Memorandum submitted by St Dunstan's (28 September 2001)
Thank you for providing St Dunstan's with the opportunity to submit a memorandum to the Defence Committee on the proposals for changes to compensation arrangements and to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. Our detailed thoughts and comments on these important topics have been incorporated within the agreed submission from COBSEO to the Minister for Veterans Affairs which we assume have also been provided to the Defence Committee for their appraisal (they represent the combined comments from the majority of the ex-Service Organisations).
Our main concern about the present proposals is one of approach. The Defence Committee more than any other body will be aware of the need to attract and retain the right calibre and number of young men and women required to sustain the excellence of the Armed Forces whose reputation is rightly held in such high regard. One of the cornerstones of sustaining this requirement must be the existence of fair, attractive and transparent terms and conditions of service that includes pension and an injury compensation scheme. The two proposals fall short of meeting this requirement.
Pension Scheme. The award appears to compare poorly with other public sector employees and does not appear to tackle the pensions trough, a major complaint of the existing scheme.
Compensation Scheme. To attempt to equate an injury suffered by a member of the public unfortunate enough to be the victim of a criminal act with an injury to service personnel who voluntarily agree to put their life at risk in the service of their country is wrong. To relate compensation to a scale of injury rather than the nature of risk we are prepared to pay for someone to take on our behalf sends entirely the wrong message and can only be driven by the "at no cost" implications. The failure to compare like with like is further compounded by the poor regard with which the criminal injuries scheme itself is held by the public at large and by the frequency of criticism for the scheme that is evident in the media. The effect on potential recruits and serving personnel will be to create a feeling of being undervalued, worthless, the traditional "do the bare minimum" to satisfy statute, rather than one of recognition, and proud contribution.
A compensation scheme may be an appropriate vehicle in certain circumstances and it may have an instant appeal but there is a danger that it will be seen as short termism, particularly by professional agencies who traditionally feel they pick up the pieces of the services' discharge and forget conduct. A disability or war pension supported by an efficient welfare service provides a much clearer and more efficient means of providing lifetime care after injury and leaving the services.