Friday, March 26, 2010

Increasing need for Rehabilitation of Veterans post end of Military Service

Alabaré Christian Care and the Royal British Legion (RBL) have continued to demonstrate successful outcomes at their 'Mon Abri' supported housing project for veterans in Plymouth. Over the last year, 20 homeless veterans (8 of whom were ex-offenders) have been helped back to more productive lives. Many have suffered with drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD and other mental health issues, including self-harm and attempted suicide. Yet, in a safe environment, the programme of rehabilitation and support has helped to change their lives, enabling them to once again become proud contributors to our society - see .

The 'Mon Abri' veterans have been aged between 24 - 70 years of age. Operational experience has ranged from Korea, Northern Ireland and the Falklands, to the more recent conflicts in Bosnia and the Middle East. The outstanding work of Alabaré and the RBL has clearly demonstrated the need and set an exemplar precedent for similar future projects.

The Government has made increasing efforts to help veterans injured during operations, particularly those with major physical injuries; however, this has primarily been in the form of essential medical care, financial compensation and support whilst still serving. Sadly, the increasing levels of provision needed upon return to civilian life is conspicuous by its absence. Even the vast sums of money so generously donated by the general public to the 'Help for Heroes' fund cannot currently be used to support veterans after leaving the Service; this surely must change.

By using some of the 'Help for Heroes' money for capital housing costs, more charitable, private and public partnerships could be established around the country to provide the programmes of rehabilitation and support so necessary. As demonstrated by Alabaré Christian Care and the RBL, more veterans could then be helped to forge new lives, thereby avoiding the otherwise massive costs associated with rough sleeping, crime and substance abuse. Through projects such as 'Mon Abri', the net returns are potentially enormous, not least the saving of many lives and service families.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Veterans in Prison - Future Rehabilitation Needs

The MOD and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have recently issued data on the number of veterans in prison in England and Wales. The Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) of the MOD have estimated that ex-Service personnel in prison represent almost 3% of offenders in prison.

The estimate was determined by matching a database of prisoners aged 18 and over in England and Wales from the MoJ against a database of Service leavers held by the MOD. The 3% figure compares with the Home Office survey of 2,000 nationally representative offenders at the point of release in 2001, 2003 and 2004, which reported the Armed Forces proportion to be 6%, 4% and 5% respectively.

What has not been considered is the number of veterans who are on Probation and other forms of community sentences, as well as those who are homeless and suffering with depression, PTSD and alcohol and drug misuse. Evidence suggests that as more veterans leave the services following extensive periods of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers needing intensive rehabilitation support will grow significantly. Without such support, many more will end up entering the justice system, either in prison or on Probation. Whilst the 3% fig is lower than previously estimated by NAPO, the fig is still very distrubing, and in the absence of Probation numbers, a sad reflection of the country's failure to support our veterans after they have put their lives on the line for the country.

Much more investment in appropriate and focussed rehabilitation support for veterans is still needed.