Prince Harry has ruled out becoming involved in the fight to retain a residential centre for service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder despite a direct appeal by campaigners.
Last month the Examiner reported on the case of Colin Rudkin, a former soldier in the Royal Green Jackets, who received counselling, therapy and nursing from the charity Combat Stress for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by bad memories, flashbacks and nightmares stemming from multiple tours of Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s.
Colin, 68, from Shepley, is one of hundreds of former service personnel involved in a campaign to stop cutbacks to the charity’s residential centre Audley Court in Newport, Shropshire.
He, along with fellow former squaddies, says it is more vital than ever before to understand the cause and effect of PTSD. Veterans are seeking to overturn plans to downgrade Audley Court’s residential unit in favour of outpatient care. Around 30 staff, including carers, nurses, clinicians and therapists, are among those at risk of redundancy.
Colin’s wife Linda, 64, wrote to HRH Prince Harry on October 20 with a heartfelt plea for him to back fellow veterans’ calls to keep Audley Court open.
On November 3 she received a personal response from Claudia Spens, head of general correspondence at Kensington Palace. It read: “Your reasons for writing as you did are appreciated and His Royal Highness is grateful to you for taking the trouble to let him know of your views and your concerns regarding the closure of the Audley Court Treatment Centre.
“However, while Prince Harry does understand the strength of your feelings about this issue, I regret that he is unable to become personally involved in the way that you ask.”
Campaigners are now mulling over their next move. They are considering taking their fight direct to Prince Charles who as patron of Combat Stress took over from HM the Queen Mother.
Linda expressed her frustration at Prince Harry’s response.
“I am disappointed in the whole lot,” she said. “Whichever way we turn we seem to be hitting a brick wall but we are not giving up.”
Veterans have also received the support of Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who called Audley Court “a lifeline”, as well as Birstall and Birkenshaw councillor Andrew Palfreeman who, as Mayor of Kirklees in 2010/2011 chose Combat Stress as his civic charity during his year in office.
Clr Palfreeman visited Audley Court and spoke to some of the residents at the time. He recalled how residential stays were only brief but that they enabled experts to give intensive treatment to veterans which they appreciated and which formed the foundations for continuing community care.
He directed criticism of the closure plans not at the royal family but at the current government and those that preceded it.
“I know that Combat Stress has reviewed its longer term strategy for the next five years but, if this involves ending short term residential care, they should think again,” he said.
“Since I first became aware of the work of Combat Stress I have argued that the real problem is caused by successive governments.
“The success of charities such as Combat Stress, the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, SSAFA etc., gives the authorities an ideal excuse to ignore their responsibilities. Those who serve their country deserve to be supported by their country. Finance should not be a problem. Let the experts from the charities deliver the care but fund it out of the public purse.
“Doesn’t the financial support from the public prove that veterans have their support?”