Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ex-servicemen in Prison

Elfyn had a Westminster Hall debate on this issue on Tuesday, and also raised it as a PMQ yesterday. The response to this story has been amazing, and shows that he's truly touched on an important issue which affects people in every corner of the UK, and not just in Wales.

In case you haven't heard the story, Elfyn, along with Harry Fletcher from NAPO (National Association of Probation Officers) uncovered new evidence which suggests that at least 10 per cent of the current prison population are ex-servicemen - 8,500 people to be precise. We are really concerned about this figure, as it could turn out to be even higher. Indeed, the MOD and the MOJ haven't disputed these figures which suggest to us that we are right in thinking so. Many of these prisoners are suffering from PTSD or Gulf War syndrome which had been undiagnosed before the committed these offences. Many also suffer from serious drink and drug addictions, and don't even know why they committed the offences which have left them in prison.

Elfyn has made a very valid argument. Since we train soldiers for weeks and months before they are sent to war, we should also spend weeks de-briefing and helping them to adjust to life back at home. After all, we can only imagine what these people have been through. I certainly don't know how I'd cope if I'd seen a war zone and seen my friends killed.

What currently happens, from what we understand, that soldiers spend three or four days in Cyprus getting drunk before being flown home. They're asked in front of one another if anyone has any problems before being discharged. Do you honestly think that a macho soldier is going to admit in front of everyone that he's in need of help? Or even, that he'll realise himself that he needs help?

Support should be given so that ex-servicemen have easy access to counselling, and also support in terms of finding new employment and even somewhere to live. Many of them find it very difficult to adjust to life at home, and this is perfectly understandable. But just think of the impact this has on them, and also their families? Surely if we train them for war we should train them to cope with life afterwords?

Some people have said this week that its strange that Plaid Cymru is concerned about soldiers, given that we were against the war in Iraq. But that's completely unfair. We totally one hundred per cent support those soldiers who have been sent to fight, and want to see them treated properly. After all, in many areas in Wales, a career in the Army is the only option for many young men. Obviously, we'd like to see that change so that they have other choice and opportunities. But we're realistic as well. The UK government has a duty to look after the people who risk their lives on its behalf. Its an insult to all of them that they are not being treated fairly and I'm glad to see Elfyn speaking out on their behalf. Its about time someone did.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

This is news? I read years ago that huge portions of homeless people on the street are ex-servicemen. Is Elfyn and going to recycle this 'news' too?

It is WELL KNOWN that ex-servicemen are not supported when they return to 'Civy Street’. It is WELL KNOWN that soldiers' families suffer a LOT of disruption and find it very hard to adjust back into civilian life.

Do single mothers still end up in jail (sometimes with their kids) because they can't pay the whopping BBC TV license fee? Where are the stats on this? Oh, the BBC argues that they are not sent to jail for not paying for a TV license - they go to jail for contempt of court in not paying the huge fine for not paying the TV license. The BBC should hang its head in shame.

The BBC is so flush with money that it is sending hundreds of additional staff to the USA to cover the election. What a wonderful junket at the expense of working families who are forced to pay for a TV license.

Heledd Fychan said...

So we shouldn't raise it again because its not a new story? We shouldn't push for more to be done for soldiers,and just leave things as they are? No its not news, but its news this week that Elfyn has raised it in Parliament and that he will be pushing for this to be rectified. I find your argument strange. Why shouldn't Elfyn raise this?

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Right - so you agree that it is a re-cycled news story. There are lots of news stories that get recycled by politicians, Elfyn is doing just that. Is Elfyn exploiting a very sad situation for political gain?

BUT YES - it is a VERY important issue and YES does deserve close attention. But please don't pass it off like it is something that Elfyn has stumbled upon - it is OLD NEWS.

YES! It is outrageous that we don't support our servicemen and women when they return to normal civilian life. It is just SO outrageous. These are people VERY deserving of our support.

They put their lives on the line.

It is also outrageous the way seniors are treated in the UK.

The BBC license/extortion racket is a serious issue too. As is the way the BBC is taking over private enterprise - a government-sponsored entity should not take over private enterprises such as Lonely Planet. In other areas the BBC is destroying commercial enterprises by using taxpayers’ money to offer 'free' services thereby destroying commercial offerings.

Heledd Fychan said...

I don't think you fully read what I originally said. It is an old story, but the figures Elfyn found are NEW. He, with NAPO, established that there are at least 8500 ex-servicemen currently in Prison. That is news, and why this issue has to be re-looked at now.

I reject your notion that Elfyn is exploiting this. Without his work, these new figures would not have been unearthed. Surely, that is evidence of a politician doing good work on behalf of people who shoule be treated better?

Un o Eryri said...

No surprise to me that people who join up to a career involved in killing other human beings, should after they retire from doing this for a living,end up breaking some other law. The armed forces has after all incited hatred towards other human beings in them, even if they didn't have it before joining up in the first place.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Forgive me then Heledd!

But what have Plaid done for the Welsh economy? What did the Plaid AM with Plaid's economic brief do beyond exploiting a teen sex worker?

What has the Plaid Deputy First Minister done about the very poor performing Welsh economy other than offering platitudes? Welsh families are struggling with bills. The Welsh economy is generating, for the most part, low wage jobs. The Welsh economy is at the bottom of the British economic league tables in terms of GVA per head of population.

What is Plaid doing about protecting Wales's greatest most valuable asset: it's people? What is Plaid doing about protecting Welsh innovation? The Welsh university system spends hundreds of millions on research yet 'enjoys' a very low registered patent rate. Only the former Welsh Medical School in Cardiff has allocated resources to protect its innovations and inventions.

Plaid is clearly more interested in looking for stories to use as vehicles to boost its profile.

As you just confirmed, Elfyn is 'breaking' an old story with so called 'new' statistics. Like we didn't know already of the tragedy of British servicemen and women who are given inadequate support when transitioning back into civilian life.

Like we didn't know that a major chuck of the homeless on the streets are former British soldiers in desperate situations and mental anguish. Like we didn't know already that a major chuck of prisoners in British prisons are ex-British-servicemen.

Plaid is into exploiting tragedies for their own political gain. Plaid wants to distract the people of Wales. Keep them from focusing on Plaid’s awful performance in improving the Welsh economy. Plaid are doing several things, including: blaming others for Welsh issues, pumping stories to distract the Welsh public from Plaid’s awful record while ignoring fundamental issues of concern to the Welsh economy such as the very poor registered patent rate.

Heledd Fychan said...

This is my personal blog - I'm not here to answer questions about Plaid. I completely reject your accusations, and find it quite insulting to these soldiers who Elfyn is trying to help that you dismiss the fact that he's uncovered actual evidence which the Government is now taking seriously. Your argument is just so flawed that I'm not going to waste any more energy responding.

You need to remember that Plaid only came into Government, and as a minority parter, last year for the first time in its history. Its previous administrations that have destroyed Wales. We're finally getting an opportunity to put things right, but the majority of decisions which have a detrimental impact on the economy in Wales are made by a LABOUR Government in WESTMINSTER. You cannot blame Plaid for their failings.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

It does not take "WESTMINSTER" to deal with the Welsh problem of low issued patent rate. Plaid can deal with this issue in so many straight forward ways and at very little cost. If Welsh IP was a sexy news story Plaid would 'on it'.

Heledd Fychan said...

You are just wrong about Plaid - we are actively doing things about the Welsh economy, and unlike other parties, are thinking of short and long term policies which will make a difference.I'm done on this subject. Now if anyone wants to post something about the subject at hand, and not just a cynical anti-Plaid rant which is just so wrong, I'll respond. I think its a crucial issue, and I'm glad Elfyn isn't letting this campaign go.