Monday, 21 January 2013

NHS scheme is helping Lancaster veterans return to ‘civvy street’

Former Royal Marine Christopher Harrison (with white belt) has been helped by a new service for military veterans
A new service is helping veterans and their families cope with the often difficult transition from service to ‘civvy street’, offering support on a number of issues be it substance misuse, unemployment, debt, family breakdown or housing issues.

NHS programme Live At Ease now offers free one-to-one support to veterans and their families so they can cope with the practical and emotional issues that often arise when people make the switch from service to ‘civvy street'.

Christopher Harrison from Lancaster served in the Royal Marines. “I was discharged from the Navy because of back problems," he explains. "Now my back is worse than ever and I can’t find suitable accommodation. We’re in rented accommodation but it’s been tough to get my landlord to make any adaptations. The council are also refusing to put us on the list for a bungalow.”

“I contacted Live At Ease a few months ago," he continues. "They’ve helped me to get my landlord to make the adaptations. They’ve also put me in touch with social services so I can get further home improvements made.”

The North West of England is the largest recruitment ground for the British Armed Forces and North Lancashire is home to 29,332 veterans – the majority, nearly 62%, over 65. Nearly 1,500 of them sustained an injury significant enough to receive a War Pension or Armed Forces Compensation, indicating their potential health or care needs.   

Live At Ease was commissioned after research showed that treatment for conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression were much more effective amongst the ex-forces community if practical issues were dealt with first.

Veterans may find themselves drinking too much to cope with big life changes or they might struggle to deal with the strain that resettlement puts on family relationships. Housing is another issue, as many veterans have relied on forces accommodation in the past.

Many ex-forces personnel find it hard to translate military skills to civvy jobs and have problems finding work. Others have difficulty managing money as they find themselves in charge of bills again and often have to survive on a low income.

Live At Ease does not replace existing Armed Forces organisations, NHS or Probation Services; rather it works to join them together to provide the best support, including those offered by military charities as well as non-military voluntary groups and organisations. They provide one point of contact for veterans and their families who are seeking help.

Each client has a dedicated adviser who puts a support plan together and ensures they quickly get the right support.

Anyone who has ever served in the forces and lives in the North West can use the programme, whether they left the military yesterday or 40 years ago. It is also available to their families.

Michael True, head of service for Live At Ease said, “Research shows that many ex-forces men and women find the transition to civvy street challenging. Live At Ease provides immediate support to help with these practical and emotional challenges. If they aren’t addressed they can often lead to long term physical and mental health problems.”

• For more information on Live At Ease call 0808 123 1 123 (free from landlines), text for free 07537 404 535, email infoATliveat-ease.org.uk or visit www.liveat-ease.org.uk

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