At this turning point for veterans, the Government must recognise they are not a homogenous group

Posted On: 
16th October 2019

Following today's announcement of the full scope of the Office for Veterans Affairs, charity Veterans Aid writes that the Government must take a person-centred approach.

Minister for Defence People Johnny Mercer (pictured). Veterans Aid's approach is needs focused to combat the complexity of client’s situations.
Credit: 
PA Images

Following the announcement of the full scope of the Office for Veterans Affairs, charity Veteran’s Aid writes that Veterans are not a homogenous group, and the answer must involve a person-centred approach.

This news is certainly welcome and is a start to what I hope will be a clear demonstration that care for Veterans is and will continue to be an issue at the very heart of Government. 

However, I wish to make a plea to those in the new Office to understand and accept that not every situation faced in the Veteran community will fit into a category or have a simple solution. Experience at Veterans Aid tells us that Veterans are not a homogenous group and often their problems are so complex that the answer must necessarily involve a person-centred, multi-faceted, lengthy journey that just doesn’t always fit in with a linear script that is dependent on formal MOD or Government intervention. 

This year we tragically lost a client who had a long history of alcohol and drug misuse. It was difficult to know where to start with her but we were on the journey.  In another case we have been dealing with a young man who spent the £10k he left the army with on crack cocaine and other forms of stimulation in a 6 week period, leading to him becoming homeless.

Most of the clients we see present multiple, complex issues unrelated to military service. Equally, we frequently find the right support and expertise for them well outside of the Veteran sector.

Phrases like “better cooperation” and “greater coordination” are worthy aims but experience tells us that a great deal of this already exists. For example, The Rough Sleeping Strategy 2018 has three main pillars all of which I can say are already well in-hand within the Veteran community: the prevention of rough sleeping by providing timely support to those at risk (we regularly get calls to assist from a wide variety of agencies across the country), intervening to help those on the streets to get swift, targeted support (Greater London Authority contract us to do just that) and helping clients find a new home quickly and rebuild their lives (we do this every week).

Our approach is needs focused to combat the complexity of our client’s situations. 

The numbers of Veterans on the streets are tiny and there are plenty of bed spaces in the sector; we frequently get approaches from around the country from agencies looking for clients.

The following numbers may be inconvenient but they cannot be ignored.

Last year we saw 812 clients, put 100 in emergency accommodation, 51 into detox/rehab and 94 into work or major training courses and to cap it all we have a confirmed 90% success rate.

Only a handful were recent service leavers. Overwhelmingly, they were men in their 30/40s who had served a few years but had multiple problems very similar to the rest of society. Wide cooperation with agencies, most of whom had no military affiliation, but provided genuine delivery, was the key to this success.  

There is already a great deal done for Veterans and my 25 years involvement in social exclusion has clearly shown me that if you are in crisis in Britain today you are singularly lucky to be a Veteran.

At this turning point for Veterans in the UK, let’s make sure that there is an authentic understanding that Veterans are a heterogenous group. Not every former service person in crisis will wish to be swept up in a grand scheme or even want their details known. For example, we currently have several officers’ as clients who are adamant that their details are not placed in the “system” but that doesn’t mean they should not be able to access help.

Finally, a relevant quote: “No two veterans are the same; neither are their needs. Veterans Aid understands this — which is why it is successful” - Ian Palmer, Professor of Military Psychiatry and Honorary Psychiatrist to Veterans Aid.

 

Veterans Aid is the nation’s frontline, operational charity for veterans in crisis. To read more about their work, click HERE.