Military charity SSAFA seeing a rise in veterans suffering with complex problems including mental health issues and homelessness

Peter Threadkell, SSAFA caseworker for the Norfolk branch. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

Peter Threadkell, SSAFA caseworker for the Norfolk branch. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE - Credit: SOPHIE WYLLIE

Homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems and debt is on the rise within the armed forces veterans community.

That is the claim from an experienced Norwich SSAFA volunteer who provides practical and emotional advice to ex-servicemen and their families across the city, for the charity's Norfolk branch.

SSAFA is an international organisation which has supported forces personnel, veterans and their families since 1885 by helping them access grants, housing, provide special equipment and guide them to other charities.

Retired teacher Peter Threadkell, who has been a SSAFA caseworker for the past 18 years, said: 'We [SSAFA charity] are seeing more veterans dealing with debt, mental health problems, homelessness and drug and alcohol issues. This has been a growing problem over the past decade. A lot of people come out of the armed forces and are lost. They need support. Life can be complicated.'

He added that was the trend across Britain.

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Mr Threadkell added when he started volunteering with SSAFA, a typical case would involve helping a Second World War veteran buy a fridge freezer but they were now more complex.

'You help people so they have a better life. Whatever you think of particular wars, these veterans signed up to fight for their country so need support,' Mr Threadkell added.

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The volunteer believed there was enough support across the country for armed forces veterans and their families.

Across Britain, there are 2,500 SSAFA volunteers which help 50,000 people each year.

It links up with 1,200 armed forces-related charities as well as civilian support groups.

There are currently between 55 and 60 volunteers, including 40 case workers who do home visits, in Norfolk.

The branch dealt with 530 cases in 2016, a slight rise compared with the year before.

It gave out £300,000 worth of grant money to veterans or their families.

Mr Threadkell said the vast majority of veterans they saw in 2016 - 57pc or 301 people- were from the army.

Just over half of the ex-service personnel they saw in that year - 54pc - was aged 60 and over.

Visit support statistics

Below is breakdown of cases Norfolk's SSAFA branch dealt with in 2016:

Army veterans - 301 (57pc of the total number of Norfolk cases that year)

RAF veterans - 156 (29pc)

Royal Navy - 51 (10pc)

Other clients (family members of veterans including partners and children) - 17 (4pc)

Age profile of cases:

60 and over - 54pc of the total number of Norfolk cases that year

40-59 - 23pc

Below 40 - 17pc

Unknown ages - 6pc

SSAFA provides charitable support across the UK.

England has 53 branches, Scotland has 22 branches, Northern Ireland has one branch and Wales has nine branches.

It provides health and social care professionals and voluntary services across the world. Countries supported include Cyprus, France and Germany.

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