Veterans Minister Keith Brown
Armed Services Advice Project
June 28, 2012
I congratulate Christina McKelvie in securing a debate on an excellent initiative from Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS).
I welcome the contributions from members in the debate. This illustrates once again the keen interest within this chamber around the support and welfare needs of our veterans’ community in Scotland.
Indeed, I am aware that a number of members have lodged motions in the last few months congratulating CAS on the Armed Services Advice Project - ASAP.
Today’s debate therefore, has enabled us to acknowledge publically the success of ASAP.
It also demonstrates that initiatives by national, third sector organisations like Citizen Advice Scotland are widely acknowledged as examples of forward thinking and collaborative working that has significant impact on the ground.
Delivering help, support and tangible results to those who face disadvantage.
I am planning to visit Stirling Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) on 19 July to hear first hand from those working on the front line and from veterans benefitting from this innovative service.
The ASAP Project
ASAP is a free, independent and confidential advice service for serving personnel, veterans and their families. Regardless of where they live in Scotland, specialist advice or appropriate signposting is only a phone call away.
Initial advice is available via a national helpline – 0845 231 0300 - after which veterans can access an appointment with an adviser at a designated CAB.
It is an excellent, intuitive and well designed tool that makes the right connections with organisations and agencies with the expertise and information that is of direct benefit to the CAB visitor.
It provides the right people who can assist with benefits enquiries, debt and money management advice, housing issues, work related problems, consumer issues and help on coping with relationships.
The statistics captured in the motion make impressive reading. There have been more than 1,400 clients in 21 months and over 6,000 issues have been examined and addressed.
I am particularly struck by the fact that nearly £900,000 in additional benefits have been secured for those who accessed the service.
That is a successful project by any description and I congratulate CAS and all the staff involved as advisors in each of the CAB on their considerable achievement.
It is only right that the other partners in this project are congratulated for their foresight, commitment and support of ASAP.
First and foremost, the role of PoppyScotland has to be applauded. I know the staff from that veterans’ charity have worked very closely with CAS and I believe it is entirely appropriate to acknowledge the fantastic work by Ian McGregor and his staff in moving the ASAP project forward.
It is also right that we acknowledge the other funders. There are many, which demonstrates the faith they put into the ASAP project. So, I welcome the contributions and support of the other veterans’ charities mentioned in the motion.
I am sure members would wish me to also record the role of the Scottish government in the ASAP project. It is minor, admittedly, but an integral part nevertheless.
The Scottish government, through the Scottish Veterans Fund, contributed just over £6,000 towards the cost of a booklet for advisors. I know this has helped build the library of information that has proved to be so invaluable, so in that respect, I am pleased with our contribution.
Where Does ASAP Fit
Of course, ASAP is but one tool to be used in assisting those who face difficulties in transiting from military to civilian life or who experience problems some years after discharge.
I look forward to reading the CAB report on veterans’ issues, published today. I am sure it will provide valuable insight into the particular needs and aspirations.
Members will be interested to know that, I met with Colonel Martin Gibson, Chairman of Veterans Scotland, yesterday, who once again congratulated the Scottish Government for its inclusive, supportive and effective raft of programmes developed to support our Armed Forces and veterans’ community.
Last year I announced in this chamber that the Scottish Government would be publishing a roadmap setting out our future plans for the planning and delivery of support and advice services for the Armed Forces and veterans’ community by the Scottish Government and the wider public sector.
I believe the motion sums up the success of ASAP very well.
It is a vital source of advice and support that succeeds in exactly what it sets out to do. It makes a significant contribution to helping veterans recover from problems.