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Let’s remember our troops year round

 Published on: 14th November 2013   |   By: Nik Allen

mc_flanders_5It was remarkable to see so many people observe Remembrance Day this week, but how do we treat returned service men and women on the other 364 days of the year?

If you used the number of poppies sold and worn as an indication, then it would seem as a nation we are pretty good at honouring those who have served their country in conflict.

But look at the statistics, and you get a different picture.

It is estimated that around ten per cent of those currently homeless are ex- servicemen or women (some even put this figure as high as 25 per cent). Furthermore, more British soldiers and veterans took their own lives in 2012 than died fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan over the same period.

So are we doing enough for our returned soldiers? The answer is no.

While we are all happy to wear poppies on Remembrance Day many people are indifferent to the plight of service men and women the rest of the year.

And let’s not let the politicians off the hook either. They were ever present at services around the country on November 11. But in their eagerness to cut costs and save money on the welfare budget bureaucrats and politicians have sometimes treated veterans incredibly callously.

Take the case of Aron Shelton for example. He lost a leg in combat but was told he wasn’t “disabled enough” to receive the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Thankfully, with the backing of the Royal British Legion, the decision was overturned. But it took a year for the bureaucrats to see sense. Is this a dignified way to treat someone who has risked his life for his country?

I myself had had my own battles over the DLA (my son Jason lost a leg in an accident). When the boffins told us he no longer needed his mobility allowance it was a very frustrating process trying to get them to see sense.

Housing is another issue for veterans as often they find it difficult to prove they have a strong connection to a particular local area – a criteria councils insist on before they provide social housing. It’s difficult to prove you have an unbroken connection to a particular borough in England if you have been serving in Afghanistan and we need policies which take that into account.

As a former RAF man myself, I have so much admiration for the sacrifices these men and women have made for us, and it is our duty to make sure we provide them with all the support and help they need, year around.

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