Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 16:31 UK

Debt help for military personnel

Mark Smith
Mr Smith retrained as a tree surgeon to help him pay off his debts

There is a growing debt crisis among military veterans and those still serving in the armed forces, according to the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The charity dealt with almost 2,000 new welfare cases last year in Devon and Cornwall.

Spokesman John Pentreath said a new service was offering help to people facing bailiffs and court action.

The Benefits and Money Advice Service is run by the RBL, Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) and RAF Benevolent Fund.

Paul Baker from CAB said there was a need for the service in the South West.

The bills need to be paid, so I'm not going to sit around
Mark Smith, debtor

"Almost one in 10 people have served or are related to someone who has served," he told BBC News.

"This client group is fiercely independent and as an ex-servicemen I understand how stubborn some people can be about asking for help.

"This service provides that bridge."

One of those being helped by the service is 24-year-old Mark Smith who trained as a Royal Marine at Lympstone in Devon, but was forced to leave because of injury.

He has debts of about 20,000 and, with the help of the Benefits and Money Advice Service, he has retrained as a tree surgeon and has begun to pay off his creditors.

"The bills need to be paid, so I'm not going to sit around - I might as well go out and earn it," he said.

Serving personnel and veterans can contact their local CAB or the RBL in Exeter or Truro.

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The charity says it had 900 new welfare cases last year in Devon alone

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