Weekend-long ‘rolling blackouts’, mouldy barracks, and disgraceful standards of accommodation are pushing some troops to attempt to kill themselves.
The news came as a powerful group of MPs sitting on parliament's defence committee today warned the government hadn’t done enough to tackle problems facing Britain’s military community.
The committee slammed Whitehall for failing to tackle major concerns raised by the group over the repair and maintenance of service accommodation.
Stephen James, co-founder of Southsea-based armed forces group All Call Signs, was horrified by the shameful conditions troops were forced to spend their spare time.
The veteran soldier, who alongside friend ex-soldier Dan Arnold has been instrumental in lobbying ministers to improve things, said camps like RAF Marham in Norfolk were gaining a worrying reputation.
Mr James claimed to have been told by ‘sources’ that a number of troops have attempted to take their own lives as a result of the conditions, while other bases like Thorney Island’s Baker Barracks have seen troops being evacuated from mould-ridden accommodation amid health fears in recent weeks.
Demanding change, Mr James said: ‘The low standard of living is having a detrimental effect on the mental health and welfare of our troops. RAF Marham has become referred to as the suicide camp' for this reason, and we've certainly seen a surge in members of this camp reaching out for help with poor mental health.
‘In some camps we're hearing of “rolling blackouts” in the single living accommodation, where power is cut during the weekend for reasons that aren't quite clear.
‘Those living there can't keep food cold, can't charge their phones or laptops and can't watch their televisions in what is essentially supposed to be their down time.
‘In a world where universities, colleges and apprenticeships are looking more attractive offerings to young people, the armed forces need to step up their game and offer a genuine alternative, or risk the current recruitment and retention crisis getting worse.’ The defence committee chairman Dr Julian Lewis said as well as failing to deliver recommendations to improve military accommodation, the government had also failed to reinstate the war widows’ pension scheme.
In its latest report, the committee also slammed Whitehall for not prioritising treatment for veterans and highlighted problems with service children’s school admissions, which remained unresolved.
Dr Lewis MP, said: ‘Every year we take evidence on the implementation of the armed forces covenant, and every year we report similar complaints. From inadequate service accommodation to the grotesque injustice of some war widows’ pensions, the government is failing in its moral obligation towards those who serve or have served in our armed forces.’
Other concerns raised by the defence committee included the treatment of Commonwealth servicemen and women.
Last year The News revealed the MoD was forking out £53m to rent out homes for troops where there is no space left near their military bases.
A government spokesperson said: ‘The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
‘The new Office for Veteran’s Affairs will ensure the whole of government pulls together to deliver the life-long support our veterans deserve.’