The thing about an Action Plan is that it all depends on what action you actually take and that’s how we should judge the latest one from the Scottish Government. The Action Plan this time is aimed at better helping people who’ve left the Armed Forces. Good idea. But let’s see, shall we?

The kind of people that the plan – published this week – aims to help is people like Bill. Bill is from Greenock and used to be in the Scots Guards. During the Falklands War he was right in the middle of the battle of Tumbledown and saw nine of his friends killed. Then he left the Army. What happened next do you think?

What happened was that Bill, with his wife and two kids, spent a year with no place to live. Bill told me he would sit with his wife and wonder how it all happened. He could remember people calling him a hero while he was in the army and yet here he was living in a B&B with no job and little chance of one. “I had no prospects,” he said. “There was nothing.”

Eventually, thankfully, the charity sector kicked in and Bill found a home with the veterans group Erskine, but it wasn’t easy and this is something I hear a lot when I speak to veterans or the people trying to help them. There is assistance out there, they say, and there are groups that are trying to do something. But as a whole, the system isn’t working as well as it should.

The Government’s Action Plan does acknowledge this issue: there is a need, it says, for more effective collaboration and co-ordination across the organisations helping veterans. It also says one of the principles of the plan is that veterans should be able to access the support they need when they need it. This is all good stuff, and an apparent acceptance of the problem.

The question is though: how do we fix it? The Government says it will try to collaborate better with other organisations and improve the collection, use, and analysis of data on veterans, which is a good start. There’s a problem of veterans effectively “disappearing” when they leave the forces, and although that’s partly because the MOD is not good at sharing the information it holds on veterans, a system that’s better co-ordinated would help.

What would also particularly help the veterans themselves is a central point to go to for help. If they do run into trouble, first of all, the culture they’ve learned in the forces is that you shouldn’t be a burden and so their instinct often is to avoid seeking help. The problem then is that if and when they eventually do, it’s not obvious where to go because there’s a confusing array of groups. Fixing that should be one of the top priorities of the plan.

The Armed Forces will also need to be part of it, of course. A brigadier who moved into the charity sector told me that the Armed Forces is getting better at helping people to “decompress” and that the networks have improved, but he also told me that the problems often hit nine, ten, eleven years after someone has left the forces which means the help not only has to be easy-to-access and clear, it has to be long-long-term.

There is also, finally, a deeper issue at work here that you won’t see in the Action Plan however hard you look and that’s the fact that the Armed Forces has always recruited people, in large numbers, from difficult backgrounds with poor qualifications when they’re young and immature. It then looks after them for a while before returning them to the lives they left, sometimes with disastrous consequences, often with predictable ones.

Fixing this much wider, bigger problem is not in the plan because it’s actually about fixing bigger issues: education, poverty, crime, how easy it can be to end up in jail, attitudes to drugs and alcohol, the support we give people when the drugs and alcohol get out of control, and so on. The truth is that an action plan for veterans will never be fully successful until we also have effective strategies for these other problems too. All we can do is wait and judge the plans when and if they come.

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