Thursday, 24 March 2011

Conference hears that 20,000 ex-service personnel are in prison or on probation

Plaid MP backs campaign to support military veterans

A packed conference of ex-service personnel and their supporters has heard a Plaid Cymru MP pledge to continue campaigning on their behalf after revealing that about 20,000 ex-veterans are either currently in prison or on probation.

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP for Meirionnydd Dwyfor, was speaking at the Forces For Good conference in the Catrin Finch Centre in Wrexham, where he explained how the campaign for the particular problems facing millions of ex-servicemen and women was "gaining traction".

He said:
"The campaign for the welfare needs of veterans of the armed forces is growing. The current Bill on ex-service personnel going through Westminster seeks to address the adverse affect on veterans but it's disappointing that debate has been stifled. Many fall through the welfare net and, although they are trained to the highest level, are not prepared for live outside the forces.

"I first became involved when I realised, through my work in the courts, the number of violent cases involving ex-servicemen that were coming through the criminal justice system where there were no apparent motives. I made enquiries about the number of prison inmates who were veterans and was told there were no figures."

He explained that working with the probation service, he had established there were up to 20,000 veterans in the criminal justice system, including an estimated 8,500 in prison. He said the challenge now was to change the system that allowed this to happen and ensure there was sufficient help in terms of alcohol and drug misuse, housing and health - especially the mental wellbeing of traumatised soldiers.

Mr Llwyd said:
"We need a representative in the cabinet who deals with the welfare needs of veterans rather than the priorities of the MoD budget."

Marc Jones, Plaid's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, also attended the conference, which attracted ex-military personnel from across Wales and beyond. He said:

"There were many very harrowing tales of how ex-service personnel were more or less abandoned by the Ministry of Defence once their time was up. The knock-on effect of months of training to desensitise people for a war situation can't be undone in 24 hours, and the tales of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and family break-up leading very often to prison show that there is a responsibility on the MoD to resettle its personnel as well as train them.

"Wales provides a very high percentage of the UK armed forces - about 10% - considering its small size and we need better treatment for those men and women. For example, unlike the USA, there is no mental health assessment before they leave the military. In the States, 21% have been found to have mental health issues whereas veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to deal with their own PTSD issues, often by self-medicating through alcohol and drugs."

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