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11 November 2014, 06:12
There is a growing demand among veterans for advice on accessing benefits while issues such as unemployment and homelessness also remain key concerns, according to a new report.
Citizens Advice Scotland has seen a rise in the number of cases related to welfare in its armed services advice project (ASAP).
The proportion of ASAP issues concerning employment and support allowance (ESA) has almost doubled in the past two years while ASAP clients are much more likely than the average Citizens Advice client to have a disability benefit issue.
ASAP clients are much more likely to seek advice on issues relating to looking for work, including back to work schemes, and are also more likely than the average client to seek advice on housing, the report found.
Funded primarily by Poppyscotland and supported by other veterans' organisations, ASAP was set up in 2010 to provide help and support through the Citizens Advice Bureau network in Scotland.
The latest report on the service looks in detail at the issues facing veterans and service people in Scotland over the past two years.
ASAP has helped 5,756 clients since it was established, helping them to gain access to over £3.5 million of support.
The report states: "Two trends stand out across all the different areas of advice.
"The first is that ex-service personnel with physical or mental health problems, whether they develop during or after service, appear to have more problems making the transition to civilian life and are more likely to present with complex problems to the service.
"The advice and support that these veterans receive when leaving the services is therefore of critical importance.
"The second trend is that ASAP clients tend to present with more potential 'crisis' issues than other client groups, such as homelessness, finding accommodation, finding work, housing arrears and mental health issues. This makes the advice that these clients receive even more critical.''
Citizens Advice Scotland's policy manager Keith Dryburgh said: "This report, which follows on from a similar piece of work in 2012, highlights the issues that Scotland's service community face and poses some interesting conclusions and poses questions for policymakers and the general public alike.
"ASAP clients come to us with issues that broadly mirror the problems seen by the wider CAB service.
"In particular, ASAP has experienced large increases in issues caused by reforms to the welfare system.
"However, the veterans' community seem to have been less hit by sanctions, food parcels and payday loans.
"We're really pleased that the vast majority of veterans make successful transitions back into civilian life.
"But the importance of this service stems from the support it gives to the significant minority who struggle, often with a combination of: finding alternative employment, maintaining a home, a lack of financial knowledge, a complicated benefits system and (often undiagnosed) mental or physical health problems.''
Veterans minister Keith Brown said: "The fact that additional benefits of over £3.5 million have been secured for veterans and service people since the dedicated ASAP started in 2010 shows the success of the project, and I congratulate CAS and all the staff involved as advisers for their considerable achievements.''