress where he has a conflict and an issue with, in a most undignified manner because there I was sitting next to a gentleman who has served this country and was on hunger strike because of complaints he had held.

"They were very justified complaints," he added.

Mr Ellwood intervened, saying: “Combat Stress does an amazing job.

"But in providing support for our armed forces, occasionally people fall through the gaps and we must make sure that doesn't happen.”

Mr Ellwood also announced a new initiative to stop veterans from becoming homeless and suicidal.

Mr Ellwood
Mr Ellwood said that "occasionally people fall through the gaps".

Going forward there will be a statutory requirement for commanding officers to refer vulnerable individuals to councils for housing.

"This is so important," he said.

"It means we should not see people who might become homeless leaving the Armed Forces with nowhere to go because their plight will be flagged up."

He added: "We have set up a new suicide prevention working group to urgently look at the cases of such distress in serving personnel.

"It will look at how to address the issues affecting those in such distress now and how to prevent others feeling the same way.

"It will look at the triggers in service to ensure all future veterans have the resilience they need while serving and after they leave."

Homeless.JPG
The Minister hopes Commanding Officers' new duty to refer vulnerable individuals to councils will reduce homelessness among veterans.

The Minister also warned against military service being blamed as the sole cause of suicide, saying there were usually complex underlying issues.

He said: "Suicide is the most tragic symptom usually of many other issues such as mental health or family breakdown, debt, unemployment or a myriad of other problems.

"It's inaccurate, disrespectful and trivialising to link suicide solely to military service.

"But I do say that in some cases military service plays a role and we need to better understand the causes so we can try to prevent further suicides in future."