Veterans support charity work to go nationwide

Charlie Allanson-Odd says it can be hard for military personnel to admit they are struggling. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Charlie Allanson-Odd says it can be hard for military personnel to admit they are struggling. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A VETERANS charity run by ex-servicemen that supports hundreds of former military personnel in Edinburgh is set to be rolled out across Scotland following a £2.5 million windfall.

Veterans First Point Lothian – which provides everything from counselling services to job-hunting help – has ­assisted more than 1000 ex-military men and women since it launched in 2009.

Around half the clients that use the service have been classed as homeless – or not having a place of their own – at some point since leaving the forces.

In the past year the NHS ­Lothian scheme, which recently moved to its new home in ­Argyle House, has received 153 new referrals.

The huge cash pot being ­invested in Veterans First Point Lothian has been received through the armed forces ­covenant (Libor) fund.

Consultant psychological therapist Charlie Allanson-Oddy said: “It can be difficult to admit things aren’t going well, particularly if someone has been in the military – there’s an emphasis on being strong.

“To acknowledge debt problems or problems with mental health can be difficult.

“Our goal is ‘any veteran, any need, or their family’. We aim to provide a one-stop shop as accessibility to services is very important.”

He added: “There’s a real need in Edinburgh, as evidenced by the numbers we are getting through the door.

“To be classed as a veteran, you need to have served one day. We have met people who have scraped along at basic training and left and we have had some that served 22-years.

“We have people in their early-20s, those who have gone in at 16-17 to see the world or find adventure or just get out of where they have grown up.”

Many clients using the service have gone through personal trauma, such as divorce, which has led to parts of their lives seeming as though they have spiralled out of control.

It works in partnership with organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Veterans UK to give easy access to those who need it and stop people being passed from one place to the next.

Peer support worker Jessica Day is from Northern Ireland, where her father worked with the security forces. She grew up “seeing military personnel on the streets” and developed an interest from there.

“It’s a really interesting job to do. It is very rewarding and challenging at times,” she said.

“Some of them feel quite let down by the health service and by the MoD. On the other hand, we have people who loved their time in it. It’s very humbling to work with our clients.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com