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Citizens Advice wins over £3.5m for Scotland’s armed services community

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Citizens Advice Scotland has helped over 5,700 veterans and service people since 2010

Members of the armed services community in Scotland have accessed financial support of over £3.5 million through Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) according to a new report.

The report by CAS, presented to the minister for veterans Keith Brown MSP, examines in detail the support provided to veterans and service people in Scotland and compares their use of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service with other members of society.

It says CAS’ Armed Services Project (ASAP) has helped 5,700 individual veterans and service people since 2010.

Funded primarily by Poppyscotland and supported by other veterans’ organisations, the project uses the CAB network to offer advice and has put £3.5m in the pockets of the service community in Scotland by highlighting financial support available in the form of compensation, grants or benefits.

Standout trends from the report include armed services personnel are more like to present themselves to a CAB than others with a crisis issue like homelessness or unemployment. Other issues include finding accommodation, work, and mental health issues.

The veterans’ community seem to have been less hit by sanctions, food parcels and payday loans

However, the veterans’ community seem to have been less hit by sanctions, food parcels and payday loans.

Citizens Advice Scotland’s policy manager, Keith Dryburgh, said it is critical problems faced by members of the armed forces community are dealt with as soon as possible by a trusted organisation such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

“ASAP clients come to us with issues that broadly mirror the problems seen by the wider CAB service,” he said. “In particular, ASAP has experienced large increases in issues caused by reforms to the welfare system. However, the veterans’ community seem to have been less hit by sanctions, food parcels and payday loans.

“We’re really pleased that the vast majority of veterans make successful transitions back into civilian life. But the importance of this service stems from the support it gives to the significant minority who struggle, often with a combination of: finding alternative employment, maintaining a home, a lack of financial knowledge, a complicated benefits system, and (often undiagnosed) mental or physical health problems.”

Later today the work of ASAP will be noted in the Scottish Parliament in a debate in the Scottish Parliament to mark Armistice Day.

Poppyscotland’s head of welfare services, Gary Gray, added: “Access to expert and up-to-date advice is critical in enabling members of the Armed Forces community to address some of the unique challenges they may face. The report identifies the key issues, prominent amongst them employment, housing, health and managing finances. These difficulties are often inter-related, making them more complex in nature.

“Tackling these needs is precisely why we, in partnership with CAS and a number of other charities, introduced the Armed Services Advice Project in 2010 and the results clearly demonstrate the hugely positive impact of the project so far and the ongoing need.”