One hundred year ago saw the outbreak of the First World War, the war to end all wars. That worked out well! It also spawned the term SHELL SHOCK that was latter replaced by the medical condition POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. The treatment at the time, more often than not was 2oz of lead administered as in-humanly fast as possible the sufferer.
What you may ask has all this to do with this Blog? The answer is a rather scary statistic, one that surprised me in this so called land fit for heroes.
According to figures that in truth take a little searching out on the ever present internet, the street homeless community is made up of between 25% – 33% ex-service men and women.
These figures pre date the currant Government cuts in the armed forces, and seem to be something of an historical anomaly dating right back to the Napoleonic Wars; and must beg the question ‘what is going on?’
I can understand that in the past, long before the welfare state that people could slip through the gaps in society. But in these more modern times of computer records, and information at the tip of every official finger it is hard to understand how this can carry on.
Having spoken to those who have served their country, only on their return to ‘civvy street’ found themselves unable to cope. It seems to follow a certain pattern; those coming back from the front line will have an idea and ambition, based on advice and training they receive from the careers officer. Only when they hit the streets they find there are no jobs in their field.
So using that determination learned over years of training they take the first job that comes along. Here they seem to run into problems, there is a new language to learn. That ‘works speak’ we all know and sometimes love; that way of behaving, hiding sometimes snide comments in the banal politeness of small talk.
Taking ‘orders’ from people who have never travelled further than the latest holiday resort, whose whole life experience centres around the games consol.
The people I have talked to, and her I have to admit, my evidence is purely anecdotal, tell how they manage to last anything up to a year in their first job. Then leave some by choice, others after being told they ‘do not fit in’.
There then follows a scramble to find anything that will pay the bills, for people who have lived a high stress life style, accompanied with a culture that accepts heavy drinking as the norm, for some the temptation to over indulge can make a bad situation just that little bit worse.
Again, after an exhaustive search of the font of all knowledge that is the internet there are no actual published figures. The second job, for those I have talked with tends to last a few months, and goes the same way as the first; and so begins a downward spiral that leads to the streets.
When I was doing my research for this piece the one thing I found both frightening and frustrating was the lack of information. Almost as if there is an unwillingness to admit to this problem. There seems to be little or no cohesive help out there to help ex-service people, other than that offered to everyone else on the streets.
There seem few people out there asking the question why there is such a high proportion of homeless people from Her majesty’s Forces finding it so hard to readjust to a ‘normal’ life.
In a time when there are more and more cuts to the armed forces and a greater and greater reliance on reservist troops what of the future? What plans to help people who will serve for six months and are then expected to go back to their nine to five lives? And how will this reflect on the number of service men and women on the streets.
This whole issue, at least to me, seems to ask far more questions than it answers. If you have any ideas please let the Royal British Legion know, or failing that you’re local MP.