Remembrance Sunday: Challenges of those who serve the country

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Simon Ketteridge, Riverside Care and Support’s Director of Business Development, reflects on the challenges of those who serve the country.

There are 2.8 million veterans in the UK and research has shown that working-age veterans are more likely to be economically inactive (neither in work nor seeking employment) and have physical and mental health problems. Up to 90% of veterans accessing Riverside’s accommodation and support services have multiple or complex needs such as drug misuse, offending behaviour and physical health problems. The over-riding issue is mental health and predominantly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although a relatively small number of veterans experience homelessness, those with adverse life experiences (before and during active Service) and those who have little or no family support are known to be at increased risk. A 2015 report by the Forces in Mind Trust found that poor transition in to civilian life by nearly 18,000 service leavers costs public services and the Third Sector £98 million every year.

As a direct result of this, our specialist support for veterans started in 2000 with the creation of a partnership with the Ministry of Defence, to provide housing advice and support to the small proportion of veterans who struggle to make the transition back into civilian life. This service is called SPACES (Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex Services) and assists single personnel leaving the services in securing appropriate accommodation. The service can engage with the people in service up to year before discharge, and has supported over 15,500 veterans since its inception.

We also deliver three specialist housing and training centres specifically for veterans at risk of homelessness. Accommodation is available to single service leavers, either on leaving or those who have later become homeless. Two are based near to the country’s main garrisons, Mike Jackson House (in Aldershot) and The Beacon (Catterick), while Hardwick House (Teesside) makes up the trio which provide accommodation for up to 70 ex-Service personnel in self-contained fully furnished flats. They offer service leavers access to facilities including a gym, IT suite and training kitchen, 24 hour support and trained career advisors.

The pathway of support includes on-site counselling, regular health checks, life skills development, employment mentoring and facilitated and supported access to external services. This support, which focuses on increasing like skills, self-confidence and resilience is put in place to make successful move on into independent living more likely.

Working with partners is essential to our success. We work alongside other specialist Veterans charities including; The Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Walking with the Wounded, STOLL, and most recently Combat Stress, with whom we set up a workshop to help those suffering with PTSD at Mike Jackson House; both our customers and local veterans attending. At the Beacon our partnership with Walking with the Wounded has enabled us to support many veterans into employment in the area.

In March of this year we re-signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant, reaffirming our commitment to working with and supporting Veterans of the Armed Forces. In addition to this we were proud to achieve the Silver Award in the Defence Employment Recognition Scheme.

We want to continue to provide much needed accommodation for veterans and have secured £4.5 million of investment from the Veterans Accommodation Fund to develop a new 50 unit supported housing service for homeless veterans in Colchester. However, uncertainties over the future funding model for supported housing means that this development is on currently on hold.

We sincerely hope to be able to deliver on new building based services in the future, but in the meantime we will continue to provide innovative and practical solutions to issues experienced by Veterans by active engagement with homeless Veterans, the Service community and partner organisations.