A new programme that aims to stop veterans from becoming trapped in a "cycle of criminality" is being launched this week.
The 'Veterans' Interventions' scheme hopes to help integrate former service personnel into civilian life smoothly and prevent them from reoffending.
Run by Seetec’s Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (KSS CRC), the programme is designed to deliver targeted support during six sessions.
Probation officers with specialist knowledge of the military career of each veteran on the programme will provide support to help them find a job, a place to live and set longer-term life goals.
Sessions will also cover issues such as addiction, healthy relationships and building social skills.
Ex-Armed Forces personnel make up between approximately 3.5% to 4% of people in custody or on community orders, according to Government statistics published in 2019.
While the majority of those leaving the Armed Forces transition successfully into civilian life, a small number of veterans can face serious challenges, KSS CRC said.
This can include social isolation, alcohol abuse, gambling addictions, anxiety and physical and mental health problems.
Many veterans are less inclined to seek help for their problems as they see it as a sign of weakness, including when looking for work or a place to live, KSS CRC added.
Former veteran and KSS CRC probation officer, Paul Westbrook, said: "After 27 years in probation, I’ve seen too many veterans who have unfortunately ended up serving time.
"The aim of this programme is to help veterans in the probation system to rebuild their lives and turn a corner on their criminal past.”
Veterans could be referred to the new programme by the National Probation Service as part of their court-ordered sentence or under conditions placed on them when they are released from prison.
The intervention is also backed by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.
Gary Williams, head of specialist services at SSAFA, said the programme "is an excellent initiative to help reduce the number of veterans reoffending and finding themselves back in the criminal justice system".
"For the majority, the transition period from the forces to civilian life is easy and they incur very few obstacles or issues," he said.
"However, a small minority find themselves struggling to deal with life on civvy street and end up in difficult or harmful situations that may lead them into the criminal justice system.
"The programme will enable veterans to access the support they need, when they need it, to ensure that they do not end up in the criminal justice system again and find stability in their civilian lives through a variety of ways, including employment.”
The scheme is starting in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, but organisers say they have written to Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer MP to ask to discuss the future scope of the programme.
Cover image: PA.