Universal Credit Making Veterans 'Feel Suicidal'

25 January 2019, 14:24 | Updated: 25 January 2019, 14:26

Army soldiers

Veterans are being left suicidal by problems caused by Universal Credit, a Scottish Government minister has said.

Graeme Dey believes ex-servicemen and women claiming under the new benefit regime face particular challenges due to their military service, including being more likely to have a reduced income.

The Veterans Minister said charities including Erskine, Blesma and Scotland's Bravest Manufacturing Company raised concerns about the impact of Universal Credit.

In a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Defence Minister Tobias Elwood, Mr Dey said: "Unfortunately, the lack of dedicated support for veterans and the in-built inflexibility within UC has been a contributing factor in several shocking and tragic case studies, and the veterans' charities have reported that there are cases where veterans have been left suicidal.

"The charities have gone above and beyond their remits to support these individuals but they are concerned about what the future holds as many more veterans migrate on to UC as a result of a change in circumstances."

He added: "Veterans seeking to adjust to civilian life are more likely to undergo changes of circumstances as they resettle and the natural migration to UC that this will result in risks causing additional upheaval for them at a time when they most need support.

"This is also likely to result in a reduced income as those migrating naturally will not be eligible to receive transitional protection."

Mr Dey said veterans may be suffering from physical disabilities or mental illness and the charities suggested those they help in some cases have poorer literacy skills.

He said: "The requirement for all UC applications to be completed online is therefore challenging for many.

"The application process also requires a large amount of information, which may not be readily accessible, especially for early service leavers or those who have been discharged due to disability."

He called for assistance for veterans at the start of the claims process and said ignoring the problems "would risk failing in our joint commitment to members of the armed forces community".

Mr Dey urged the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to have forces and veterans champions in Job Centre help veterans access appropriate support.

A DWP spokesperson said: "We value our armed services and veterans.

"Universal Credit provides veterans and their families with a range of specialised support through the Armed Forces Covenant, there is an armed forces champion in every district and Jobcentre staff work closely with charities, such as the Royal British Legion."