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Statement in response on the Defence Committee report on mental health and the Armed Forces

In response to the Defence Committee report released today titled ‘Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part One: The Scale of mental health issues’, Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust has said:

“Having provided evidence to the Committee, we welcome this report and strongly support its headline finding that veterans are being mis-perceived, not just in terms of their mental health but also in many other areas such as housing and employability, and their broader contribution to society.  It is time that this particular and harmful strand of ‘fake news’ is tackled head on, and that means listening to those, such as Forces in Mind Trust, who provide independent and credible evidence based upon sound research to policy makers.

“We acknowledge that all four NHSs have made improvements in the delivery of mental health services to veterans, but are alarmed that there seems to be some misunderstanding around the applicability of the UK Armed Forces Covenant.  As with so much surrounding the Covenant, from Local Authorities to small businesses, what is missing are unambiguous and practical statements of what the Armed Forces Community can, and cannot, expect.”

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MOD employment support trial empowers spouses of Service personnel

A new evaluation of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Spouse Employment Support (SES) Trial has shown the advantages of supporting spouses of Service personnel. The evaluation, funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), and conducted by Anglia Ruskin University, reviewed how spouses progressed when given specific support to improve their chances of employment.

Key findings of the evaluation detail the essential role of employment support in building spouses’ confidence; with 78% of participants saying their involvement in the Trial had had a positive impact on their lives. Additionally, spouses in the Trial highly valued the training opportunities made accessible to them.

A set of key recommendations was produced from the evaluation of the SES Trial, including acknowledging that the MOD continues to recognise spouses in their own right, the importance of continuing access to childcare and transport provision, particularly for those in remote areas, the provision of a training grant to spouses, as well as further employment training opportunities.

Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, Ray Lock CBE said:

“When the Ministry of Defence announced that it was to undertake a trial of a Spouse Employment Support programme, we were gratified that one of the recurring themes of our evidence on transition, that Service leavers whose spouses were already in employment tended to fare better, was being acted upon. We were also pleased to be invited to provide an independent evaluation through Anglia Ruskin University.

“The eight recommendations contained within the report are based on the learning gained and the wholly positive impact on the spouses who participated in the trial. We are looking forward to working with the MOD to build upon these recommendations.”

The support of service families is a priority for the Ministry of Defence, highlighted by the Armed Forces Families Strategy, launched in 2016. The Strategy focuses on the link between equipping the families of serving personnel with the support and advice they need to prosper, and the delivery of operational capability. The removal of barriers to employment for spouses and partners of those in Service is a priority of the Strategy.

The Spouse Employment Support Trial seeks to aid spouses and partners to find employment that matches their skills, knowledge and experience, as well their career aspirations.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

“Our serving personnel lay their lives on the line to keep our country safe, and we have a duty to ensure that their spouses and partners, who play such a vital role in the Armed Forces community, receive the support they deserve.

“I’m delighted that the Spouse Employment Support Trial has proved to be a success, and I am confident that the spouses and partners of our serving men and women will continue to make an invaluable contribution to society.”

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence People, said:

“The spouses and partners of our Armed Forces personnel are often the glue that holds a military family together, and it is important that they are truly valued and recognised for their role.

“The findings and recommendations within this report will now be fully considered by the MOD as we continue to implement support for military families.”

Matt Fossey, Director of the Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“It is well documented that military spouses struggle in their careers as a result of frequent relocations, gaps in their CVs, and lack of affordable childcare. This groundbreaking and illuminating research shows the unanticipated consequences of introducing initiatives that provide employment support for military spouses.

“As well as the tangible employment-related benefits such as new skills, qualifications and confidence, military spouses felt that the Spouse Employment Support Trial was an extremely positive demonstration of the MOD’s commitment to the wider military family, thus improving spouses’ feelings of self-worth and individual agency.”

Read the full report here

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Well-being interventions help ex-Service personnel transitioning back into civilian life

Preventative interventions may have a positive effect on the well-being of ex-Service personnel who are having difficulties making the transition back into civilian life, a new Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded-study has revealed.

The systematic review of research literature led by Newcastle University, published in Plos One academic journal, shows the positive impact of well-being interventions such as journaling and relaxation techniques on the lives of ex-Service personnel and their families.

The report highlights four areas to consider in future research and service development:
• What well-being means to ex-Service personnel transitioning back to civilian life
• Acceptability of interventions which may be perceived as treatment
• Further trials of the effectiveness of interventions with diverse groups of participants
• How and when low-wellbeing should be identified in Service personnel

The review looked at nine studies from the United States of America and evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for current and ex-Service personnel. Researchers found the positive effects on well-being was found in those reporting difficulties making the transition back to civilian life and their families.

Evidence from the review suggests a need for future robust trials exploring the effectiveness of well-being interventions for the Armed Forces community as a means to help with the challenges of transitioning back into civilian life.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “What has been revealed, in this systematic review of well-being interventions, is that there may be benefit in making these preventative techniques available to ex-Service personnel experiencing difficulty on the transition pathway. These are popular activities, and it is important that they are evidence based.”

Dr Sarah Wigham, Research Associate at Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, said: “The review has summarized the evidence base for the effectiveness of well-being interventions for Armed Forces personnel transitioning to civilian life. The review findings will be of interest to those tasked with making decisions about which interventions to fund and develop in the future.’’

You can see the briefing document here and the full review here.

The journal article was published in PLOS ONE, you can read it here http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0189630

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FiMT: Entering The ‘Third Age’ of the Forces in Mind Trust

On Thursday 28th June 2018, the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) launched its ‘Third Age’ at the charity’s FiMpacT Forum held at The QEII Centre in Westminster. The FiMpacT Forum marks the culmination in six years of grant giving, with funding from The Big Lottery Fund, to help ex-Service personnel transition into civilian life.

The Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans gave the keynote speech.

The forum was attended by 150 people including; politicians, academics, charity leaders and ex-Service personnel. An excellent exhibition of work from FiMT grantees enabled organizations and media to see the great work undertaken and enabled through funding by FiMT.

To date, FiMT has given over 100 grants totalling nearly £15 million, most notably over the past year to health and wellbeing related projects. This has included work into ending veterans’ homelessness, partnering with King’s College London on mental health issues and the associated stigma, and producing a guide for care homes with veterans, in collaboration with Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and Demos (Britain’s leading cross-party think tank).

Launching the Third Age of FiMT, the focus will be on driving forward and sustaining the positive impact upon ex-Service personnel’s lives already achieved by FiMT’s work to date. This new age will also focus on challenging the negative stereotypes around ex-Service personnel.

Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, Ray Lock said: “Our approach identifies six areas for improving the lives of ex-Service personnel – covering Housing, Employment (including training and education), Health and Wellbeing (physical and mental), Finance, the Criminal Justice System and Relationships.

“The Third Age will be an exciting move from being activity led, to strategically impact driven and coherently focused. We’re ramping up the impact of our work, whilst maintaining the generation of knowledge and evidence for which we have become renowned.”

Hans Pung, the Chairman of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “As well as developing the impact of the work we’re already doing, we will also be promoting evidence over anecdote – such as working on altering stubborn perceptions of former Service personnel as “mad, bad, or sad”. We will be doing this through focusing on the real truth of personal lives, and working to establish an evidence base which truly reflects ex-Service personnel’s biographical histories, current situations and future need.”

You can access our latest Activity Report here.

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Improving transition out of the Armed Forces: engaging families through behavioural insights

The Behavioural Insights Team(BIT) were commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) to assess whether empirical insights from social and behavioural sciences can help Service leavers’ families benefit more from services that support transition from the Armed Forces.

The need for this project came from work around families which FiMT has been developing over the last couple of years, when problems with engagement have been highlighted.

This report identifies the cognitive biases and barriers relevant to accessing services and presents ways in which systems can be designed to reduce them, or work with them.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the first project we have funded with BIT. Their innovative and scientific approach has offered a unique insight into how service providers can benefit families by improving engagement, both during their time as a Service family and especially as they approach transition.

“The recommendations included in this report offer a range of changes to how services are delivered – such as tapping into Service leaver and family identity; presenting decisions as mattering for today not tomorrow; connecting with social networks; and making that transition easier, not harder. The second phase of this important work is now well underway.”

You can read the full report here.

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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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