War-weary Scots veterans face crisis of deprivation

Nathanael Williams

New report finds that ex-servicemen and women in Scotland face higher levels of deprivation than those living in the rest of the UK.

SCOTTISH VETERANS are more likely to suffer higher levels of deprivation than their counterparts in any other part of the UK according to a new research paper.

Combat Stress, a UK wide mental health charity for veterans released its findings today (Tuesday 31 January) showing also that half of Scots veterans fell into the three most deprived sectors of Scotland.

The charity said it reflected the gaps in the mental health provision available to veterans once discharged from the armed forces in Scotland.

“The findings from our new report highlight the significant challenges that Scottish veterans face.” Sue Freeth

Sue Freeth, chief executive at Combat Stress, said: “The findings from our new report highlight the significant challenges that Scottish veterans face.

“The 71 per cent increase in referrals that we have experienced in the last five years illustrates the rising demand for Combat Stress’ services. We welcome support for veterans and our work from the Scottish Government, including the Scottish Veterans Fund.

“We hope that governments, support agencies and charities can work together to minimise the challenges faced by veterans who are already dealing with a range of complex issues.”

A common trend in Scotland compared to other countries in the UK was a pattern that linked the length of a veteran’s service and their level of deprivation. The shorter the service length the more at risk the person was of deprivation.

63 per cent of those who left their service early were in the most three deprived areas but of those who left after 15 years or more only 32 per cent fell into most deprived categories.

The figures came from a survey of 3000 people veterans contacted by the charity and data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which measures different social and economic types of deprivations.

In 2009 the Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans Joint Group was established by the Scottish Government to monitor its actions in supporting veterans with medical care, mental health aid and prosthetic aid. Although spokespersons for the Scottish Government have been at pains to state that the pressure in spending cuts from the UK Government has hampered efforts to address unique problems with Scottish veterans.

63 per cent of those who left their service early were in the most three deprived areas.

Despite this a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it would “step up its commitment to our veterans” in response to the findings of the report and its own Scottish Veterans Commissioner, Eric Fraser.

Campaigns such as ForceWatch and Scottish Quakers earlier last year petitioned Holyrood to stop the high amount of recruitment by the Armed Forces in schools in deprived areas. Their argument is that many veterans would have gone into the forces young and from the most deprived areas originally contributing to their lagging position when they leave the services.

A UK government spokesperson from the MoD told CommonSpace that the government did not wish to comment at the moment but will look into the report to see what improvements can be made in veteran pastoral care.

It said: “The UK Government above all is committed to serving our veterans who have throughout their lives given service.”

Picture courtesy of 99th Air Base Wing

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