Generation of veterans ‘increasingly alienated’ from society, report warns

Veterans are often struggling with the transition to civilian life
Veterans are often struggling with the transition to civilian life

A younger generation of veterans are becoming increasingly alienated from society, major new research has found, warning of a “disturbing” disconnect with the rest of the nation.

Research from the UK’s oldest armed forces charity SSAFA has revealed a growing cohort of veterans struggling to manage finances, find employment and suitable housing, with nearly a quarter having found themselves homeless at some point since leaving the services.

Calling for a nationwide support network and compulsory life skills training for veterans, the charity says challenges cannot be simply left to the Government or the military to resolve but must be addressed by society as a whole.

“Too many veterans feel undervalued and it’s our duty as a nation to rectify this,” said Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA.

“Support for the Armed Forces means more than just supporting them during active duty, it means creating a welcoming environment for them to re-enter when their time is served.

“We need a new national mindset, promoting the advantages veterans bring to society – courage, discipline, selflessness and respect for others.

“As a nation, we must overcome society’s mistrust, apathy and alienation of the new generation of service leavers.”

The Nation’s Duty report, based on research with more than 1,000 veterans, has found that many respondents to the survey did not feel respected or valued by society.

Almost half said that at times they had not felt proud of having served in the armed forces, with the majority stating that civilians did not fully understand their needs.

And there is a growing number of veterans struggling when it comes to managing finances, SSAFA has warned, with one in five surviving on less than £7,000 net household income.

For many, the report concludes, even finding employment can be a challenge with almost a quarter admitting to having slept rough or being made homeless since their transition to civilian life.

Across the region, and in North Yorkshire in particular, where Catterick Garrison is based, there is a high population of serving and veteran armed forces personnel.

North Yorkshire’s The Lord Houghton of Richmond, Former Chief of Defence Staff, said in the report’s foreword: “This report suggests that while the public maintains a huge emotional connection to the dwindling band of World War II veterans, some show ambivalence or even apathy to younger veterans.

“This should seriously concern us.”

SSAFA is also calling for the military to do more to prepare service leavers for civilian life, from compulsory life skills training to education programmes and the launched of a national Veterans ID card.

The MOD is to publish a Veterans’ Strategy later this year, which will include a new policy to offer transitions support to civilian life.

“Veterans make a fantastic contribution to society and the vast majority go on to live happy, healthy and successful lives,” a Government spokesperson said. “A career in the armed forces gives individuals unique life skills and veterans are more likely to be employed than the general population.

“But it’s right that we support people when they leave service. That’s why we have a range of initiatives in place to make sure people transition successfully, including training, education and financial support.

“Our flagship Career Transition Partnership provides one to one guidance to individuals leaving the military, as well as training and employment opportunities.”