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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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International recognition for UK veterans' charity

Veterans Aid

3 min read Partner content

Military veterans from more than 60 countries pledged their commitment to respecting peace and security, diversity and the wellbeing of the ex-service community when they met for the 2023 World Veterans Congress in Belgrade. The March Congress incorporated the 30th World Veterans Federation General Assembly and was facilitated with the co-operation of SUBNOR of Serbia.

In line with its sharper focus, on Health & Wellbeing, the WVF singled out an organisation that was in the vanguard of successful delivery in this area with the presentation of a special Rehabilitation Award. It went to frontline UK charity, Veterans Aid, and was accepted, on behalf of the charity, by CEO Dr Hugh Milroy. Attending for the first time in his capacity as a WVF Vice-President and Chair of its Standing Committee on European Affairs (SCEA) Dr Milroy said:

Hugh Milroy receiving award"It was an honour to receive this award, not for myself, but as acknowledgment of all that the VA team has achieved over the years. We operated throughout the pandemic and, through the exercise of our unique Welfare to Wellbeing© model, have an unparalleled success rate in turning around the lives of veterans in crisis. Receiving this global affirmation of our tried and tested prevention model from our peers was a significant moment in our 90-year history. I feel so proud that Britain is leading the way for veteran care across the globe."

Before the Congress got underway Dr Milroy joined retiring WVF President Mr Dan-Viggo Bergtun and South Sudan delegate Mr Tut Gatwech Garang for an audience with the Serbian veterans' minister Mr Nicola Selakovic. Both he and Serbia's President Aleksandar Vuči attended the Congress's opening ceremony in the historic Belgrade Guard House.

Due to the pandemic and relocation of the WVF's HQ from Paris to Geneva this was the first WVF Congress to be held for four years. It is 72 years since the organisation's second General Assembly was held in Belgrade and the name 'World Veterans Federation' adopted. 

On the final day of the Congress, at the Health & Wellbeing session, Dr Milroy introduced the charity’s successful Welfare to Wellbeing© model, explaining to delegates how Veterans Aid dealt with urgent need among the UK's community of ex-servicemen and women. He urged veterans' organisations to look at the wider context, adding that 60% of VA's clients' problems related to poverty rather than legacies of military service.

"We must invert the pyramid and build on real needs rather than hand out 'top-down solutions'," he said. "Our focus is on prevention, then capacity building and sustainability, by responding to what veterans actually want and need. Policy is not the answer." 

Many delegates expressed interest in this radical approach and inquired about visiting Veterans Aid to learn more. 

Dr Milroy's comments were echoed and endorsed by the Congress's other guest speaker, Netherlands MoD political adviser Dr Manon Andres who reminded delegates of the importance of families, of seeing veterans as part of society and as individuals with strengths as well as weaknesses.

"The embryonic Dutch 24/7 helpline that she described is actually a State version of what Veterans Aid has been providing for some time," said Dr Milroy.

On his return to the UK he said, "This week we are hosting visitors from Danish Homeless Services and next week a party from an Australian charity which is working to replicate what we implement at our residential facility, New Belvedere House." 

Day two of the Congress fell on International Women's Day which was marked by a visit to the Museum of Yugoslavia.

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