The Conservative government have been branded a ‘disgrace’ after a Sunday People investigation revealed that a ‘record high’ 13,000 British war veterans have been left homeless after leaving the military.
The investigation also revealed that most of these 13,000 war veterans are suffering from the devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a debilitating mental health condition which can often lead to other serious problems, including drug and alcohol addiction, if not treated promptly.
Waiting times for those with mental health conditions have doubled over the last six years under the current Tory government. And this disturbing rise in waiting times has meant that military veterans with suspected PTSD are now waiting up to an entire year for treatment.
Les Standish, a volunteer for the Bolton Armed Forces Centre who won the Military Medal in the Falklands War, told The Daily Mirror:
The Government has let these people down. These men and women were willing to fight and lay down their lives for this country and the only help available to them is from charities.
The Government needs to do more for them. It’s a disgrace.
Mr Standish, who saved the life of a comrade who had his leg blown off during the 1982 Battle of Goose Green, spent six months on the streets after suffering with PTSD.
The heroic 56 year old Falklands War veteran said that during his time on the streets he had met hundreds of fellow veterans who were now forced to sleep in doorways and beg from passers-by just to survive.
Standish slammed the lack of support for Britain’s war veterans, saying:
All of the homeless veterans I met had PTSD and were in need of help.
And describing his own ordeal, Standish said:
I could see the faces of the men I had killed and would wake up screaming, soaked in sweat.
I became too scared to go to sleep and began drinking heavily. I was medically retired form the prison service. My world collapsed and I was homeless. But eventually I got help
Cait Smith, who runs the Bolton Armed Forces Centre for Veterans, says the epidemic of homeless veterans is only getting worse under this government:
Homelessness among the veterans community is getting worse by the month. The youngest we have dealt with is an 18-year-old and the oldest is 97. And we helped people of every age in between.
The Chief Executive of Veteran Association UK – another charity who assist homeless ex-military personnel – Tony Hayes, who served in Northern Ireland, told The Daily Mirror that from the outreach work his charity does he estimated that 13,000 veterans were currently homeless in Britain, but added a depressing warning that:
From our experience, the problem of homeless veterans has never been greater. I’d say 13,000 is a minimum – it could be far higher.
Charity bosses also say that ‘the problem has been made worse by cuts to the armed forces, which has led to almost 30,000 troops losing their jobs since 2010.’
However, the government slapped down criticism from veterans and charities, saying that they are already doing enough to support veterans.
A Tory spokesman said:
We provide extensive help to veterans and their families, including funding the Veterans’ Gateway.
The Government is spending more than £1billion to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.
Despite their denials about the growing homelessness epidemic in Britain, the government is clearly not doing enough to support veterans transition from military to civilian life.
Furthermore, despite pledging to tackle the ‘burning injustice’ of mental health treatment, the Tories have pledged no extra funding for this area of the NHS – meaning that veterans with suspected PTSD are left on waiting lists without any kind of support for several months.
As a result of a sustained underfunding of NHS support networks, homelessness amongst those with mental and physical health conditions has skyrocketed by an extraordinary 75% since the Tories took power in 2010.
The Conservatives are often seen by many in the armed forces as the most ‘patriotic’ political party, but their sustained cuts to the armed forces and their complete disregard for the desperate plight of Britain’s homeless war veterans proves that they are anything but.
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