The Veterans' Gateway, a service that will offer "a single point of contact for Veterans seeking help", has launched today. The service is delivered by a consortium of charities led by The Royal British Legion, and includes Poppyscotland, Combat Stress, Connect Assist, the Ministry of Defence and SSAFA - the Armed Forces Charity. The Ministry of Defence, from the Covenant Fund, funds the £2 million service.
The service offers 24-hour support and online resources, and is partly operated by trained veterans. The Veterans' Gateway brings together over 30 referral partners - including Veterans UK, Mind and The Career Transition Partnership - that will help the British Armed Forces community, estimated to be around six million people and growing by 20,000 annually.
Tobias Ellwood, Minister for Defence People and Veterans said: "The vast majority of our people make a smooth transition from military to civilian life, but the Veterans' Gateway provides extra support in the form of a staffed, 24-hour, one-stop-shop offering guidance on housing and employment, finance, mental and physical health. Our £2 million investment honours the nation's Armed Forces Covenant and draws all facets of support for our Armed Forces community together for the first time."
The service comes in response to independent reports published by the Forces in Mind Trust and Lord Ashcroft's 2014 Veterans' Transition Review, which both called for the process by which veterans are guided to welfare support services to be made easier to navigate. Lord Ashcroft's principal recommendation was the creation of a single 24/7 contact centre. A survey of 1,000 individuals from the Armed Forces community revealed that 20 percent of respondents have been referred to between three and ten charities before finding support, while 45 percent were unsure where to get help. Fifty-four percent found the sheer number of registered Armed Forces charities confusing.
Lord Ashcroft said: "I am delighted to see the launch of the Veterans' Gateway, which I hope will become well known and be the default single point of contact for Veterans seeking help. As I discovered when conducting my review into Veterans' Transition, the current proliferation of contact centres and websites is confusing, difficult to navigate, and results in some giving up. I hope that all the military charities now work with [Veterans'] Gateway to make it a success."
Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion, on behalf of the Veterans' Gateway consortium, said: "Every charity only exists to help, but Lord Ashcroft revealed the uncomfortable truth that a proliferation of providers in our sector can cause confusion about where to turn. The consortium's research found that the Armed Forces community - overwhelmingly - supports the Veterans' Gateway, with 83 per cent welcoming the creation of a first point of contact. The Veterans' Gateway will make it easier for them to get the support they need, from whoever is best able to provide it. No matter how complex their needs, working together we can do more."
To contact Veterans' Gateway, call 0808 802 1212, text 81212 or visit the Veterans' Gateway website.