Written evidence submitted by Tom Harrison House to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

Tom Harrison House (THH) provides a specialist addiction recovery programme for UK Armed Forces veterans. Its bespoke 12-week residential programme is designed specifically for those who have served and who may struggle to engage with mainstream, civilian rehabilitation services. THH engages with over one hundred veterans every year, half of whom go on to undertake our intensive residential programme. As such, we are very well placed to provide evidence on the provisions of the Armed Forces Bill, in particular the focus on healthcare within the Armed Forces Covenant.

A long-standing concern for the staff and beneficiaries at THH is the sheer lack of provision for veterans when it comes to addiction treatment. Our admissions coordinator, Glyn Owen, spends most of his working hours chasing potential funding sources to expedite successful placements. However, most referrals fall at this first ‘funding’ hurdle. It is a sad occasion indeed to see a decorated soldier with numerous tours under his belt denied the opportunity to get his life back together because of a lack of funding available for treatment. Unfortunately, this happens far too often.    

THH’s addiction recovery programme has always also been open to still-serving personnel, because the benefits of helping a service person overcome an addiction issue and return to active duty is a key aspiration of our service. Unfortunately, despite several tentative enquiries over the past six years, we have not been able to realise our ambition of working with the Armed Forces / MoD to facilitate such placements. However, we are more than willing to play whatever role we can to develop this recovery pathway.

Many of our beneficiaries have got to know our local MP, Rt Hon Dan Carden, who has visited our service on numerous occasions, and they are very grateful that he has become such a strong advocate and has raised several of their concerns in parliament. Two of our recent programme graduates want to add their concerns within this submission, and their input follows.

Warren Doyle, who completed treatment at Tom Harrison House in September 2020, wants to understand what he sees as a contradiction in Armed Forces policy. Warren has a recorded history of alcohol dependence during and after his 24 years of service and is in current receipt of a War Pension, which he was awarded on the grounds of lasting physical damage to his knee and back. Warren is adamant that his alcohol dependence played a significant role in his physical, emotional and mental deterioration during and after his service, however, as stated in his war pension documents, “The use of alcohol is not accepted by the Secretary of State as being a service-related activity, the drinking of alcohol is a personal choice which is participated of within a person’s personal sphere.” 

Warren has two concerns.

Our second beneficiary wishes to remain anonymous, primarily because he signed a non-disclosure agreement when he was discharged from the armed forces. However, he feels very strongly about how he was dealt with and wants to briefly share his experience.

Again, this beneficiary has a recorded history of alcohol dependence, and was subject to numerous alcohol bans, as well as some brief mental health interventions, throughout his service which included numerous overseas tours in conflict zones. Despite being very proficient and effective when sober, his physical, emotional, and mental deterioration due to his worsening alcohol dependence proved too debilitating and unsafe, so he was forced to end his career. His main concern is that during his discharge process he was clearly under the influence of alcohol and was seriously impaired by his alcohol dependence, which he stated. However, he was encouraged to sign his releases, take his discharge payment, and accept that his ‘services were no longer required’. He was subsequently hospitalised on numerous occasions as he spent all his discharge payment fuelling his alcohol dependence in the ensuing months.

22 March 2021

Written evidence submitted to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill