The RSA is working towards better support for current and ex-service personnel.
The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) is forging a relationship with a major network of health and care providers focussed on the wellbeing of service people, veterans and their families.
This Friday (5 February) RSA National President BJ Clark will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Australasian Services Care Network (ASCN), a network of providers of health and social services for those who have served or are currently serving.
Mark Compain, the RSA’s National Support Services Manager, said the relationship with ASCN is a major step in the development of the organisation’s new strategy to provide the most effective advocacy and support services in New Zealand.
“ASCN was established in 2012 by health and care providers who had seen the impact of military service on those they work with, to develop further knowledge and more effective approaches to care and treatment,” said Mr Compain.
“Membership is open to providers of care and accommodation services to the service and ex-service community of Australia and New Zealand, and Canada is also due to come on board.
“The role of RSA support services at a national level is becoming more strategic and this relationship will enable us to engage with an extensive body of experts and to access research and knowledge, supporting development of a model that will provide the most compelling advocacy and support in New Zealand.”
Mr Compain, who served 21 years in the regular force and five tours of duty, including operational service in Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan, said one task facing the RSA is to change public perceptions about military veterans.
“The accepted image is of a war veteran in their late 80s or 90s. We work with many elderly veterans and their dependents but we need people to recognise that we are also working extensively with the post-Vietnam generation including serving military and veterans in their teens and twenties who may be physically and psychologically wounded.
“For instance, we have people who are suffering significant illness through environmental exposure – such as former Navy personnel exposed to asbestos on older ships.”
New Zealand currently has 31,000 retired military veterans. Of these 11,000 are from the period from WWII to Vietnam and 20,000 have served in campaigns post-Vietnam. In total, 20,000 receive support, such as war disability pensions through Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.
ASCN will be represented at the MoU signing in Christchurch by Ian Bolton, Chairman of the Board for Christchurch-based Rannerdale Veterans Care, a not-for-profit organisation providing care for the wider veteran community, their families and dependents.
Rannerdale Hospital General Manager Steve Shamy said: “The focus of the MoU is to provide opportunities to collaborate on development of a national strategy and model for supporting contemporary veterans.
“The Veterans’ Support Bill 2015 has a focus on restorative and rehabilitative care and maintaining independence. Rannerdale has a restorative model of care and works to engage with veterans and their families and help them to build resilience.
“That is the model of support that RSA is building nationally. A very strong finding across the ASCN network is that collaboration between agencies is vital. The relationship with ASCN will open up a huge resource of research and expertise to support the RSA’s development of that model.”