More than 7,000 Scottish servicemen and women have accessed specialist advice at a “one-stop shop” set up five years ago, providing £5 million of financial help that they would otherwise not have been able to access.
A total of 7,342 individuals with more than 32,000 issues sought help from the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP), run by Citizens Advice Scotland.
It said it had helped clients make financial gains of more than £5m, through accessing benefits to which they are entitled, receiving a charitable grant or having debts written off or restructured.
The specialist service was launched in 2010 after experts from organisations including Poppyscotland, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Maritime Charities Funding Group and The Robertson Trust realised that the large number of military charities was confusing to servicemen and women looking for help with problems in areas such as debt, housing and employment.
The Armed Forces community makes up 10 per cent of the Scottish population.
Dominic Notarangelo, chairman of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “Though they face the same problems as the rest of society, their needs can be acute and specific.
“Whether a client is struggling to pay bills, having problems with housing or employment, or ill health, they can approach ASAP with confidence that we will provide the best possible support.
“I am proud on behalf of the Scottish CAB service to set out how we have gone about changing over 7,000 lives, and look forward to many more years of support.”
Those most likely to need help were people aged 45 to 59, many of whom may have retired from the forces after a long career and are trying to adjust to civilian life.
Ian McGregor, chief executive of PoppyScotland, said: “ASAP’s growth over the last five years has been truly outstanding. ASAP has made a tremendous impact in supporting the Armed Forces community in Scotland.
“Whilst the vast majority of Service Leavers go on to make meaningful contributions to Scottish society, it is vital that services like ASAP are available to the more vulnerable members of the Armed Forces community.”
A survey of our people who have used the service found that 87 per cent said that support from ASAP had improved their peace of mind, and 58 per cent had improved their financial situation.
One ex-serviceman, Kevin, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress after serving in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War, turned to ASAP for help with his financial problems.
He said: “It’s brilliant. I’ve got piece of mind, I’m paying back the debts that I had.
“I’m much more settled. I was a nervous wreck before.”