For those who have served in the British Armed Forces, returning to everyday civilian life can be challenging. Not only do you have to find a way to financially support yourself but you also have to find somewhere to live as well as ways to deal with possible mental and physical health problems.
The cost of living crisis has affected people all across the UK, with the cost of energy, food and rent becoming unaffordable for many. This adds further complications for veterans who are trying to adjust to life after returning from service but there is help available in the form of housing schemes and financial support.
In this guide, we’ll be covering every aspect of adjusting to civilian life for veterans, including finding employment, housing options, financial support, support for mental health conditions and pensions.
Let’s start by looking at the employment options available to veterans.
It might be the case that you’re not able to find full time employment when returning from the military, which will make it difficult to cope financially. Luckily, there are a number of charities that provide financial support for veterans. These include –
- Veterans’ Foundation is an organisation that provides grants to small and medium charities that support veterans. They also provide the option for people to donate and put on fundraising events to help support veterans.
- Turn 2 Us is a national charity that provides financial support for both active members of the armed forces and veterans. They have an easy-to-use benefits calculator that lets you know what you might be entitled to as a veteran and they also provide general advice and support.
- Royal British Legion also provides grants for veterans and works with a number of other organisations to help provide financial support.
- The Soldiers’ Charity offers individual grants to veterans for a number of different purposes, including essential needs, funeral costs, home repairs and mobility equipment.
In addition to the above organisations, there are also many discounts you can benefit from as a veteran. You simply need to obtain a British Veterans Recognition Card.
Housing for veterans
One of the biggest challenges for veterans after retiring from the armed forces is finding accommodation. The cost of both renting and buying property in the UK is always increasing, so without a regular source of income, it can seem impossible to find somewhere to live.
Luckily there are housing schemes available that make finding your own place a lot easier. Some useful organisations that support veterans where housing is concerned are –
- SSAFA is a charity that offers free advice to veterans who are looking for somewhere to live. In addition to offering advice, they’re also able to help with financial assistance where it’s needed.
- Shelter provides support and advice to veterans who are threatened with homelessness. They have a number of contact numbers and links to charities and organisations that can help those who find themselves in this situation.
- Haig Housing Homes for the Veteran Community is a charity that owns more than 1,500 properties across the UK. Ex-servicemen and women can apply for housing as well as other housing support.
- Veterans in Need’s housing page provides links to a huge number of charities and local housing authorities in the UK to help veterans get the information they need to resolve their living situation.
- SPACES offers housing advice for veterans as well as a placement service. They offer support for veterans across the whole of the UK and work with veterans for up to 12 months after they’ve been discharged to help them find suitable accommodation.
When it comes to financially supporting after leaving the armed forces, there are two main options. You can either look for a regular job or you can go the self-employed route. Which is the better option will largely depend on your personality, preference and skillset.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of both, starting with regular employment.
Some of the main pros of seeking a regular full-time job include –
- Stability – Perhaps the biggest benefit of employment over being self-employed is the stability it provides. When you’re self-employed, you constantly have to find your own work whereas a job will provide you with a dependable source of income.
- Promotion opportunities – With a regular job, you also have the ability to earn a promotion. How far you can go will depend a lot on your own personal ambition and attitude of course but it’s a benefit you don’t have when you’re self-employed.
- Paid leave – Another benefit of having a regular job is that you’re entitled to a certain amount of paid leave each year.
- Pension – A lot of jobs also come with a pension. Although every citizen in the UK is entitled to the basic state pension after a certain age, it only provides minimal support and most people find it isn’t enough, so it’s very beneficial to have a job that comes with a good pension.
Of course, there are downsides to regular employment too. Some of the main ones being –
- Rigid hours – A downside of working for a company is that you’re likely going to have to work rigid hours. This is often 9 to 5 but it can vary depending on the type of job.
- Stress – Dealing with stress can be a real challenge for a lot of people but it can be particularly difficult for veterans. How much stress you’re exposed to in the workplace will be different for every job but anything where you’re dealing with other employees and the public can come with quite a bit of stress.
Now let’s look at some of the pros of being self-employed –
- Set your own hours – One of the biggest advantages to working for yourself is that you can set your own hours. Not having to get up every day at the same time and drive in rush hour traffic helps to remove a lot of the stress associated with a regular job.
- Better work-life balance – Another big benefit of being self-employed is that it enables you to have a better work-life balance. This is particularly appealing if you also have a partner and kids since it gives you the chance to spend more time with them.
- High earning potential – When you’re self-employed, there isn’t necessarily a limit to how much you can earn. It all depends on your talent and perseverance. Some jobs will be more profitable than others but you’re not limited by what an employer chooses to pay you.
Some of the downsides of being self-employed include –
- Finding regular work can be a struggle – One of the main downsides to being self-employed is that it can be difficult to find and maintain regular work. This is particularly true when you’re first starting out and finding your feet.
- You have to sort out your own taxes – Another downside of being self-employed is that you will have to organise your own taxes. As of the time of writing, you’re entitled to earn £12,570 tax-free but anything over this amount of and you’ll need to start paying tax.
Although nothing precludes you from applying for jobs like any other person, there are a number of employment schemes available specifically for those who have served in the armed forces.
In addition to these schemes, there are also several organisations and businesses in the UK that provide support and training for veterans. Below are some of the most useful ones –
- Veterans’ Employment Transition Support is a free-to-use service that’s available to all veterans who’ve served in the armed forces. It works with businesses, charities and the government in order to provide support and education for veterans to improve their career prospects.
- Great Place to Work for Veterans is a scheme that provides a clear path to working in the Civil Service for veterans. Those who opt into it will be given the opportunity to interview for various jobs in the Civil Service as well as participating in online tests to assess their suitability to the role.
- Veterans’ Gateway is a hub for various other groups and charities that help veterans with career training and job opportunities. It’s not just limited to training and careers though; there are links to charities that help with housing and financial support too.
- Salute My Job Online Training offers free training to veterans in a number of different digital skills, including cyber security, data analysis and project management among others.
- Trade Skills 4 U Free Training is a scheme that was set up by Simon Weston OBE in 2011 and provides free training to veterans in a variety of skilled trades, including electrical maintenance and solar panel installation.
If you think being self-employed is a good fit for you, then the next step is to think about the available options. Some of the best self-employed career paths you might consider include –
- Tradesmen – There are many construction trades that you can do when you’re self-employed. Some require training, such as being an electrician or plumber but these can be very profitable in the long term and provide you with a lot of job stability.
- Gardening – Working as a landscape gardener is another very viable self-employment option. Of course, it helps if you actually like and have some knowledge of gardening but it’s a service that’s always in high demand.
- Counselling – If the thought of helping others appeals to you, then you might consider going into counselling. You don’t need formal qualifications to do it but you will need to be realistic about what the job entails. You would be working with people with all types of issues, from substance abuse to illness and bereavement. This can be an issue if you are dealing with trauma yourself, so this is something to think about.
- Man with a van – Another option is to work as a man with a van, doing removals and courier work. The good thing about this option is that you can start very small and work your way up. Providing you have the correct licence, you can expand your company and take on large removals, including commercial removals.
- Taxi driver – With the popularity of apps like Uber, you also have the option to work as a self-employed taxi driver. You will of course need to have a private hire licence but this is achievable for most people.
- Freelancing – Lastly working as a freelancer. This comes with some unique benefits compared to the other options listed above since you’re able to do it from home and there are also several different types of jobs you can do. Some of the most popular freelancing jobs are graphic design, web design, programming, freelance writing and social media consulting.
Educational scholarships for disabled veterans
Finding work can be challenging enough when adjusting to civilian life after serving in the armed forces but having a disability makes it even tougher. Completing a scholarship can improve your career prospects quite significantly.
If you’re interested in completing a scholarship, The Open University has a Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund that enables disabled veterans to have an Open University course funded, including full honours degrees.
Support for mental health and substance abuse
Serving in the military unfortunately comes with a significant risk of mental trauma, especially for those who’ve been deployed to an active warzone. Because of this, mental health struggles among veterans are very common, whether it’s depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fortunately, there are support systems and services in place to help those veterans with mental health conditions.
Some other organisations for veterans with mental health conditions are –
- Help for Heroes provides mental health support for veterans through their therapy service and providing general advice on how to improve your mental health. They also offer practical help for things like housing and arranging benefits.
- Combat Stress helps ex-servicemen and women who are suffering from common mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression and PTSD. They provide a number of services, both in-person and online.
- Togetherall is a free online community for people to provide anonymous mental health support to each other. Many veterans make use of the service and it’s partnered with some of the biggest institutions in the UK, including NHS England and the Ministry of Defence.
- PTSD Resolution offers therapy not only to veterans but also to their family members, including wives, children and parents. They provide therapy sessions that veterans can attend on their own or with their families to discuss the issues they’re dealing with.
Substance abuse is another common thing that veterans struggle with. Alcohol dependence is particularly prevalent but drug abuse is very common among veterans too.
Just as with mental health conditions, there are support schemes available for veterans who are dealing with substance abuse. Some of the main organisations that help in this regard are –
- Tom Harrison House offers a 12-week addiction recovery program that’s specially tailored for veterans and emergency services workers.
- Rehab 4 Addiction have a range of addiction rehab centres across the UK and provide support for both alcohol and drug abuse.
- Rehab Recovery enables veterans to seek support for themselves directly; or a family member to do so on their behalf. You simply leave your name and number and request a call back.
- NHS Addiction Support offers drug addiction help to UK citizens, including veterans. You can get help either by going to your GP or by contacting your local drug treatment service.
Support for physical injuries
Serving in the armed forces doesn’t just come with the risk of mental trauma but also physical injuries. The injuries sustained by veterans can vary a lot, from lost limbs to blindness and disfigurement.
Adjusting to everyday life can be particularly challenging when dealing with substantial physical injuries but there is help available.
Below are some of the main organisations that provide support for injured veterans in the UK –
- Walking With The Wounded provides a range of support services for injured veterans, such as helping with employment, mental health support and volunteering. They run regular fundraisers and events to provide funding.
- Supporting Wounded Veterans is another organisation that offers support for injured veterans in the form of pain management, routes to employment and mental health support.
- Help For Heroes also offers a support service for injured veterans. They have a team of nurses and occupational therapists who do home visits in order to provide veterans with necessary support to live as well as possible day-to-day.
- Skiggle provides an online marketplace where injured veterans can find a range of equipment, including electric wheelchairs, walking frames, bathing aids and electric beds.
In addition to the organisations above, there are also those that specialise in providing support for blind veterans. The main charity that provides support for blind veterans is Blind Veterans UK, who provide a range of services including rehabilitation as well as emotional support and practical advice for day-to-day living.
Finding work can be particularly challenging for blind veterans, so it’s important to have a good support system in place. Blind Veterans UK not only help with IT training but they also teach other practical skills like safely using public transport. They can also help with arranging financial support for things like making safety adaptations to veterans’ homes.
In addition to Blind Veterans UK, there are also numerous local Facebook groups that help blind veterans in their area.
Support for carers of veterans
Some veterans require a carer when returning from service. It’s natural that they might need financial help and luckily there are ways to get it. Below are the main options available for getting financial support as a career.
- Government Carer’s Allowance – If you’re a full-time carer who cares for someone for more than 35 hours each week, then you should be entitled to the Carer’s Allowance provided by the UK Government.
- Action For Carers – Action For Carers is a charity that provides financial support for all kinds of carers, including those of veterans. It’s available to people who reside in Surrey. In addition to providing financial support, they also offer help with wellbeing and legal issues as well as support groups.
One of the major benefits of serving in the armed forces is that it means you’re entitled to claim the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. It might be the case that you’re unable to work in another job when you retire from the armed forces, whether it’s due to mental or physical problems. If this is the case, then you’ll be able to benefit from the scheme when you need it.
To find out how much compensation you’re entitled to, you can use the Armed Forces Pensions Calculator.
If you’re still not sure about what you’re entitled to or just have further questions about the pension, then the Forces Pension Society provides an independent service that offers advice and support to those who are entitled to the Armed Forces Pension.
If you or a loved one have served in the armed forces, then hopefully you now feel more confident about what to do when it comes to employment, housing and financial support. There are many excellent charities and organisations out there that can make all the difference for veterans who need to make the adjustment to civilian life.
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