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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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Note to Editor: Ray Lock is 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.

Cherie Armour is available for interview. To arrange contact Lee Campbell, Ulster University, Communications Team: Tel: 028 90366295/ 07714613757 or e-mail: l.campbell5@ulster.ac.uk

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 Ulster University
Ranked in the top 2 per cent of universities worldwide, Ulster University is one of the top 150 global young universities under 50. Ulster University is a modern, forward-looking institution with student experience at the very heart of everything we do. Our high quality teaching, informed by world-leading research across key sectors, boosts the economy and has a positive impact on the lives of people around the world.
For more information, please visit www.ulster.ac.uk
Follow us on Twitter @ulsteruni

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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Note to Editor: Ray Lock is 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/

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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Note to Editor: Ray Lock and Professor John Brewer 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/

The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast is one of four Global Research Institutes (GRIs) at the University. A flagship for interdisciplinary research in areas of major societal challenge, the Institute brings together a critical mass of excellent researchers from a wide range of disciplines in world-class facilities to tackle some of the greatest global issues of our age.

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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Note to Editor: Ray Lock is 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. Professor Cherie Armour is available for interview to arrange contact Carol McKeown, Ulster University, Communications Team: 028 9036 8995/ 07583402042 or on: c.mckeown1@ulster.ac.uk

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 Ulster University
Ranked in the top 3 per cent of universities worldwide, Ulster University is one of the top 150 global young universities under 50. Ulster University is a modern, forward-looking institution with student experience at the very heart of everything we do. Our high quality teaching, informed by world-leading research across key sectors, boosts the economy and has a positive impact on the lives of people around the world.

For more information, please visit www.ulster.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @ulsteruni

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

Notes to Editor

Blesma, The Limbless Veterans is dedicated to assisting serving and ex-Service men and women who have suffered life-changing limb loss or the loss of use of a limb, an eye or loss of sight. We support these men and women in their communities throughout the UK and overseas.

Blesma work tirelessly for injured veterans when the conflicts that have affected their lives are no longer a focal point in the nation’s media. Since 1932, Blesma has been the only national service charity that supports limbless veterans for the duration of their lives; just as we are still caring for our surviving World War II veterans, we also look after younger generations who have survived complex trauma injury in recent conflicts and will need our specialised support as they face the long journey ahead. Blesma today has over 3000 Members and widows.

Website: www.blesma.org

Ian Waller is available for interview. Please contact Lorna Dorrell, Communications Manager at Blesma on commsmgr@blesma.org or on 07741 196770

The Forces in Mind Trust 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.

Website: www.fim-trust.org

About the Mental Health Research Programme: www.fim-trust.org/mental-health/research-programme/

Ray Lock is 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.

The Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI) carries out research, policy development and consultation on the impact of military service on veterans and their families. VFI studies relate to the impact of transition on UK veterans and their families and include research on traumatic amputation, employment, criminal justice interventions and early service separation. The VFI team work across disciplines including sociology, psychology, social policy, education, social work, nursing and ethics. Visiting fellows provide additional expertise in psychiatry, clinical psychology and criminal justice.

The VFI has a growing UK and international profile; our researchers are part of a number of national expert groups and are involved in NATO research on military to civilian transition and sexual violence, as well as in collaborative work with universities from the Netherlands, United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The VFI is also proud to host the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre and the Veterans & Families Research Hub, a jointly funded project to develop an online research repository and collaboration environment.

Website: www.anglia.ac.uk/research

Dr Hilary Engward is available for interview , please contact on hilary.engward@anglia.ac.uk in the first instance or Kristina.fleuty@anglia.ac.uk and 01245 683578.

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.