NAIRN WAR HEROES STRUGGLE TO ADAPT TO CIVVY STREET

Armed Forces veterans in Nairn are being urged to make use of a special advice service run by the CAB, as a new report shows many are struggling to cope with civilian life.

 Two years ago the Scottish CAB service joined forces with military charities to set up the ‘Armed Forces Advice Project’ (ASAP). A progress report (see weblink below) now shows that the project has helped nearly 1700 people in that time, with issues including debt, unemployment and housing problems. Though all its cases are handled in confidence, ASAP officials have confirmed that a number of these clients have been based here in Nairn.

 Local CAB staff fear however that many more service personnel are struggling with financial and emotional problems, but are reluctant to come forward and ask for help.

 Nairn CAB Manager Gill MacLean says,

 “Of  course the CAB offers free advice to anyone who needs it. But within that generalist service, we recognize that there are particular groups who often need specialist types of support. One of these is armed forces personnel, many of whom have very specific problems which need specialist advice, or whose problems are complicated by the fact that they are suffering from psychological or physical trauma.

 “The Armed Service Advice project is all about making sure such people can come to the CAB and get the specialist help they need – no matter what their problem is. Working with all the military charities in Scotland, we have trained some CAB staff to specialize in giving appropriate advice to service personnel and their families. Like all CAB services, this advice is free, confidential and completely impartial.

 “The national report published last week shows that this service was very necessary. In just two years it has helped change the lives of 1700 people. I can confirm that many of those people have been based here in Nairn and came to the ASAP service through our CAB. But one of the worrying things we’ve found is that many veterans are reluctant to ask for help, so I am worried that there are many more out there who are suffering in silence. We need to persuade more to come forward and get the help they are entitled to.

 “Remember, the CAB is here for everyone, not just this particular group. But if you have served in any of our armed forces, we do now have these advisers who are specially trained to understand your specific problems, and to offer the right support. Many of them are ex-service personnel themselves, and understand what you are going through. So please don’t suffer in silence. Whatever your problems are, come and talk to us. 

 “You can access the Armed Service Advice Project by coming to any Scottish CAB, or through the national helpline 0845 231 0300 or website www.cas.org.uk/Projects/asap.”

 ASAP national spokesman Keith Dryburgh, who compiled the national report, says:

 “As our report shows, the types of problems that service personnel face tend to be the same as those faced by the general population – like unemployment, debt and housing issues. However, 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.

 “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 often 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 help but haven’t asked for it. We hope this report will encourage them to come forward and talk to us.”  

 Poppyscotland is one of the military charities which supports the ASAP project. Poppyscotland’s Chief Executive Ian McGregor says:

 “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.”

 As the report was published last Thursday (Armed Forces Day), MSPs held a short debate in the Scottish Parliament praising its work and discussing the issues it has identified. The full debate can be read at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=7109&mode=html#iob_64808

 The MSPs who spoke in the debate were:

  • Christine McKelvie – Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse (SNP)
  • Paul Wheelhouse – South of Scotland region (SNP)
  • Mark Griffin – Central Scotland region (Labour)
  • Margaret Burgess – Cunninghame South (SNP)
  • Alex Fergusson – Galloway & West Dumfries (Con)
  • Jamie Hepburn – Cumbernauld & Kilsyth (SNP)
  • Maureen Watt – Aberdeen South & North Kincardine (SNP)
  • Keith Brown (Minister) – Clackmannanshire & Dunblane (SNP)

 The report into the first 2 years of ASAP – ‘Civvy Street: the new front line’ –  is available on request, or can be downloaded at http://www.cas.org.uk/Publications/recent-publications/Civvy+Street+The+New+Frontline