Scandal of hero troops forced to rely on benefits
Universal Credit up 30% to 3,900 in yr
MEDICS remove shrapnel from a soldier wounded in Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces.
He was among fighters treated in Donetsk as troops made advances against Vladimir Putin’s invaders.
Ukraine claims Russian losses were 200 in 24 hours.
Meanwhile, ex-pm Boris Johnson demanded Kyiv get a timetable for joining Nato.
And a convoy of fighters from the Wagner mercenary army that staged a mutiny against Moscow last month was spotted entering Belarus from Russia yesterday.
THOUSANDS of members of the armed forces are having to claim benefits to make ends meet.
Some 3,900 relied on Universal Credit in May – and the number on handouts has soared by 30% in a year.
The Department for Work and Pensions admitted the true figures may be much higher because the data only reflected 64% of claimants and excluded Northern Ireland.
The figures, released in response to a parliamentary question, were blasted by Labour and the Lib Dems.
Shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard said: “Personnel should not be forced to rely on benefits to pay the bills, or food banks to feed families.”
Lib Dem defence spokesperson Richard Foord said it was “shameful”, adding: “The Ministry of Defence should open an urgent investigation.”
Personnel started on £21,425 before last week’s 5% pay rise, while trainees get £18,687. Veterans minister and ex-army captain Johnny Mercer has sparked outrage by claiming food bank users do so based on “personal decisions around how people are budgeting every month”.
Meanwhile, the number of veterans on benefits is also rising, with at least 51,000 on Universal Credit. Alan Forcer, a former lance corporal with the Coldstream Guards of Hartlepool, Co Durham, relied on benefits and took his life in 2020, aged 40. He had mental health woes after serving in the Balkans and his ex-wife claims lack of financial support was also a factor.
Claire, 47, said: “Alan felt inadequate because he wasn’t well enough to work and his benefits didn’t cover anything outside the basics. There are many in similar situations and sadly, like Alan, succumb to the darkest deaths due to of a lack of support across the board.
“I believe in part the struggle to get the financial support he deserved impacted his mental health further.”
The Royal British Legion’s Angela Kitching added: “Our research found one in 11 veterans and their families – an estimated 200,000 veterans – have experienced some kind of financial difficulty after leaving service life.”
The MOD said: “Any working person who qualifies for Universal Credit is eligible to claim it. Our armed forces are supported by a package of measures, including the latest pay award of 5% plus a £1,000 consolidated payment, free wrap-around childcare and daily food charges and families accommodation costs have also been frozen.”
LIZ Truss has been urged to come clean on who funds her new think-tank after links to a right-wing US group were revealed.
The disgraced former Prime Minister this week launched her Growth Commission – a “task force” to “fix the economy”.
A spokesman would only say that it is funded by “donations from private individuals”.
Campaigners fear it will try to influence ministers to give Ms Truss’ reckless fiscal policies another try.
Website Opendemocracy found almost a quarter of its board are from the Mercatus Center, a right-wing US think-tank that said climate change is “beneficial” and “making humans better off ”.
In 2020, Mercatus was accused of promoting “flawed” research to “hobble” environmental regulation in Australia.
Unlock Democracy’s Tom Brake said: “Liz Truss must get the names of her donors out into the open.”
Labour MP Clive Lewis added it was essential for people to know who is “pulling the strings of useful idiots like Liz Truss”.
DEFENCE Secretary Ben Wallace says he is to step down at the next reshuffle.
And the Tory once tipped for the top will not stand at the next election after 18 years as an MP in Wyre, Lancashire.
The ex-soldier, 53, said: “I’m quite happy to go and work at a bar. I feel quite fulfilled and that gives me lots of options.
“I sometimes think I’d just like to do things I love, like Formula One or horse racing — just do something completely different.”