Scottish Government
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New Commissioner to champion veterans

Scottish Veterans Commissioner will support the needs of Scotland's veterans.

Scotland’s public services will receive help to address the challenges faced by Scotland’s veterans through the creation of a new, pioneering Commissioner, Veterans Minister Keith Brown announced yesterday.

The Scottish Veterans Commissioner will work with service charities, local authorities and health boards to identify any areas in public services that might provide greater support to veterans and help shape future policy development and opportunities.

The establishment of this new role, which is the first in the UK, reinforces the Scottish Government’s commitment to providing support to the estimated 400,000 ex-service men and women living in Scotland.

Mr Brown said: “I am delighted to announce the creation of the Scottish Veterans Commissioner. This new Commissioner will be a radical innovation, acting as an ambassador for veterans and helping to remove the barriers that prevent ex-servicemen and women from realising their full potential.

“As well as addressing the needs of veterans who are particularly disadvantaged, the Commissioner will develop a wider focus on unlocking the potential of veterans, so that their unparalleled skills and experience can benefit Scotland.

“The pioneering Commissioner will examine the public service landscape at a strategic level, to see what works, what needs to change and to develop new opportunities.”

The appointment of the Commissioner further strengthens the Scottish Government’s dedication to addressing the health, housing, education and justice needs of current and former servicemen and women.

Speaking at the Defence Debate today Mr Brown revealed significant developments have been made to support veterans through key objectives set out in the Armed Forces Commitments Paper in September 2012.

Since the publication of “Our Commitments” the Scottish Government has announced:

* £2.3 million to the Scottish Veterans Residencies to build a supported housing facility at Cranhill in Glasgow. The scheme will be open to all UK veterans and is due to be completed in the summer.

* £1.3 million to build 38 homes across Scotland for physically and psychologically disabled ex-service personnel through the Scottish Veterans Garden City Association.

* At least £2 million for a new national state of the art Prosthetics Service to meet the needs of Scotland’s military amputees which will be operational by April 2014.

* £1.2 million for the provision of specialist mental health services in partnership with NHS Scotland and Combat Stress. The services have been enhanced by the introduction of a six-week intensive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment programme for veterans in September 2012.

* £200,000 per year for Combat Stress community outreach services across Scotland. The community outreach teams have made nearly 1000 visits over the last year providing valuable treatment and welfare support to veterans and their families.

* Almost £180,000 in 2013 for outreach projects offered through Army Cadets Associations. Projects include up to £148,322 to the RFCA Youth Advantage Outreach to help socially and educationally disadvantaged young people through team building and adventure training.

* Capacity building funding of over £200,000 to Veterans Scotland, to develop and improve support for Scotland’s veterans over the next two years.

In addition, the Scottish Veterans Fund has distributed almost £500,000 to 70 projects since 2008 with funding increased to £120,000 per year for 2014/15.

Mr Brown commented: “The publication of the commitments paper set out our obligations to serving personnel, their families, reservists, veterans and the bereaved. Over the last year our funding contributions have boosted housing, education, justice and health services for our Armed Forces and veterans.

“Across the breadth of our responsibilities, our record demonstrates that we are committed to delivering better outcomes for veterans, but we cannot rest on our laurels. More can and will be done in the future.

“During my trip to Canada I was impressed with the work of the Canadian Veterans Ombudsman. This model has convinced me there is a need to build our capacity to provide leadership for even better services for veterans in Scotland. The new role of the Commissioner should complement the fantastic work our partners and stakeholders are already doing.

“Our courageous members ex-service personnel deserve our support and assistance in return for their selfless service in defence of our freedoms.”

Colonel Martin Gibson, the chair of Veterans Scotland which represents 57 charities and organisations that support veterans of all ages, welcomed the announcement: “This strong commitment by the Scottish Government will allow the Commissioner to further harmonise the services and support right across the public sector available to veterans throughout Scotland. Whether they served recently in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan or in World War II and the many subsequent conflicts including Korea, Aden, Borneo and the Falklands when they were prepared to put their lives on the line for their country and the freedom we all enjoy today.

“The first class working relationship that has been developed with Scottish Government, local authorities and the NHS demonstrates the full commitment of the public sector in Scotland to honour the Armed Forces Covenant. During the last 12 months very significant improvements have been made to ensure that our 408,000 veterans, and their families, are not disadvantaged by their service.”

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