New role to raise profile of veterans

Search is on for UK’s first Veterans Commissioner.

Applications are now open for Scotland’s first Veterans Commissioner.

The new role will look to improve public services by listening to the experiences of ex-servicemen and women.

With the job advertisement going live this week, Veterans Minister Keith Brown highlighted the importance of finding the right person for the position when he met with veterans at Glasgow’s Helping Heroes service.

The new ambassador will work with service charities like Helping Heroes, local authorities and health boards to identify any areas in public services that could provide greater support to veterans and help shape future policy development and opportunities.

Glasgow’s Helping Heroes is a unique partnership between Glasgow City Council and SSAFA Forces Help; providing a single point of contact for service personnel, veterans, their families and carers.

Speaking at the project, Mr Brown said:

“Visiting the Glasgow’s Helping Heroes project and seeing the great work they do for veterans and their families shows there are fantastic services out there for our ex-servicemen and women.

“It goes without saying that recruiting a Commissioner is a significant moment in my time as Veterans Minister, this is an opportunity to raise the profile of veterans and promote their skills, experience and potential.

“We owe an enormous debt to all those who have served in our Armed Forces – they deserve, and should receive the highest level of advice, support and care in return. I will look to the new Commissioner to spearhead our ambition to deliver on this obligation and enhance services for veterans across Scotland.

“We want our Commissioner to be an ambassador for the 400,000 ex-servicemen and women who live in Scotland, listening to, and acting on the individual and collective experiences of veterans. It’s about joining up services where we can and identifying any barriers our courageous veterans are faced with.

“We have already had interest from a number of credible candidates and would encourage anyone who can bring vision, courage, influence and innovation to the role to apply for the position.”

Working in partnership with health, housing, social care, employability and financial services agencies, Glasgow’s Helping Heroes provides a point of contact for service personnel, veterans, their families and carers in Glasgow. It is funded by Glasgow City Council, SSAFA and their partners.

Over the last three years the project, which operates a helpline and provides one to one support, has received grants of more than £15,000 through the Scottish Government’s Scottish Veterans Fund.

During the visit Mr Brown met with Tank Commander Stephen Williams who served in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 and a half years in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.

The 32-year-old father-of-two from Garthamlock decided it was time for a career change when he left the Armed Forces last month, he is now training for his HGV licence. He said:

“It’s strange when you leave the Armed Forces because you don’t have the support that you’re used to. Finding a job and accessing housing has been tough, especially when my regiment was based in Suffolk and all the help I was used to was based down there.

“Job hunting is difficult because I know I have transferrable skills but there’s no place in civvie street for a tank commander.

“Glasgow’s Helping Heroes has been fantastic, getting me sorted with a place to live, helping me with my CV and pointing me in the right direction of ILA funding so I can try and get my truck driving licence. They have also put me in touch with Remploy and I’m going to their job finding club every week.

“A lot of guys I know have been made redundant because of the defence cuts and there’s plenty of job clubs in the south of England, but coming back to Scotland they might not know what’s there for them. A Scottish Veterans Commissioner will hopefully promote what services are out there.”

Cambuslang woman Kerry Riddock, 25, was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Logistics Corps. After eight years of service she left the Armed Forces in 2013 and has since received support with housing and employment from Glasgow’s Helping Heroes. Kerry now works for Horizon Security. She said:

“Glasgow’s Helping Heroes was a lifeline for me and helped with training and with looking for a job. Now I’m working in security with colleagues who are also ex-service. I think a Scottish Veterans Commissioner will be good for Scotland, and it’s important that they know what it’s like to adapt to civilian life after leaving the Armed Forces.”

Colonel Martin Gibson, the chair of Veterans Scotland which represents 57 charities and organisations that support veterans of all ages, welcomed the news of the advert, he said:

“Working with the new appointee will enable Veterans Scotland and our charity members to focus on identified areas of need for ex-service personnel that the public sector can collaborate on to make a real difference. The vast majority of those leaving the services rejoin the civilian community with success and contribute very significantly to Scotland; we feel that those who at some stage need some advice and support richly deserve such assistance.

“Access to housing and employment are key themes where much progress has been made, but there is more work to be done. It is very encouraging to see a growing number of businesses in Scotland appreciating the skills and values of those who were in the armed forces.”

Glasgow City Council’s Veterans’ Champion, Cllr Malcolm Cunning, welcomed interest in the city’s pioneering project. He said:

“An individual’s most basic needs in civilian life can be complicated by their experiences in the Forces; but most veterans get no tailored support and have to hope their needs will be understood by people that may never have encountered them before.

“Over the last few years, we have tried to change that in Glasgow – creating a single point of contact for the city’s veterans, which deals with housing, unemployment, health, benefits and debt.

“We believe it has had an overwhelmingly positive impact for individuals, families and communities in Glasgow.”