My Column

Give Our Boys a fighting Chance.

  • Date: Monday 19th October 2009
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I was shocked to read recently that more than twice as many former British servicemen are in prison, on probation, or on parole than are serving in Afghanistan.

Some 20,000 ex-soldiers are in the criminal justice system, with 8500 of them in jail - almost ten per cent of the UK's total prison population.

Clearly the government's re-location programme is failing our boys when they leave our forces.

Veterans often face post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and the situation is made worse by a lack of employment opportunities.

However I was pleased to read last week of Scots businessman Frank Strang who has established a business aimed at matching service leavers' skills to the real world.

His latest venture is called the Nimrod Group, an employment and support agency which specialises in providing work to ex-servicemen.

Frank, who served in the RAF, aims to help the 24,000 veterans who are discharged every year by finding them opportunities in line with their retained skills and specialisms.

Service-leavers have witnessed unimaginable things whilst serving and protecting our country and often struggle to cope with civilian life without the support and camaraderie of army life.

Nimrod faces this head-on by placing leavers alongside their comrades in specialist teams, where we know they perform best.

The business has to be applauded for its holistic approach and I'm sure it will thrive throughout the next economic growth cycle as it aggressively targets the oil and gas, airfield operations, support services and humanitarian operations sectors domestically and abroad.

Although applauding the dynamism of another Scot, this once again highlights another area where successive governments have let us down.

These guys are heroes who have risked their lives defending our country and we don't have the proper support mechanisms in place to help them fully re-adapt to civilian life.

Governments have spent millions on training our boys into the world's elite defence unit and then desert them when they finish serving their country.

Being back in the UK working in a low-paid unskilled job, it is little wonder more and more service leavers are spiralling into unemployment, alcoholism, drug-addiction and languishing in our prisons.

The government really needs to have a re-think about its re-location programme and take some inspiration from businesses like the Nimrod Group.

We have a great labour-force asset at a time when we are facing a serious skills shortage and it's vital we utilise this and give something back to those who have risked their lives for our freedom and way of life.

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