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.‘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 your local CAB, or call 0845 231 0300, or go to www.cas.org.uk/asap.”
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.”
- Scotland’s armed forces community – including their spouses and dependents – makes up around 20% of the Scottish population.
- The Armed Services Advice Project was set up on 1 July 2010. It is run by Citizens Advice Scotland and funded by a host of military charities, including Poppyscotland, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, The Maritime Charities Funding Group, ABF the Soldiers’ Charity, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – Forces Help (SSAFA Forces Help), the Robertson Trust and Turn2us.
- The project delivers free, confidential and independent advice to all current and former members of the armed forces in Scotland, and their families. This advice is delivered through the existing network of CABs and from a special phoneline. To get advice, go to your local CAB, contact the ASAP phoneline – 0845 231 0300, or email ASAP@citizensadvicedirect.org.uk,
- In its first 2 years the project has helped 1769 clients, who between them have presented over 6,000 issues.
- The report into the first 2 years of ASAP is attached. NB Like this press release, it is embargoed until 00.01 on Thursday 28 June.
- MSP Christina McKelvie is introducing a debate in Holyrood this afternoon (Thurs) to discuss the work of the project. See the text of the motion below (also the amendment submitted by Paul Wheelhouse MSP).
Holyrood Motion to be debated on Thursday:-
(debate scheduled for 12.30pm)
S4M-03049# Christina McKelvie: Success of Armed Services Advice Project—That the Parliament congratulates the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) on what it considers two successful years of delivering advice, information and support to the armed forces community in Scotland; notes that ASAP is delivered by Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) across Scotland, including by Hamilton CAB; understands that ASAP has dealt with over 6,000 issues for more than 1,400 clients in its first 21 months and gained £893,000 for its clients; believes that this is an important project and commends the group of service and non-service charities that fund it, including Poppyscotland, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the Maritime Charities Funding Group, ABF the Soldiers’ Charity, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association Forces Help, the Robertson Trust and Turn2us; considers that, while the majority of servicemen and women make a successful transition to civilian life following discharge, for a minority of veterans or their family members who experience significant problems, ASAP provides a vital source of advice and support; notes that getting the right help at the right time can make a significant contribution to helping veterans recover from problems, and looks forward to the forthcoming Citizens Advice Scotland report on veterans’ issues, which will be published to coincide with Armed Services Day.
By Paul Wheelhouse MSP—As an amendment to motion S4M-03049 in the name of Christina McKelvie (Success of Armed Services Advice Project), insert at end “; further recognises that Armed Forces Day 2012 will be held on 30 June and aims to raise public awareness of the contribution made by the armed forces and allow people across the country to show their support for the service personnel currently serving, their families, veterans and cadets; notes that there are events to mark Armed Forces Day around Scotland including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stornoway, Greenock, Alloa, Stranraer and Haddington; understands that public support at such events is appreciated by the troops and their families and provides a welcome morale boost for personnel currently on operations abroad, and wishes all those organising and participating in events across Scotland the best of success.”
Supported by: Bill Kidd, Liam McArthur, Alex Fergusson, John Mason, Annabelle Ewing, Kevin Stewart, Hanzala Malik, Stuart McMillan, Mike MacKenzie, Chic Brodie, Aileen McLeod, Angus MacDonald, Dennis Robertson, Dave Thompson, James Dornan, Margaret McDougall, Gil Paterson, Maureen Watt
HOUSE OF COMMONS MOTION, lodged by Jim Sheridan MP
Early Day Motion 257 - ARMED SERVICES ADVICE PROJECT: TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Primary Sponsor: Jim Sheridan MP
Sponsors: John Robertson MP & Virendra Sharma MP
That this House congratulates the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) on two successful years of delivering advice, information and support to the armed forces community in Scotland; notes that ASAP is delivered by Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland, including across the Renfrewshire region, and that its success lies in helping veterans access support and advice; welcomes the publication of Civvy Street: The New Frontline, which highlights that ASAP has dealt with over 6,000 issues for more than 1,400 clients in its first 21 months, has had a client financial gain of 900,000, and that ASAP clients have been assisted with 4.1 issues per client compared to an average of 2.1 for a non-ASAP client; further notes that ASAP offers a holistic service that focuses on the individual rather than a specific issue, combining high quality advice with expert knowledge of particular armed forces and veterans' issues; further notes that getting the right help at the right time can make a significant contribution to helping veterans; and commends ASAP for providing a vital source of advice and support for veterans and their families across Scotland.