05/12/2007

UDR Care Fund Launched

A care service has been launched to help ex UDR and Royal Irish (Home Service) soldiers and their families deal with the legacy of the troubles.

The UDR & R Irish (HS) Aftercare Service fulfils a pledge by Government that a welfare organisation would be set up as part of an overall resettlement package.

Specifically the service - funded with £2 million annually - will combine existing welfare provision with the offer of medical and vocational programmes in a ‘whole person’ approach to meet the particular needs of former UDR and Royal Irish (Home Service) personnel as they seek to adjust to civilian life.

An advertising campaign is being launched to reach out to and advise ex-soldiers who may qualify for on-going welfare and benevolent support, including access to the medical programme and vocational assistance.

The vocational re-training award may be available to the 2,000 full-time members of the Home Service who have been discharged since 1 August 2005. The official opening of the premises and unveiling of the service is being planned for early next year but it is now able to be formally launched and to advertise its benefits.

The medical services will be provided through the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust (PRRT) based in Belfast. PRRT has been providing these and other services to ex RUC and PSNI officers since 1999.

The appointment of PRRT reflects the pledge by the Armed Forces Minister that the soldiers who stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the police would have the same standard of aftercare service.

Colonel Mark Campbell, a member of the owners’ board of the service and last serving colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment, says that ‘The Troubles’ have taken a physical and mental toll on many soldiers and their families.

“We must acknowledge the debt owed by the community to our colleagues with more than warm words. We must do all we can to alleviate their suffering and meet needs arising as a direct result of their service to the whole community," he said, noting that since the UDR was established in 1970, more than 50,000 men and women served in its ranks with a further 13,000 in the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) which succeeded it in 1992.

"During the 36 years of ‘The Troubles’ and since, nearly 1,000 of these families have been bereaved, over 640 soldiers were physically disabled and 271 serving and former soldiers were killed directly by terrorist activity," he continued.

The Aftercare Service will be based in Palace Barracks, Holywood and will have 12 of its 25 staff located in TA Centres in Coleraine, Enniskillen and Portadown.

(BMcC)

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