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RAND Europe research reveals new insights into the role of resilience in the transition to civilian life of UK Service leavers

RAND Europe, a public policy research organisation, released a study commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), that looked at how resilience can affect the transition experiences of UK Service leavers.

Findings from the study reveal that the role of resilience is mixed: while resilience can help Service leavers handle the challenges of civilian life, in some cases ‘can-do’ military attitudes can prevent individuals from seeking the support they need. The research identifies a number of related factors – including peer support, fulfilling employment and good mental health – that can contribute to successful transition experiences.

The report identifies the need to record data on Service leavers in a more detailed and standardised way. This would support a more nuanced understanding of why some people struggle with transition more than others. It would also help identify what works in support provision and allow support initiatives to be tailored more effectively to Service leavers in a range of different circumstances.

Applicable lessons for Service leavers can be identified from civilian comparator groups also experiencing transitions, such as bereaved individuals, ex-prisoners or foster care leavers.
Recommendations from the report include:

• Data collection on Service leaver resilience and transition should be systematised, and information sharing practices improved. Supporting this recommendation, the report presents a template designed to capture data on Service leavers’ demographic backgrounds and circumstances of departure. This would support the development of more targeted policy and support for Service leavers.
• Policymakers and service providers should continue to develop support mechanisms designed to prepare personnel for transition before as well as at and after the point of departure.
• Coordinated support across different areas of transition (e.g. housing, employment, mental health) should be offered to UK Service leavers in recognition of the links between challenges associated with transition.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “One of the founding principles of the Forces in Mind Trust is to enable all ex-Service personnel to have a positive and sustainable transition back into civilian life. The very essence of the research undertaken by RAND Europe and condensed into the report released today, only seek to further aid the people who find the transition pathway a challenge.

“Of course, the responsibility is not just that of the individual, which is why the recommendations and areas of further research are important to note. I would urge the stakeholders and service providers to take on board the advice within this valuable report.”

You can read the executive summary and full final report here.

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New research from DSC shows Armed Forces charities provide £40 million of housing support to over 11,000 people every year

New research released today, Thursday 28th June, by The Directory of Social Change (DSC), funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), reveals that 78* Armed Forces charities deliver housing support to at least 11,600 beneficiaries annually, with charities spending at least £40 million on housing provision in the previous year.

47 charities provide accommodation services, collectively providing at least 4,700 properties across the UK, which have a total capacity to house at least 10,200 people.

Researchers of the report recommended further research on:

• Greater collaboration with organisations outside of the Armed Forces charities sector**.
• Armed Forces population density and differences in housing legalisation and policy in devolved regions.

The data would help charities to identify priority areas for service provision and determine whether current housing provision is meeting need.

Charities provided a wide range of accommodation types, which responded to different housing needs. Adapted housing and subsidised rental accommodation were the most common types of support, delivered by almost three-fifths of charities which own or manage accommodation.

Services extend beyond bricks and mortar

Support services play an important role in helping beneficiaries to secure and maintain suitable housing. Common support services included signposting and help with housing searches/applications. DSC found that almost half of the charities delivering housing support offered grants, the most common of which were awarded for home repairs and maintenance, and deposit payments.

A highly collaborative and responsive sector

DSC found small pockets of charities delivering highly directed services, including, housing for disabled or injured beneficiaries, sheltered living for elderly beneficiaries, and homeless shelters.

The sector adopted an impressively coordinated and co-operative approach to service delivery. 92% of survey respondents experienced benefits of partnership, and rates of collaboration with fellow Forces charities were high. Yet partnerships with mainstream charities, housing associations and the MOD were less common.

Initiatives such as the award winning Cobseo Housing Cluster, and the Veterans Housing Advice Office, serve as great examples of cross-sector collaboration. These models could be more widely adopted and more engaged with by the broader sector.

DSC Researcher and lead author, Rhiannon Doherty says: “Forces charities play a vital role in helping Serving personnel, veterans and their families to secure suitable housing. This report maps the diverse range of housing services delivered by Forces charities, revealing a small sub-sector, which adopts a highly responsive, coordinated and collaborative approach to housing provision.”

James Richardson and Ed Tytherleigh, Cobseo Housing Cluster Co-Chairs say: “On behalf of the Cluster, we are delighted to endorse and commend this report for anyone who wants to help homeless Veterans. We are very happy to support the recommendations made by the report and we take pride in leading on ever-deeper collaboration between Veterans’ housing providers.”

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive Forces in Mind Trust says: “This latest in the series of Focus On reports provides an independent and thorough analysis of Armed Forces charities providing housing support. It is a highly credible piece of research, and a ‘must read’ for anyone setting policy or delivering services around housing, or indeed anyone with an interest in the positive transition of ex-Service personnel into civilian life.”

Focus On: Armed Forces Charities’ Housing Provision is the fourth of six reports from DSC, which provide detailed information on Armed Forces charities’ support for key areas of need. You can read the full report here.

*The 78 charities represented in this report equate to around 6.5% of all UK Armed Forces charities
**Over one-third of charities partnered with both non- Armed Forces charities (37%) and local authorities (36%). Partnerships with the MOD and housing associations were less common (17% and 18% respectively).

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New Grant Award: Military Moral Injury to be Explored

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded £168,813 to King’s Centre for Military Health Research to conduct the first scoping study to explore the experiences of moral injury in UK ex-Service personnel.

The aim of the 15-month study is to address gaps in understanding of moral injury and researchers will focus on a number of areas including:

• Exploring the experiences of moral injury in UK ex-Service personnel.
• Investigating the impact of moral injury mental health and well-being.
• Examining ex-Service personnel and clinician perceptions of potential risk and protective factors for mental health difficulties following moral injury.

Most current studies of moral injury are of US ex-Service personnel, and evidence produced from these revealed that military-related moral injury was a significant predictor of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and alcohol abuse.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The purpose of Forces in Mind Trust is to enable all ex-Service personnel to have a sustainable transition back into civilian life. This can be done by providing robust evidence to policy makers and service providers to inform decision making.

“This ground-breaking research to be undertaken by King’s Centre for Military Health Research will give us a better insight into the impact of moral injury from the perspective of the UK Armed Forces. Services and support structures can then be tailored to provide the specific support needed to assist recovery and progress through the transition pathway.”

Dr Victoria Williamson, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, said: “We are delighted to receive a grant from FIMT which will allow us to investigate this very important topic from a UK viewpoint. Service personnel have to make highly challenging ethical decisions and live with the consequences if they go wrong. This study will help us better understand Service personnel’s experiences and their support needs.

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Note to Editor: Ray Lock and Victoria Williamson are available for interview. To arrange please contact Tina McKay, Communications Officer at FiMT on co@fim-trust.org or on 07956 101132 or 0207 901 8916.

About the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):
FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.

The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery.

FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model around 6 outcomes in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships. All work is published in open access and hosted on the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre’s Veterans and Families Research Hub https://www.vfrhub.com/. A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made.

Useful links

Website: www.fim-trust.org
Reports: www.fim-trust.org/reports/
Who we have helped: www.fim-trust.org/who-we-have-helped/
Twitter: @FiMTrust
About the Mental Health Research Programme: www.fim-trust.org/mental-health/research-programme/

About King’s College London www.kcl.ac.uk
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2017/18 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King’s has more than 26,500 students (of whom nearly 10,400 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and nearly 6,900 staff. The university is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King’s has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) King’s was ranked 6th nationally in the ‘power’ ranking, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity, and 7th for quality according to Times Higher Education rankings. Eighty-four per cent of research at King’s was deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (3* and 4*). The university is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of more than £600 million.

Ulster University study reveals differing view on Veterans’ Centre in Northern Ireland between veterans and those who provide them with support

A report released today, Friday 22nd June, by Ulster University has revealed that a high proportion of veterans in Northern Ireland approve of a dedicated Veterans’ Centre, whereas service providers largely do not support the establishment of such a centre.

The report, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust, is the third in a series of reports from the Northern Ireland Veteran’s Health and Wellbeing Study. The aim of this research was to gain insight into the perspectives of veterans and service providers in Northern Ireland regarding the potential need for a dedicated Veterans’ Centre in the region.

The findings come from 13 focus groups conducted with military veterans, 20 individual interviews conducted with service providers who support veterans in the region, and early responses from the ongoing Northern Ireland Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Survey.

Findings revealed that:

• 66% of veterans who completed the survey would ‘definitely’ support a centre and a further 13% would ‘probably’ support it.

• The main reasons for using the Centre were mental health support (65% of veterans would use it for this reason), social activities (64%) and education and training (62%).

• Veterans in the focus groups talked about the need for a ‘safe space’ and a ‘one-stop shop’ for support and services.

• Service providers expressed that although a ‘one-stop shop’ could be beneficial, it did not have to take the form of a physical building.

• Service providers also noted that as some of these services were already available in the community, there could be a risk of duplication.

Both veterans and service providers expressed some security concerns around a dedicated Veterans’ Centre. Some felt that the Centre would be seen as a physical target.

Other potential difficulties were highlighted by service providers, including the creation of dependence and a lack of self-help, and concerns over funding for the Centre. Both service providers and veterans agreed it might be difficult to identify an appropriate location which is accessible by public transport. Both also agreed that a Veterans’ Centre should be centrally located, or alternatively there should be several satellite hubs.

Despite the potential disadvantages of having a dedicated Veterans’ Centre in Northern Ireland, the vast majority of veterans supported the idea and the researchers from Ulster University have recommended setting up an exploratory committee to discuss the practicalities of such a centre in Northern Ireland.

The report outlines that policy decisions that are based on credible evidence are invaluable. This report concludes that there is sufficient evidence to warrant investigating further, but that there is insufficient evidence to press ahead immediately with a campaign to secure funding.

Professor Cherie Armour, Associate Dean of Research and Impact and Director of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University, said: “We are now seeing a common theme through our reports that veterans themselves are highlighting that they need more support, and that this is mirrored by public opinion. Although veterans and service providers may disagree on the establishment of a dedicated Veterans’ Centre there is widespread agreement on the need for more support services, in particular mental health and wellbeing support.

“Indeed, our recent report using Life and Times Survey data found that 77% of the NI public believe a specialist mental health service should be provided in NI for current and former Armed Forces personnel. Our recommendation to set up an exploratory committee comprising of both veterans and support providers would help to open up productive discussion on how to best address existing issues with services and to discuss the practicalities and feasibility of a veterans’ centre.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Having a dedicated Veterans’ Centre might offer a central place for ex-Service personnel to meet and access help, but there are downsides – for example it could encourage ex-Service personnel to remain within the bubble of the Armed Forces world and not fully transition into civilian life.

“This sensible report by Ulster University takes a measured approach, and we support further work within Northern Ireland to identify the full range of issues. Policy and service provision decisions need to be based on the best evidence available, and it is clear that more understanding is needed.”

You can read the full report here.

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YouGov awarded funds to explore public perception of ex-Service personnel

Forces in Mind Trust has commissioned YouGov to explore the public perceptions of ex-Service personnel and to understand what influences people’s opinions.

Researchers will hold four group sessions with the general public, lasting two hours and across four locations in the UK. Four online groups will also participate, consisting of: families of veterans, those who donate to veterans’ charities, those who would consider joining the Armed Forces and teachers.

The project will explore the impact of the media and the world around participants in forming their opinions. This will enable a better understanding of how to deal with negative perceptions of both the term ‘veteran’ and the wider concept.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about ex-Service personnel. Lord Ashcroft’s 2014 ‘Veterans and Transition Review’ highlighted how just over half of the general public consider Service leavers to be ‘mad, bad or sad’.

“The research FiMT have commissioned YouGov to undertake will give us a better understanding of the factors that influence public opinion and enable us to identify positive engagement strategies that will ensure that the public develops an accurate perception of the true nature of the Armed Forces community.”

Jake Palenicek, YouGov UK Head of Research, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Forces in Mind trust on an important research undertaking to understand public perceptions of veterans. This qualitative work will add to YouGov’s wider understanding of views of the armed forces and their place in modern society and complement other multi-modal work being run simultaneously.”

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Counter-Insurgency Warfare veterans require more specific transition support, report reveals

A new report, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), was released today, Thursday 14th June, and has revealed that ex-Service personnel who participated in counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare have special needs and require specific forms of support with transition back into civilian life than those who have been involved in conventional wars.

The report, produced by the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice based at Queen’s University Belfast, titled ‘How Counter-Insurgency Warfare Experiences Impact upon the Post-Deployment Reintegration of British Soldiers’ makes a number of recommendations, which include:

• Transition strategies must provide practical and engaged support through interactive learning and mentoring. It should not be a ‘tick box’ exercise that amounts merely to the provision of information leaflets.
• Support programmes should avoid ‘transitional naïvety’ through garnering unrealistic expectations of post-deployment prospects.
• Over-identification with military life can narrow soldiers’ identity, making it difficult to shift identity on to aspects of their civilian life.

Researchers listened to over 90 hours of recorded interviews with 129 contributors; 20 from earlier COIN operations in the 1950s and 60s, 30 from the Ulster Defence Regiment in Northern Ireland, 70 who fought in Afghanistan, and 9 from other conflicts, to assess the language used and similarities in descriptive language and tone.

Ex-Service personnel who contributed to the report felt that although their experiences were unique, they did not want to create a ‘hierarchy of veterans’ in which their experiences were given more credence than others.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The UK’s Armed Forces, and in particular the British Army, have been consistently engaged over many decades in counter-insurgency warfare, which places unique demands on the individuals involved. Counter-insurgency warfare seems unlikely to go away, and nor do the needs of those affected by it.

“What this report from Queen’s University Belfast highlights is the need for specific support for ex-Service personnel who have been involved in COIN warfare. The recommendations included in the report are an opportunity for policy-makers and service providers to oversee substantial positive change.”

Professor John D Brewer, Acting Director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast and Principal Investigator on the project, said: “This research is pioneering, in that it focuses on a form of soldiering that is often neglected in the attention on conventional warfare, and it reveals the emotional strains and tensions caused by COIN warfare. The research captured the views of former soldiers in their own words and we hope the Report will give them recognition and encourage policy-makers and stakeholders to pay more attention to the specific needs of counter insurgency soldiers.”

You can read the full report here.

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Ulster University study first ever to look at public attitudes towards the UK Armed Forces

Attitudes of the people of Northern Ireland towards current and former UK Armed Forces personnel have been revealed for the first time in a report released today, Wednesday 13th June, titled ‘Public Attitudes to the UK Armed Forces in Northern Ireland’.

The Forces in Mind Trust funded an additional set of questions in the Northern Ireland Life and Times survey (NILT) and results were collated in a report produced by researchers from Ulster University.

42% of the NI population reporting a high/very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces today versus 12% having a low/very low opinion. This is notably higher than the 33% high/very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces when considered in the context of the Troubles specifically. Findings from the survey show that there are still substantial differences of opinion within the Protestant and Catholic communities, and across different age groups.

Recommendations within the report include:

• Community Integration and building of relationships between veterans and the community.
• Awareness training through a public facing campaign promoting positive images of veteran mental health and addressing perceptions of alcohol misuse, to reduce the negative effect misinformed perceptions can otherwise have on employment prospects and social networks.
• The developments of an exploratory committee to look at the issues associated with implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant, and awareness raising to improve understanding of its principles and the situation specific to Northern Ireland.

Researchers have highlighted potential areas for future research such as the regular incorporation of Armed Forces related questions in the NILT survey to map the public opinions over time and highlight any changes.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “It’s great to see the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland being heard in relation to the UK Armed Forces. Although we see improvements in how people perceive the Armed Forces, there is significant work still to be done in relation to views on the mental health and alcohol misuse of ex-Service personnel, and on understanding and awareness of what the Armed Forces Covenant is.”

Principal investigator, Professor Chérie Armour, Ulster University, Associate Dean of Research and Impact and Director of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, said: “For the very first time we have been able to explore public attitudes in Northern Ireland towards the UK Armed Forces, veteran’s wellbeing, and service provision.

“Key to our results are that the largest majority of the public reported they respect the Armed Forces and that many have a high to very high opinion of the UK Armed Forces. Many also reported that they would be supportive of a specialist mental health service for veterans living in the region.”

You can see the full report here

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Radical new approach could improve lives of ex-Service personnel and their families

Pioneering research has revealed that a radical new approach could improve the lives of ex-Service personnel and their families and create significant savings across the NHS.

Findings from a groundbreaking report released today, Monday 11th June, identify the need for changes in the way support is given to people with limb loss, their families and carers.

The challenge of coping with the physical and mental aspects of caring can put a tremendous strain on the family unit and they may feel lost and unsupported, the study highlights.

The project was funded by the Forces in Mind Trust and undertaken by the Veterans’ and Families Institute for Military Research at Anglia Ruskin University

The report, which will be distributed to professionals in health, social and care services and the charity sector offering guidance and information via the ‘Living with Limb Loss Support Model’ recommends, among wider recommendations of central importance that:

  • The work involved in caring within the family unit is acknowledged as essential in maintaining independence for the Person Living with Limb Loss.
  • The person living with limb loss and the carer will experience different levels of coping to each other and should be assessed separately
  • Each key stage and its specific requirements for partners and family members in the limb loss life course is identified in accordance with the needs of the Person Living with Limb Loss and carer
  • Health care professionals gain better understanding of how being in the military may shape an attitude of not admitting pain and demonstrating weakness.
  • The status of the veteran and the obligations set out in the armed forces covenant be disseminated across health care professionals’ training and continuing professional development.

“The recommendations from this report could have a huge impact on the lives of military families but limb loss also affects the general public with more than 7,000 amputations being performed every year, mainly from vascular conditions,” says Barry Le Grys MBE, Chief Executive of Blesma.

“Limb loss obviously changes families’ lives and their welfare can suffer. When a partner or close family member becomes primary carer there is a huge shift in parameters which can lead to a range of problems. We believe that by listening to the families, we can enhance their wellbeing and alleviate a huge burden on the NHS.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “One of the founding principles of FiMT is ‘to promote better mental health and well-being’ for ex-Service personnel and their families. This report for Blesma highlights the necessity of considering the impact of coping with limb loss on the wider family unit, as too often carers’ well-being is overlooked.”

Blesma, which was founded in the aftermath of WW1, supports hundreds of limbless veterans and helps them lead independent lives. Over their 100 years Blemsa have developed an unrivalled insight into living with limb loss. “Blesma has always known through experience that the family is crucial to recovery and rehabilitation, and we sought hard evidence. The message is loud and clear that they need help too,” added Heather Betts, Director of Independence and Wellbeing at Blesma, which commissioned the 18-month study.”

“We discovered that partners and family members often feel that support is directed to the veteran and that their needs may not be fully considered nor understood by health services”.

“Typically, they don’t make a fuss because they are focused on caring for their loved one. Caring is not often talked about, rather it is a practical activity that is done but not discussed. However, not talking to or helping carers could lead to greater problems in coming years.”

The ‘Caring and Coping: The Family Perspective on Living with Limb Loss’ study involved interviews with 72 Blesma Members and their families to get a unique insight into life with limb loss. (The survey sample excluded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, focusing on a cohort who have not had the benefit of modern and comprehensive recovery pathways.)

The key recommendations which address gaps that are personal, detailed and very much tied to the challenges of everyday living will be circulated to medical and welfare organisations to encourage changes in healthcare provision for all families caring for someone with limb loss.

The report sets down tactical frameworks acknowledging that subjects and their carers can be in very ‘different places’ physically and emotionally on the recovery timeline.

Senior Research Fellow, Dr Hilary Engward, who conducted the research said: “When it comes to staying healthy, the main focus is perhaps obviously on the veteran. However, the carer could also be suffering from health conditions but, because they are so busy caring for their loved one, they neglect to look after themselves. The study found a very strong military ethic that you just get on with things and don’t complain meaning that families were compromising their own health in the process. There is an overwhelming need to recognise that the veteran and their carer will cope differently.”

The report calls for the journey for subjects and carers to be more holistic than it currently is, realised by supporting agencies filling in the gaps and being in closer communication with one another and the subjects and carers. The impact will come from agencies adopting the frameworks laid out in the full report on a widespread and formal basis, making absolutely sure the basics are being addressed and woven together.

Blesma believes the report will have huge benefit for the families of the 7,370 people whose diabetes results in an amputation. (Ref. i Diabetes UK) Data published by Public Health England and the National Cardiovascular Intelligence Network, revealed the 25,527 major and minor amputations reported during the period 2013 to 2016 to be a record high.

You can read the full report here

References: i) https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/record-levels-of-diabetes-related-amputations

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Request for expressions of interest

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has issued a request for expressions of interest (REOI) to conduct research to understand the transition to civilian life for ex-Service personnel with physical conditions as a direct result of Service or acquired whilst in Service.

The FiMT award is expected to be in the region of £150,000. Although there is no specific completion date, the Trust would like to see the report completed and published within two years of commencement.

The commission was the result of a consultation exercise with stakeholders where it was apparent that those Service personnel who leave the Services on medical grounds and with physical conditions can face particular challenges and may be more likely to experience difficulty when transitioning to civilian life.

Research should include both Regular and Reserve personnel who have served in the UK Armed Forces and departed the Services on medical grounds, with a physical condition as the primary reason.

For more details and the application information see the full REOI here.