Employ-Able: a new initiative to get Scotland’s veterans into work

8th November 2012 Fraser Bedwell

Poppyscotland and mental health charity SAMH have teamed up to create Employ-Able, a new service that will support veterans to get into employment.

Employ-Able, launched this month, aims to remove barriers, help develop skills and set goals, taking the form of one-to-one and group work sessions, using the model of SAMH’s successful Tools for Living programme. Referrals will come through Poppyscotland from a number of veterans’ organisations and a team of employability advisors at SAMH will help the veterans to find permanent employment.

Charlie McMillan, Director of Operations at SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) said: “Scotland’s veterans deserve as much support as we can give them when they settle back into the community. We know it can be hard for some veterans to get back into regular employment and that unemployment and financial difficulties are bad for your mental health, so we’re really pleased to be able to offer this new service in partnership with Poppyscotland.”

There are around 189,000 veterans of working age in Scotland, and research suggests that the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-49 is twice that of the general UK population. Poppyscotland research carried out in 2009 estimates that around 28,000 veterans in Scotland are out of work. The research also found a lack of current employability services that specifically target veterans who may be vulnerable or need additional support to get back into work. The new service is intended to address this gap.

Gary Gray, Head of Charitable Services at Poppyscotland, commented: “We are delighted to be working with SAMH to deliver Employ-Able.  A small but significant number of veterans face difficulty in adjusting to civilian life with many facing complex and multiple issues. Employment and mental health are areas of great concern as they impact greatly on all aspects of veterans’ lives and those of their families. By combining Poppyscotland’s knowledge of veterans’ issues and SAMH’s expertise we believe Employ-Able will tackle some of these key areas of difficulty and improve veterans’ prospects.”

Veterans Minister Keith Brown added his support for the service, saying: “I welcome this initiative which I hope will be invaluable to our former service personnel in helping them find new routes back into employment. This government is committed to supporting our country’s veterans.  We will continue to work with partner organisations like Poppyscotland to facilitate the development of new and innovative policies that support this courageous group of individuals, as they make their transition back into civilian life.”

Army veteran Andy Corbett (50) has struggled with mental health issues since witnessing horrific events in Northern Ireland and Lockerbie.  After difficulty in finding secure employment on leaving the Armed Forces Andy now works at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh. He believes Employ-Able will make a significant difference to those in similar situations, saying: “I wish there had been a service like this when I left the Army. It was hard to get used to Civvy Street and I even had to leave my last job as a bus driver because I found it too stressful. I kept everything bottled up but in the end something had to give. I have my life back on track now but I am glad there is a dedicated service to help others get the support they need and hopefully prevent anyone else going through what I have experienced.”

A report produced in June 2012 by Citizens Advice Scotland, the organisation that delivers Poppyscotland’s advice project for the Armed Forces community in Scotland, found that some veterans need special help to cope with problems like debt, unemployment and low income. Margaret Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, said: “The Armed Services Advice Project welcomes the new service from Poppyscotland and SAMH, which will help veterans with mental health issues remove barriers to employment.  Our experience of supporting veterans with their advice needs has shown that our clients often face multiple and complex problems, which can be exacerbated by mental health issues. In Civvy Street: the new frontline we highlighted the mental health problems faced by some veterans and the difficulties this can lead to. This new initiative will help this particularly vulnerable client group access the support they need to help them towards employment.”

People can get in touch with Employ-Able calling Poppyscotland’s Employment Services Co-ordinator Dot Pringle on 0131 550 1568 or by emailing d.pringle@poppyscotland.org.uk