Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Ex-soldiers face charity confusion

Military veterans finding help to resettle into civilian life have a choice of more than 2,000 charities

Military veterans are left to find the help they need to resettle into civilian life among a bewildering array of more than 2,000 charities, campaigners have said.

From regimental benevolent funds and household names such as the Royal British Legion to a plethora of smaller organisations, those leaving the armed services are faced with a complex range of charities whose work and resettlement practices vary widely, said the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Frances Crook, the campaign group's director, said: "While in one sense this is welcome and shows the commitment the public have to supporting veterans' causes, it does make for a very difficult landscape for veterans and service commissioners to navigate."

While most people reintegrate successfully, some find the transition problematic and Government estimates show 3.5% of English and Welsh prisoners have served in the armed forces. Other estimates are higher.

A total of 2,133 voluntary sector organisations registered with the Charity Commission are working with veterans, the study showed, and veterans who end up behind bars will face an even greater number of charities and support groups.

The Howard League said it is difficult for those commissioning services for veterans in the criminal justice system "to know who is offering what works and what doesn't".

The research was released as part of an inquiry into former members of the armed services in prisons, which will be published on Armed Forces Day, June 23.

Ms Crook said: "In the course of our examination of the support given to veterans on leaving the services, we have found there is a staggering number of charities who work with veterans.

"While successful resettlement is crucial to help former armed service personnel flourish in the community, our inquiry has found a complex picture where veterans commit offences many years after serving and there is often no clear link between the resettlement process and involvement in the criminal justice system.

"Lots of young men sign up to the Army to get away from their home town and give them a future. When they leave, some will have nothing to resettle into. Poverty, addictions with a lack of detox facilities, general mental health/health problems in society, marital breakdown and poor educational attainment can all contribute to why veterans offend."

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