Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 13:02 UK

Ex-soldiers 'struggle on leaving'

The battalion marching through Redcar
Ex-soldiers moving to 'civvy street' can be difficult

Servicemen and women leaving the forces after just a few years struggle more to settle into civilian life than those of many years' service, MPs have found.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) helps people leaving to find housing and jobs - with priority given to long-servers.

But the Commons public accounts committee found those leaving sooner and getting less support were "more vulnerable" to homelessness.

The MoD said resettlement was a "reward for longer service".

The cross-party committee of MPs said more should be done to help those who decided to leave earlier, and recommended the MoD provides them with "more targeted support".

It is the younger service personnel leaving early who often cannot find work or somewhere decent to live
Edward Leigh MP

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said MoD resettlement support was "by and large well received".

"But those who need it most receive less support.

"The leavers with the longest service histories in most cases cope with life after the forces with ease.

"But it is the younger service personnel leaving early who often cannot find work or somewhere decent to live."

'Limited scope'

The MoD's resettlement is handled by the Career Transition partnership and private company Right Management.

Leavers with more than six years' service can start getting help two years before they leave.

It includes one-to-one career advice, vocational training grants, help in writing a CV and finding a job and courses on civilian life from business start-up to filing a tax return.

But those employed for less than six years are sent to the Jobcentre and charities for help.

An MoD spokesman said: "Resettlement is both a reward for longer service and an encouragement to remain in the armed forces for a full career.

"For those who choose to leave the armed forces early, we still offer resettlement support but of a more limited scope."

He added that the Regular Forces Employment Association, a member of the Career Transition partnership, is developing a special job-finding service to address the needs of early leavers, but it is the individual's responsibility to sign up.

'Slip through net'

The Royal British Legion said it felt "concern that those that are often most in need are provided with very little".

Director of welfare Sue Freeth said the charity heard from early service leavers (ESLs) who did not have interviews with resettlement officers, "where an assessment of vulnerability to social exclusion is made".

"It is likely that vulnerable ESLs are slipping through the net and so not receiving the extra help they may be entitled to," she said.

The legion backs MPs' call for more support, and also improved training for "first line" resettlement officers.

I see people in dire straights, really struggling to find employment
Adrian Cheesman
Ex-military recruiter
Former soldier Adrian Cheesman set up his recruitment company Demob Job two years before he left after 24 years of service.

He now finds jobs for 60 to 70 former service personnel with "lots of qualifications who are highly employable" each year.

He agrees the longer a soldier, sailor or airman is in service, the more organised they will be about what to do when they come out.

"If you have a full career like I did, you're thinking about getting yourself in order, especially if you have a family. And you get a pension and a lot of cash when you leave which gives you a cushion while you find work.

"But I see people in dire straits, really struggling to find employment. Some of them consider rejoining.

"I had a guy in here who had been in the RAF for six years and thought the grass was greener. Now he wants to go back."

The Royal British Legion can offer forces leavers vocational assessment, training grants, business loans and other services.

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15 Aug 07 |  UK Politics

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