A unique mentoring project is offering long-term support to veterans who are struggling to adjust to civilian life.

Set up in 2014, the Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine project was awarded a £50,000 grant from ABF The Soldiers' Charity in April to continue its work for another year.

Run by the TimeBank project in Edinburgh and Glasgow, it sees volunteers paired up with veterans to support their re-entry into civilian life and reduce their risk of social and economic isolation.

Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine veterans' mentoring project

The mentors support former service personnel by encouraging them to manage their finances, use public transport, take exercise, write CVs, access local support services and sort out housing issues. 

Last year Forces Network's Victoria Smith met Dougie Clark, a Royal Navy veteran who struggled with mental health issues after leaving service.

He was left feeling uncomfortable around large groups of people after a near-death experience in a Sea King helicopter while serving in Kuwait.

Originally he was wary of the mentoring scheme, but he eventually signed up for a year and was paired up with volunteer Kathy Hannon to talk through what happened to him. He said:

"Kathy has helped me by kind of forcing me to do things that I don't like doing."

The project helps 80 former service personnel and 20 of their immediate family members in Scotland, and follows similar Timebank projects in Birmingham and London.

And it's seen veterans giving back as well as benefitting from the scheme.

Former Army officer Andy Owen put his experiences and memories of the forces into writing in the novel 'East of Coker', which is set in London and Iraq.

Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine veterans' mentoring project

He's decided to donate the royalties to the Shoulder to Shoulder project, to help support those who struggle after leaving the services. He said:

"I was very lucky. I had, [for] the vast majority, positive experiences from my time both on operations and outside of that.

"But I was very aware that some other people had some quite traumatic experiences... and I was always interested... [in] how best we could support those people.

If you'd like to volunteer as a mentor or think you would benefit from one, click here to find out more.

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