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Call of the wild making a difference for ex-Service personnel struggling with civilian life

A programme for Veterans – centred on the Scottish wilderness –has made significant improvement to participants’ lives while also being cost-effective and high value for money, new research has highlighted. The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.

Venture Trust’s Positive Futures Model is a combination of cognitive behavioural approaches, experiential learning, skilled facilitation, relationship building, coaching, mentoring and aftercare. It is delivered through a three-phased programme in the community and in the wilds of Scotland.

Positive Futures has been independently evaluated by GAP Communications for the past three years. During that time Venture Trust has supported 90 veterans and the programme has the potential to support hundreds more in the coming years.

Some of the key research findings from GAP Communications’ evaluation include:

• 0% of ex-Service personnel who participated in Positive Futures have re-offended following the programme.
• 43% of participants have since entered into employment, education or training.
• Over a third (34%) of participants who were homeless or in insecure accommodation are now sustaining their own tenancy.
• Improved mental health for participants has led to more openness with family members and calmer, happier households.
• The overall benefit impact to society through a) reduction in interactions with state services (reduced costs) and b) moving into the workplace (tax gains) or volunteering is calculated to be over £2m. The average benefit impact is over £45k per person.
• The programme has delivered overall benefit impacts to society in the region of £2.6m to £4m; for every £1 spent, £4.56 of societal benefit impact has been generated.
• The model, if replicated, would work with veterans needing support in other parts of the UK.

Referrers have said the service appeals to ex-servicemen and women who refuse to engage with therapeutic programmes but who will engage with an outdoors programme.

Positive Futures was funded by a grant of £689,453 from the Forces in Mind Trust. The programme creates a therapeutic environment where those participants with mental health issues (frequently part of a complex presenting set) can identify behaviour triggers and develop, and practice, coping strategies as a foundation for making and sustaining positive life changes.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The funding for the Positive Futures programme is the largest grant awarded to date by the Forces in Mind Trust. The measure of its success will be the lasting change that it brings to those who undergo the experience.

“The Report provides evidence of a model that can be used to help some of the most challenged ex-Service personnel make a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life. This proven effective model should be expanded so that every ex-Service man and woman across the United Kingdom who needs it, can easily access and gain benefit from it.”

Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive of Venture Trust, said: “We are delighted to share the findings of the Positive Futures programme and its impact for ex-servicemen and women who may have struggled in civilian life. This work represents three years of collaboration to reach those individuals in need and a shared goal of sustained positive change to ensure a civilian life which is fuller, with improved wellbeing and a renewed sense of purpose. We hope that the proof of concept that is Positive Futures and the research findings offer fresh insight and recommendations to enhance support for individuals who struggle with transition. We are hugely grateful to FiMT, the Armed Forces Covenant, partners in Scotland and particularly the ex-service men and women who took part in the programme.”

The report also contains some recommendations for the Veterans’ support sector:

• Sustain and replicate the methodology of the programme through continued investment and effective marketing to ex-Service personnel and also their families.
• Find ‘hidden veterans’ through the collection and sharing of data between services and develop more rigorous enquiries regarding Armed Forces history.
• Higher levels of inter-agency co-operation and partnership across the military and non-military services’ sectors.
• The Armed Forces look at introducing, based on the markers identified in the research, a mechanism to identify, and monitor those at risk of poor transition from point of application and throughout an individual’s career.

You can read the full report here.

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Research reveals the complex nature of transition from the Armed Forces

A study released today, Thursday 1st November, by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has revealed that more awareness about the demands of transition is needed for families of Service leavers.

The report contains a list of recommendations including the need for:

  • A shift in culture (for policy makers, service providers, Service leavers and families themselves), which better appreciates the breadth of transition and the need to engage with it from an earlier point in a Service leaver’s career.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of advance planning.
  • An education piece to cover transition entitlement and processes.
  • Tailoring support to families’ specific needs.

The report, the first to specifically look at the lived experience of Service families, reveals the complex nature of transition and affirms the six ‘elements’ of transition: housing, health, education and children, employment, finances and wellbeing.

Authors of the report – the Naval, Army and RAF Families Federations – highlight the need for further research to better understand specific cohorts of families such as Foreign & Commonwealth, those whose Service leaver is being medically discharged and the challenges faced by Service children.

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

“The process of transition is not solely about the Service personnel, it affects the entire family unit. What has become clear, from the library of research funded by FiMT, is that the earlier planning for leaving the Armed Forces starts, the more successful and sustainable is the transition.

“The recommendations within this report highlight the need to do more to ensure that the families of Service personnel are given the support required to successfully navigate the transition pathway.”

Sara Baade, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation said:

“The Army Families Federation is very grateful to FiMT for the opportunity to conduct much-needed research showing more needs to be done to support those going through transition out of the military. This work strengthens existing evidence in this area and the report’s recommendations are invaluable in supporting the case for improved resources and services that families can use to ensure their transition is successful, whatever their make-up. This key evidence also supports the Veterans’ Strategy announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this year; those transitioning out of the Forces are the veterans of tomorrow, and ensuring families overcome the many challenges transition can pose goes some way to ensuring a successful civilian life.”

Anna Wright, CEO Naval Families Federation, said:

“The unique nature of Naval Service life is reflected by the ‘can do’ attitude of our families. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that all Naval Service families find the transition process to be without challenge. This report provides those in decision making roles with an insightful and honest bank of information to help support their thinking and consider the needs of Naval Service families when reviewing or updating appropriate policies.

“We are hugely grateful to all the families who took part in the research, offering their time and

sharing their ‘lived experience’ to inform this report.”

Graeme Spark, Acting Director, RAF FF said:

“We have been delighted to have been part of this project – understanding completely the need for a holistic approach to transition to best support RAF families now and in the future. We now look forward to helping deliver where we can some of its recommendations.”

You can read the full report here.

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