Keith Blake joined the Army as a Reservist in 1994 and left in January this year after 23 years. He has found it difficult to navigate what resettlement support is available to him and has struggled with finding employment and financial support. He believes Veterans’ Gateway is a “win” for veterans and will engage with the service in the future.
Keith Blake was 19 when he decided to become a Reservist with the Royal Logistics Corps. Within the last three years of Service he worked full-time as a recruiter. The Sergeant was part of coordinating Operation Fortify, to recruit more Reservists and later Operation Intensify. Keith, who is based in Derbyshire, said his role also involved interviewing, training and mentoring recruits, which he found most rewarding. He said: “The biggest sense of achievement during my career was watching candidates, who may have been really nervous to start with but then you help to change their mindset with a bit of training and allow them to go off and attempt something that is really demanding. It was about seeing a finished product walk out and realise their dreams.”
The former Reservist left his role as recruiter in January this year. He said he felt like he was not ready to the Army as he loved his job - however he was medically discharged. Keith explained the reasons behind his discharge: “When I was a Reservist, I also got a job as a Ministry of Defence contractor which was over in Iraq in 2005-2006. Due to the experience, although I haven’t been officially diagnosed, they think I have PTSD.”
Once Keith left, he found that the plethora of support services available to Regular Service personnel were not available to him. “Formally I haven’t received any training or resettlement support - people do not seem to know what support I am entitled too. I’m in touch with Veterans Welfare Service - so although it’s not in my nature to go out and ask for help - especially financially, I’m hoping they might be able to give me some type of short term loan and some further support. I have two jobs (retail service assistant and hospice driver) but one of them is minimum wage, the other one is near to minimum wage - I’m working just as hard but half-way where I need to be financially.”
He said he has joined SaluteMyJob and recruiting agencies to find employment suitable to his own skills and experience but was finding it difficult to balance applying for jobs and working two jobs. Keith added: “I need to look after my mental well-being along the way too so it is difficult.” Keith said his ideal job would be a recruiting or mentoring role, which involves travelling and “giving something back”.
Keith is hopeful that he will gain further support and has also been working for a charity called Team Rubicon UK. Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams in the UK and around the world. He explained further: “They basically help people who have left the forces who may feel like they have lost purpose. I will be deploying with them to Uganda soon, building kitchens for a refugee camp - which should be a great experience.”
Veterans’ Gateway is a “win” for veterans Keith believes. He added: “I completely get the reason for the Veterans’ Gateway service - I think it is a massive win. You have a single point of contact which is what is needed. When you have thousands of services out there, if you needed a specific support - how do you really find out about it? It is definitely something I will engage with in the future.”
To find out more about Veterans' Gateway click here.