To create a rehabilitation and employment programme, which will be a one-of-a-kind programme, supporting the transition of veterans at all stages, from early service leavers from the Armed Services to veterans needing employment or are between careers and those who have found themselves in less fortunate circumstances i.e. are in the prison system or are on the streets.
Having conducted research, speaking to homeless and unemployed personnel as well as early service leavers, and to find out what the government is doing to combat this problem, I uncovered some very shocking statistics that even as a serviceman myself I was unaware of, and made for emotional reading, and clearly proves this system is not fit for purpose.
At present according to the government website support for veterans, there are.
• 7,000-10,000 homeless veterans on our streets.
• 9,000 Veterans in the judiciary system.
• And 20,000-30,000 unemployed servicemen and women.
To pinpoint an actual figure the MOD actually gives in financial support to Veterans is unclear, as it is enveloped within the defence budget, but as a soldier myself, I can confirm it is bare minimum with little or no support when you leave the military, and then having to try and find out yourself which is an effort in its self-waiting a minimum of 12 weeks just to check service personnel records.
“We provide free support for veterans and their families, including a helpline, Veterans Welfare Service, Defence Transition Services and injury/bereavement compensation scheme payments. Veterans UK is part of the Ministry of Defence.”
This is taken from the UK government and as you can see there is no mention of actual funds being allocated to help UK veterans.
The FY 2021 budget provides robust funding for the secretary’s top priorities. It includes $109.5 billion (an increase of $13.5 billion or 14.1% above 2020) in discretionary funding and resources for health care, benefits and national cemeteries. Additionally, there’s $133.8 billion (an increase of $9 billion or 7.2% above 2020) in mandatory funding for benefit programs, specifically: compensation and pensions, readjustment benefits, housing and insurance.
The paragraph above is taken from the US budget, as you can see, we are sorely lacking when it comes to the supporting of our veterans, this funding comes directly from the US government, as well as the US having armed forces charities.
Here in the UK, we have left it down to charities and the public to help our heroes, and unfortunately, as we have seen and can see by the amount of money these charities sit on to pay their staff and directors, they have become huge organisations, also we have seen quite recently members of charities taking funds for their own use. This is because none of these people were ever soldiers and have no understanding of what people go through when asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, they see it as a way to make money for their own ends, and that’s why there is so much money in the banks of these charities and not where it needs to be, helping those who chose to fight for their country.
Garden Troops aims to assist:
Early Service Leavers (ESL)
Provide employment for ESL as soon as they leave the military, whilst they retrain and develop a skillset, they can then use in other areas or stay within the company. Many ESL do not qualify for retraining due to the length of their service and are released from the Armed Services without any skills. This group has been identified by the MOD as the group most likely to have adjustment issues and an increased risk of suicide.
Veterans that can’t find or find it difficult to hold down a normal nine to five job due to their service. At the moment there are around 15,000 – 20,000 unemployed ex-service members in our community. There is a large portion of this group that find it very difficult to transition and hold down permanent employment because of factors such as a lack of structure, peer group, lack of external motivation and discipline.
Currently, there are 10,000 homeless veterans who have isolated themselves from society for several reasons including unemployment, mental health issues, dependency issues, family breakdown and separation, nearly all resulting from their service in the military. Having communicated with many homeless veterans over the last year, we have found there to be so many similarities in their stories and a knock-on effect leading to them being on the streets. We will provide accommodation whilst giving them an opportunity to work.
Veteran Prison Leavers
Giving these men and women a means to survive and by offering them an opportunity to break their negative life cycle. Currently, 9,000 ex-service leavers in the judiciary system in one form or another and is generally is the final stage before most ex-service personnel end up on the streets, this comes back to the knock-on effect we see in so many; we want to break this cycle by providing employment, a good wage, rehabilitation and retraining.
Garden Troops will provide:
Giving all our veterans the means to earn above the minimum wage to support them and their families additionally giving them back a sense of self-worth that once again, they are providing for others as they are used to. This is a crucial step in the rehabilitation process.
To provide medical support both physical and mental to deal with any issues they may develop from their service. Mental and physical illness is something that plagues the armed forces community because of the high demand on both physical and mental robustness during their service in harsh and unforgiving environments and is not something that is fully appreciated by anyone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. This is reflected by the number of servicemen and woman that take their own lives each year.
We would work with local and national mental and physical health specialists to attack the route of the problems; this would aid these men and women to start to leading normal lives again.
Supportive Peer Group
As all employees will be ex-forces, they will understand each other, as previously they have operated all over the world with each other and have similar experiences. They will use these shared experiences, that form strong teams and in doing so support each other, so no one feels misunderstood or marginalised.
For most of their careers in the Armed Forces, soldiers spend their careers outdoors, and so generally struggle with transitioning to a job working in an office or factory. As Garden Troops is a landscaping and gardening company, we naturally create an environment that keep ex-service personnel in a familiar work setting, working with their hands as well as using the skills they have learned in the military to change landscapes for defence application.
Provide a Public Service
As we are a CIC, we look to give back to the community in every aspect of our business, this includes providing customers with beautiful gardens as well as community projects such as turning unused areas into places where the local community can sit and enjoy a small piece of nature. This would help the local council with maintenance costs and show the community it has been worthwhile, as they benefit from these projects and at the same time providing a sense of self-worth for our troops through positive interactions in their local communities.
To become a hub to liaise with all UK armed forces charities as well as the military to pinpoint exactly what ex-service personnel are entitled to from charities, without the extraordinary effort and massive wait times needed to gain access to help.
There is lots of help available from charities and veterans’ organisations (over 1,500 in the UK) but most do not offer emergency support or direct employment and from an ex-service member initially asking for help to them receiving that support, especially when it comes to funds just to survive, takes from four to six months. Veterans have to wait thirteen weeks just to have records checked and they also need hit certain criteria to qualify for assistance, such as needing a permanent address and bank statements to get help.
Veterans are different individuals than the majority of society making them a fringe group in their own right and within this group, there are people that during their service have developed several issues which affect their ability to lead a “normal” life i.e. keeping a job or wanting isolation, this is through no fault of their own the most common issues we have found through research include:
- Mental health issues
- Substance misuse/dependency
- Lack of self-worth
- Lack of understanding from society
- Transitioning to a new role and work environment
- No supporting peer groups
- No structure/routine
- Lack of outside motivation
- Lack of knowledge and access to resources
Soldiers do not live like the majority of society, during our service we are in essence institutionalised, as the military provides most of our essential needs. Additionally, there is nothing that mirrors this in the civilian world and this is the basis for soldiers developing problems after leaving. Garden Troops will offer support in all these areas to ensure everyone gets the right level of support at the right time.
Charities do great work and relieve a lot of pressure on people, the downside to these organisations is that there are criteria you need to fill before you can even qualify for help and the long wait times between applying and receiving help between four to six months after applying. We would provide food, shelter, employment opportunity, emergency funding to a limit to make sure people are safe and feed and with the chance of working themselves out of a situation this would be immediately within 24-48hrs and the only criteria are that have served in the UK armed forces which can be verified with 24hrs though our network.
We will concentrate on these eight key aspects. Our company is run by veterans for veterans and our rehabilitation and employment programme is a multifaceted approach. We believe this will be the best way to allow these brave men and women to regain a foothold back into society and go on to lead happy fulfilled lives.