Plymouth’s ex-Army MP urges firms to employ veterans

By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, Herald



LISTENING IN: MP Johnny Mercer meets ex-servicemen now working in Civvy Street

 CHAT: MP Johnny Mercer talks issues with ex-servicemen


MILITARY MEN: MP Johnny Mercer, third from right, meets ex-servicemen at Clever Student Lets 


PLYMOUTH’S former Army captain MP Johnny Mercer wants more firms to employ ex-service personnel and turn the city into “centre of excellence” for veterans.

The Moor View Tory MP said: “I’m trying to turn Plymouth into a centre of excellence for veterans’ care.

“That’s in the fabric of what Plymouth is all about.  And he wants to see more firms to utilise ex-service men and women.

“I believe more employers should take on more service personnel,” he said.

He said the challenge is to make service learned skills “civvy friendly”.

“We need to make their skills more applicable to civilian life,” he said.

Mr Mercer wants a data base created so the exact number of ex-forces personnel can be known.

“There’s no real record of how many veterans we have in Plymouth, that’s a big task.

“And there’s no care pathway, to get individuals from a dark place.”

For instance, he said: “There is no hand-over from medical officers to GPs.”

He said a “gap”, that can’t be filled by charities, needs to be plugged to support ex-forces staff.

He is expecting to make “some headway in the next 12 months” on brining charities – such as Help for Heroes, Blesma and Combat Stress – together, maybe with the Royal British Legion, to provide “a one-stop shop”.

And he is interested in schemes run in the USA where a branch of the National Guard, the nation’s reserve military force, provides a support system for ex-service people.

“I’m not sure that model applies in the UK, but the structure is better,” he said.

The MP, elected to the Commons in May this year, is a Sandhurst-trained, former Royal Artillery soldier who served in Afghanistan.

He made his comments as he met former servicemen now working in Civvy Street.

Mr Mercer has placed the treatment of veterans at the forefront of his political mission since arriving in Parliament.

He was keen to hear first-hand about the challenges facing ex-service personnel when they left the forces.

He said it was “really good to sit down with” the CSL team and added: “It’s good to see a firm actively recruiting ex-services people.”

Stuart Lawson, formerly in the Royal Navy but now maintenance manager for Clever Student Lets, said: “There are servicemen leaving the forces with emotional hang-ups now, post traumatic stress, and that.

“There’s a reluctance to employ these people from immediate discharge.

“But those employers are missing a massive opportunity. There is a huge pool of life experience, knowledge and a skills set.

“Even if people are leaving the forces with some problems, with the right management it can be turned into a positive outcome.

“I also think there is a duty for employers to pay back the debt.”

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