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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.

Request for expressions of interest

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has issued a request for expressions of interest (REOI) to conduct research on the transition into employment on leaving the UK Armed Forces for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs).

The reason for this commission came about from findings in FiMT’s 2017 Transition Mapping Study, published in July 2017, which focused on the training, skills and employment of Service leavers.

The FiMT award is expected to be up to £100,000 for a year-long project using a mixed-method of research to include qualitative methods; as well as a documented, systematic review of literature on the transition of SNCOs from the Armed Forces to civilian life.

For more details of the application process see the full REOI here.

The mental health and offending behaviour of ex-military personnel in the Criminal Justice System differs from offenders who have not served in the military

Ex-Service personnel in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) have distinct patterns of offending and mental health problems compared to offenders from a non-Service background, according to a Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded report.

Researchers at King’s College London looked at ex-Service personnel identified through the CJS as having social or mental health needs. They found ex-Service personnel were more likely to have Anxiety disorders (37% of veterans versus 13% non-veterans), which included PTSD, and Adjustment Disorder (8%vs6%*), as well as higher levels of co-occurring mental health problems than people with a non-Service background.

Offenders from a non-Service background had a higher prevalence of Schizophrenia (5% of veterans vs 12% non-veterans), Personality Disorder (8%vs11%*), ADHD (1%vs3%*) and substance use (17%vs28%*) than ex-Service personnel.

The types of offence committed were also notably different. Report authors found higher rates of interpersonal violence (37%vs32%*) and motoring offences (8%vs4%) and less acquisitive offending (theft, burglary, fraud) (10%vs16%*)among ex-Service personnel.

Researchers found that the likelihood of offending behaviour increases with time since leaving the Armed Forces, with 60% of the cohort having left over five years ago. Almost a quarter left between one and five years ago highlighting the potential for early intervention.

Ex-Service personnel in the CJS tended to be older and in employment compared to the rest of the offending population. This is likely to be due to their time in Service delaying the offending behaviour.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Workforce training – Priority must be placed on ensuring that staff members working in the CJS are able to identify ex-Service personnel, are aware of their needs and have knowledge of available local and regional services.
  • Service development – Having identified the different clinical needs of the ex-Service population, it is important that there are the services to meet those needs.
  • Offence reduction work – further research is needed to better understand what offence reduction (especially violence reduction) methods work in this population, in order to tackle the mental health, welfare, alcohol and substance misuse issues which have been found to be associated with offending among ex-Service personnel.
  • Assessment of PTSD – Specific assessment of the consequences of previous trauma and PTSD is needed in the CJS. Awareness of the role of trauma in offending behaviour and the need for Trauma Informed Care (TIC) has been slow to gain traction in the UK.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces of Mind Trust, said: “This study by King’s College London has highlighted interesting correlations between ex-Service personnel and offending behaviour. The recommendations included in the report would help the CJS staff to provide a service that meets the needs of ex-Service personnel, and encourage increased collaboration across the Armed Forces charity sector, MOD and the NHS.”

Dr Deirdre MacManus, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, said: “A large body of research has investigated risk factors for offending among military personnel, but few studies have explored the needs of those who end up the Criminal Justice System and whether they differ from offenders without a history of military Service.

“We are very grateful to have received funding from FiMT to carry out this research and we have been able to make important recommendations for improvements to staff training and provision of care and service in the Criminal Justice System to meet the needs of the often neglected ex-Service population.”

You can read the full report here

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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.

FiMT awards funds for a systematic review and evidence map of research on the mental health needs of serving and ex-Service personnel

Forces in Mind Trust has awarded the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) £95,877 to conduct a systematic review of evidence of the mental health needs of serving and ex-Service personnel and their families since 2012.

The 9-month project will cover all three services, in the context of their transition to civilian life, and will include the perspectives of key stakeholders. Areas where the evidence is strong and where there are gaps in evidence will be recorded, and where evidence allows, recommendations will be made for the attention of policy makers and service providers, along with future areas on which to focus research.

The review will also include the construction of an evidence map of research on interventions to promote, detect, prevent and treat the mental health of serving and ex-Service personnel.

A comparison between the 2013 FiMT commissioned mental health review will also be undertaken to determine the continued relevance of previous findings and to assess where progress has been made on the report recommendations.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “One of the founding priorities of FiMT is ‘to promote better mental health and well-being’ and ‘to build organizations’ capacity to deliver evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation’. The Trust has worked hard to develop an understanding of the mental health environment, and to identify where it can best deploy its finite resources to maximum effect.

“The review by NatCen will ensure that we are utilizing the most accurate and up-to-date information, to ensure policy makers and service providers have the necessary information to act in the best interests of the minority of ex-Service personnel who need to access mental health support.”

Guy Goodwin, Chief Executive of NatCen said: “We’re delighted to be working with Forces in Mind Trust on this important project. It’s an excellent opportunity to improve our understanding of the mental health needs of current and ex-Service personnel, to help target support and care where required.”

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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/

About the National Centre for Social Research:

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

Website: www.natcen.ac.uk

Twitter: @natcen