A new helpline launched yesterday called ‘Veterans’ Gateway’ is promising to revolutionise a military charity sector that currently leaves two thirds (64 per cent) of veterans ‘confused’, by providing a first point of contact for veterans seeking support.
Launched ahead of the annual Armed Forces Day this weekend, ‘Veterans’ Gateway’ will improve access to welfare services and speed-up the time it takes for veterans to receive the support they deserve. The new £2 million service is funded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from the Covenant Fund and will be delivered by a Royal British Legion-led consortium comprising Poppy Scotland, Combat Stress, Connect Assist, the Ministry of Defence and SSAFA – the Armed Forces Charity.
Independent research commissioned by the consortium reveals that a fifth of those surveyed had been referred to up to five charities before eventually finding support, and that more than half (54 per cent) found the sheer number of charity providers confusing; there are now over 2,000 registered Armed Forces charities. The resulting confusion left 45 per cent unsure where to turn. Over 41 per cent of respondents said the number of military charities makes it ‘harder and slower’ to get the right help, with 20 per cent having been referred to between three and 10 charities before they get the necessary support.
The new 24-hour online chat, phone and text message service is partly manned by veterans who have been trained to help a British Armed Forces community estimated to be around 6 million and growing by 20,000 annually. Bringing together over 30 referral partners including Veterans UK, Mind and the Career Transition Partnership to name but a few – and with more organisations to be added – veterans and their dependents will be able to access support services in areas including physical health, financial support, assistance with independent living, housing, mental wellbeing, and employment.
The service comes in response to independent reports published by the Forces in Mind Trust and Lord Ashcroft’s 2014 Veterans’ Transition Review, which both called for the process by which veterans are guided to welfare support services to be made easier to navigate. Lord Ashcroft’s principal recommendation was the creation of a single 24/7 contact centre.
To coincide with the launch of Veterans’ Gateway, Managing Director of SaluteMyJob, Andrew Jackson, has written an editorial piece for The Sun about the current confusion veterans face on where to turn to for advice and support once they leave the military. The editorial is accompanied by a number of case studies, some written by SaluteMyJob, to showcase the struggles - and the achievements of ex-military personnel who have transitioned into Civvy Street.
Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion, on behalf of the Veterans’ Gateway consortium said: “Every charity only exists to help, but Lord Ashcroft revealed the uncomfortable truth that a proliferation of providers in our sector can cause confusion about where to turn. The consortium’s research found that the Armed Forces community – overwhelmingly – supports the Veterans’ Gateway, with 83 per cent welcoming the creation of a first point of contact. Veterans’ Gateway will make it easier for them to get the support they need. No matter how complex their needs, together we can help.”
Craig Slicker, a 43 year-old former Lance Corporal in the Army, left the Infantry in 2013 having been made redundant. After 17-years’ service he found the transition to “Civvy Street” incredibly difficult but, unaware of what support services were out there, did not reach out to any charities for guidance. He believes Veterans’ Gateway will be a great help for others like him struggling to adapt to life outside the military.
Craig said: “When I was told I was leaving, I was given six weeks to find a job and after being in the Army so long, it was a shock to the system. I didn’t know what I could do or what I wanted to do, or where I could turn for advice. A service like Veterans’ Gateway would have been hugely helpful because I had no idea how to find out what support was available to me. I will definitely use it because I’m still struggling financially, just getting used to being paid weekly is a challenge and trying to balance the bills, and I’m still looking for a job that suits my skills.”
Managing Director of SaluteMyJob, Andrew Jackson, said: “The Veterans’ Gateway fills a clearly identified need for a service to help veterans navigate to the organisations best placed to support them. Research confirms that veterans are confused; therefore it is no surprise to see them welcoming this new focal point for their enquiries. Much depends on the depth of understanding the Veterans Gateway possesses about those many organisations, so we look forward to seeing it grow into an informed service, rather than simply signposting veterans to chosen providers.”
In 2013 The Forces in Mind Trust’s independent Transition Mapping Study found that the unsuccessful transition from Service to civilian life cost the UK economy an estimated £113 million in 2012 alone. It is hoped that with earlier, more accurate intervention, the cost will be considerably less, to both the individual seeking support and the UK economy.
To contact Veterans’ Gateway Call: 0808 802 1212 Text: 81212 or visit: www.veteransgateway.org.uk