Struggles of Scotland’s veterans highlighted

The Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, where veterans with disabilities hand-assemble Scotland's poppies and wreaths. Picture: TSPL

The Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, where veterans with disabilities hand-assemble Scotland's poppies and wreaths. Picture: TSPL

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HEALTH PROBLEMS, difficulties with finances and social isolation are some of the key issues facing Scotland’s veterans, according to new research from Poppyscotland.

The charity has published data drawn from almost 200 Scottish veterans, collected as part of a wider UK household survey by the Royal British Legion.

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It found social isolation or relationship problems affect as many as 15% of the adult ex-service community in Scotland, with half of pensionable age veterans unable to take a holiday once a year and nearly a third are unable to go out socially at least once a month.

Over half - 53% - of veterans suffer from long-term illness or disability, most often a physical condition, the survey found.

Issues reported included musculo-skeletal problems such as arthritis, cardio-vascular or respiratory difficulties, hearing and sight problems. Along with social isolation, many of these issues are problems which particularly affect elderly veterans.

The survey estimates around one in 10 Scottish veterans have a long-term mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

It also identified that finances are a big area of concern. The average annual net household income for Scotland’s ex-service community is £18,800.

Rise in veterans seeking welfare advice

Almost one quarter - 23% - said they are living on below £7,500 annual net household income, while 18% have experienced fuel poverty to the extent of turning their heating down or off completely, even though their homes became too cold.

The research estimates there are around 545,000 veterans in Scotland, around two-thirds of whom are retired.

Poppyscotland’s head of welfare services Gary Gray said: “The findings give us a clear indication of the size of Scotland’s ex-service community and the difficulties experienced.

“Whilst the vast majority of those leaving the armed forces thrive in civilian life, a significant minority struggle and they are likely to experience multiple and complex needs.

“Poppyscotland already provides a number of vital services to support those in the armed forces community. However, it is clear that more must be done to address their current and future needs.

“We believe the findings are an invaluable source of information which will help inform organisations and agencies in developing and shaping services. Now we have a better understanding of what the important issues are, we can begin to tackle them to improve the wellbeing of Scotland’s ex-service community.”

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