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Survey reveals ex-service personnel’s worries

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​Poppyscotland review uncovers concerns in a number of areas

Health, welfare, finances and employment are the key difficulties facing veterans and their families in Scotland.

New research released by Poppyscotland into the needs of the Scottish ex-service community also identified an ageing population and concerns over social isolation as areas of concern.

The research is derived from a survey undertaken by Poppyscotland’s parent charity The Royal British Legion.

Though some problems affecting Scotland’s veterans appear to be more acute than elsewhere, the issues that have been identified in Scotland are similar overall to those faced across the rest of the country.

Poppyscotland believes this new research will be beneficial in helping the ex-service charity sector and public services better understand and address the current and future needs of veterans and their families.

Whilst the vast majority of those leaving the armed forces thrive in civilian life, a significant minority struggle and are likely to experience multiple and complex needs

The ex-Service community in Scotland is estimated to be around 545,000 people – 10% of the Scottish population and 9% of the entire UK ex-service community.

The group is comprised of those who have served in the armed forces – regular and reserves – and their family members and dependants.

In the survey, one in eight of Scotland’s adult ex-service community reported unmet need for support, which equates to around 50,000 people.

One in six members of the adult ex-service community stated that they could benefit from Poppyscotland’s welfare services in the near future.

Recent wider news coverage has highlighted loneliness as an increasing problem in society, particularly among older people.

The survey very much backs this up, reporting that social isolation affects as many as 15% of the adult ex-service community in Scotland.

Also, half of pensionable age veterans are unable to take a holiday once a year and nearly a third are unable to go out socially at least once a month.

The Citizens Advice Scotland Armed Services Advice Project(ASAP), for which Poppyscotland is the lead funder, is working with The Silver Line helpline, so that vulnerable older people who call may be helped if they are identified as being a member of the ex-Service community in need of specialist advice or services.

The majority of the Scotland adult ex-service community is retired (64%). However, for younger veterans, finding and sustaining employment can be a major challenge after leaving the military.

Members of the ex-service community of working age in Scotland are less likely to be in work (57%) than the Scottish working age population (73%).

Fear of unemployment is a bigger issue amongst Scotland’s veterans with 7% reporting job insecurity compared to 3% elsewhere in the UK.

Health issues feature prominently in the report – 53% of Scotland’s ex-service community (230,000 people) suffer from long-term illness or disability, most often a physical condition.

Issues reported included musculo-skeletal problems, cardio-vascular or respiratory difficulties, hearing and sight problems.

As with social isolation, many of these issues are problems which particularly affect the elderly.

The survey results identified that finances are also a big area of concern. The average annual net household income for Scotland’s ex-service community at £18,800 is lower than that of the UK ex-service average at £21,000.

Worryingly, with the country now in the throes of winter, 18% have experienced fuel poverty to the extent of turning their heating down or off completely, even though their homes became too cold.

Poppyscotland’s Gary Gray said: “The findings give us a clear indication of the size of Scotland’s ex-service community and the difficulties experienced.

“Whilst the vast majority of those leaving the armed forces thrive in civilian life, a significant minority struggle and they are likely to experience multiple and complex needs.

“Poppyscotland already provides a number of vital services to support those in the armed forces community. However, it is clear that more must be done to address their current and future needs. We believe the findings are an invaluable source of information which will help inform organisations and agencies in developing and shaping services.

“Now we have a better understanding of what the important issues are, we can begin to tackle them to improve the wellbeing of Scotland’s ex-service community.”

 

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