Stevenage soldier criticises lack of support for war veterans
- Credit: Archant
A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder has criticised a council for failing to support war veterans.
Mark Williams, who lives in Stevenage, was diagnosed with PTSD six years ago, following tours in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and a United Nations peace-keeping tour.
Mark suffers from a range of symptoms, including anxiety and panic attacks, memory loss, insomnia and nightmares,
The 50-year-old, who says he has back and knee problems and a severe heart condition related to his service history, said: “I take every day as it comes. There are days I can’t go out.”
Despite the debilitating condition, Mark opened a stall in Stevenage Indoor Market in aid of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association in 2009.
He has since had to close the stall and has criticised Stevenage Borough Council for its lack of support.
The war pensioner said: “The council demanded we open at 8.30am and shut at 5.30pm. We are all volunteers and I can’t tell volunteers the hours they have to work.”
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He said traders complained he was allowed to close early, and he eventually had to shut the stall permanently.
He has been given a room in the vestry of the church of St Andrew and St George on St George’s Way in Stevenage for a drop-in centre to help war veterans and their families with issues such as debts, mental health problems and war pensions.
“The only problem we can’t help with is housing,” he said. He says the council’s housing system has changed so veterans no longer benefit from additional points to bump them up the waiting list.
The council has signed a community covenant, which is part of the Government’s Armed Forces Covenant published in May 2011. It is a pledge to support the armed forces community in the area.
But Mark said: “The council doesn’t appear to be doing anything.
“When we asked if we could put an A1 poster up in town, on an unused advertising board, the council said I could put it up for one month and it’s £200.
“We are already offering a service the council should be providing.
“They signed the covenant but we don’t seem to be getting the help needed.”
The council said: “We initially gave him the stall on a reduced rate and latterly on zero rent.
“We ask all stall holders to sign a Licence Agreement, which includes a number of conditions that they agree to, including opening hours. When it became clear Mr Williams was struggling to keep to the agreed opening hours, we worked with him to try and maintain the stall.
“Mr Williams made the decision to give up the stall.
“If Mr Williams would like us to help publicise his services, he is welcome to contact us.
“Our new Housing Allocations Scheme includes additional preference for serving and former members of the Armed Forces and their spouses.
“We signed the Hertfordshire Community Covenant in 2011 and, as part of our commitment, we continue to support members of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force living and working in Stevenage.”
The drop-in centre is open from 10am to 3.30pm, Wednesday to Saturday.