Call for Psychological Tests for Soldiers Leaving the Army; CONCERN ABOUT THE NUMBERS ENDING UP IN JAIL OR HOMELESS

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Byline: TOMOS LIVINGSTONE

SOLDIERS leaving the armed forces should be given a psychological assessment as part of moves to reduce the numbers who turn to crime, a new report suggests today.

The Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, chaired by Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Elfyn Llwyd, also calls for a Government Minister - in the Cabinet

Office rather than the MoD - to co-ordinate welfare for ex-service personnel.

The group, a coalition of MPs and trade unions, has long been concerned at the high number of veterans who end up in the prison system. They hope today's report will raise awareness of an under-reported issue. Although there is a lack of accurate data, the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) suggests the total could be as high as 8,000 - a figure disputed by the Government.

It is estimated that as many as a third of all homeless people are former soldiers, sailors and airmen, with some suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The new report also suggests: * police should record as a matter of course whether an arrested suspect is a former member of the armed forces; * greater publicity should be given to the welfare support already available for troops; * a veterans link officer should be appointed in the prison and probation services and * a proper survey should be carried out of the number of veterans serving prison sentences.

The report says: "Successive surveys conducted since 2000 have concluded that there were thousands of former armed forces personnel either under the supervision of the Probation Service, on parole or in prison.

"It is very clear that this is a long term problem and one that is not limited to the United Kingdom.

"Many soldiers clearly had problems before they enlisted. Many experience difficulties, including depression and reliance on alcohol when they leave the structured environment of the Forces and return to civilian life. …