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Ex-Service personnel more likely to claim disability benefits long-term than unemployment benefits

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded research released today, Tuesday 22nd May, reveals that while nearly a quarter of ex-Service personnel receive unemployment benefit at some point after leaving the Armed Forces, most usage occurs in the period immediately after leaving and is short-term, with only 1.5% continuing to claim the support two years after serving.

The ‘Veterans and benefits’ report, by Dr Howard Burdett of King’s College London (KCL), looks at the relationships between unemployment and disability benefit usage by UK ex-Service personnel, and between social demographics, Service characteristics, mental health (ie Common Mental Disorder (CMD), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)) and alcohol misuse.

The report makes a series of recommendations for policy makers and service providers which include:

  • Interventions to reduce the need for unemployment benefits should be focused on personnel within the first two years of leaving service, in particular for the immediate period after leaving;
  • Support targeted at ex-Service males primarily, who are ex-Army, shorter-serving, of lower rank on leaving, and are less well educated (GCSE or below); with particularly strong indicators that those who leave in an unplanned manner, have a childhood history of anti-social behaviour, or who have accessed unemployment benefits prior to enlisting will need support; and
  • Further support directed at those with medical discharges and/or a history of pre-enlistment disability benefit use as the evidence shows that they are at higher risk of disability benefit.

The research linked records from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) cohort study (which includes data from nearly 11,000 former members of the UK Armed Forces), with Department of Work and Pensions data on the unemployment and disability benefit usage of the same individuals.

Evidence from the study highlighted that while almost a quarter of ex-Service personnel took unemployment benefit at some point, and only 5.2% took disability benefit, it was disability benefit that was more likely to be for a longer term.

Overall, childhood adversity and unplanned leaving were the most consistent predictors of unemployment benefit use. For disability benefits, the strongest factor in usage was having a history of pre-service disability benefits, being discharged on medical grounds, and post-service mental ill-health.

Interestingly, alcohol misuse did not predict disability benefit use, it was only a weak factor for subsequent unemployment benefit use (as were in-service physical and mental health issues), and recovery from alcohol misuse had no impact on reducing either benefit.

While the report acknowledged the work of the Ministry of Defence in increasing mental healthcare support for serving and ex-Service personnel, the findings showed that reducing mental health symptoms after leaving the Services did not reduce the risk of using unemployment benefits; though reducing PTSD and CMD symptoms did have a positive effect in reducing disability benefit.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This new report by King’s developed a ground-breaking linkage between the data held by the Department for Work and Pensions and that held by King’s Centre for Military Health Research in order to produce real insights into how ex-Service personnel fare when discharged, in terms of unemployment and disability benefit claims. The evidence-based recommendations provided highlight where the limited resources of the State and the Third Sector can be best deployed.”

Dr Howard Burdett, Kings College London, said: “This pioneering data linkage project, combining public data from the Department of Work and pensions with data from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, found that unemployment claims by veterans dropped to a low level within 2 years after leaving, but claims for disability benefit were longer-term, were associated with symptoms of poor mental health, and an improvement of such symptoms could reduce disability claims by veterans. This study provides an evidence base for policy regarding veterans’ benefits, and in particular the relevance of mental health to this issue.”

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.

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. 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 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.