SCOTLAND’S WAR HEROES STRUGGLE TO ADAPT TO CIVVY STREET

Many of Scotland’s armed forces veterans struggle to re-integrate into the civilian community, and need special help to cope with problems like debt, unemployment and low income. That’s one of the main findings of Scotland’s Armed Forces Advice Project (ASAP) in its first major report, published today.

‘Civvy Street – the New Front Line’ describes the work done by the project since it was established by Citizens Advice Scotland two years ago. The issues it raises will be debated this afternoon in the Scottish Parliament, and a motion has also been lodged in the House of Commons.

CAS spokesman Keith Dryburgh, who compiled the report, says:

“We set up this project because we recognised that many service men and women have real problems re-integrating into the community when they leave the forces. While the problems they face tend to be the same as those faced by the general population – like unemployment, debt and housing issues – service personnel often have very particular and complex needs, which make these challenges even harder for them.

“The evidence from the first two years of the project shows that many of our military families are really struggling. So far, our ASAP advisers have assisted 1,769 clients with over 6,000 issues. Our report includes a number of case studies and vivid quotes from those clients, showing the extent of their problems.

“The good news is that ASAP has clearly helped these people in very significant ways. For example the total financial gain we have secured for them so far is over £900,000 – e.g. through identifying benefits, re-scheduling debt etc.

“However, one of the key things we’ve found is that people from the forces find it very hard to ask for help. It goes against their nature, and their training. So we are concerned that there may be tens of thousands of people who need our support but haven’t asked for it. We hope this report today will encourage them to come forward and talk to us.

“This project offers free, confidential advice to anyone who is serving, or has served, in any of the armed forces – and their families. You can talk to our trained advisers about any problem – whether it is financial, legal, personal or medical. Contact us at 01667 456677 or through our website.

Though ASAP is delivered by the Scottish CAB service, it is funded by Poppyscotland and a number of other military charities. Poppyscotland Chief Executive Ian McGregor says today:

“A significant minority of veterans face multiple and complex issues after leaving the Armed Forces. We welcome the publication of this report, which both recognises the advice needs of veterans and highlights how they are being addressed, through the tremendous progress of ASAP. However, we recognise that more needs to be done in order to reach the most vulnerable members of the Armed Forces community in Scotland.”