Many veterans face difficulties during the transition to civilian life - and for some, financial difficulties can be the most challenging of all.
Alisdair ‘Ali’ Duff, served for five years in the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery
Things started well enough, but, as Ali reveals, his feelings towards that life soon changed after that first tour in Kosovo. “I certainly wasn’t prepared for some of the things you see. You always know what being a soldier is like, but there are some things that no-one can really be prepared for before they face it.”
Ali was granted an Administrative Discharge in 2004 on the grounds that he was suffering from PTSD but with his Army career behind him, Ali only exchanged one set of problems for another, as he explains: "When I was discharged, I certainly didn’t feel prepared to handle life going forward."
"When you’re in the Army, you don’t worry about bills, and everything is organised for you. You’re told what to do, but, when you come out, it is all up to you and your daily life has no structure or organisation. No, I definitely did not feel prepared at all."
Looking back, Ali can point to the reasons why he got into thousands of pounds of debt. He admits: “I buried my head in the sand. I don’t have a good concept of dates, times, and money, which I think has a lot to do with my PTSD. It felt like a cumulative effect and I felt there was no way out. You end up taking more loans out to try and sort out what you already owed. It’s not the repayments that kill you; it’s the interest payments.”
However, things did start to improve for Ali after a meeting with an ASAP advisor - part of the Poppyscotland funded Armed Services Advice Project at Citizens Advice Scotland. They put him in touch with the team at our Inverness Welfare Centre where a holistic approach was taken to tackling the challenges Ali faced.
“I made an appointment, went along, and spoke to a member of staff who was really helpful. She sorted out so much for me and put me in touch with a psychologist. She broke everything down and helped me to sort my problems out one by one. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her as I could not see a way out at that time.”
Looking back at all that he has gone through, Ali believes there is a need for better support for those coming out of the Forces who, as his own experience shows, can experience a sort of culture shock during the transition to civilian life.
"There needs to be a place where they can drop in and ask questions and get help. So many guys coming out can’t even do basic and normal stuff. Poppyscotland have that with the Welfare Centre – they speak to you like you’re a proper person."