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.
Note to Editor: Ray Lock is available for interview. To arrange please contact Tina McKay, Communications Officer at FiMT on firstname.lastname@example.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: email@example.com
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.
Who we have helped: www.fim-trust.org/who-we-have-helped/
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.
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