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New research shows Armed Forces Charities sector is shrinking

From January 2018 to July 2018, the sector contracted by 4.5%.

New research published today, Thursday 21st March, by the Directory of Social Change (DSC) and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), shows the Armed Forces charity sector is shrinking, with Scottish charities and local association branches most affected.

There are currently 1,888 Armed Forces charities in the UK. This is a relatively small number compared to other charity subsectors, such as health, which is estimated to include 6,500 charities, and education, 7,650 charities1.

Since 2012, 65 Armed Forces charities have closed, with Scottish charities closing at double the rate of those opening. While there are still 633 membership association branches in the UK, which offer social and comradeship activities, there are now 152 fewer branches than in 2012.

 DSC found a high turnover of Armed Forces welfare charities opening and closing over the past six years, with close to a third of these charities having an operational lifespan of less than ten years. In total, welfare charities account for approximately two-thirds of all sector income.

Total sector income grew year on year from £741 million in 2012 to £1 billion in 2015, before dipping slightly in 2016. Overall, the 45 financially largest charities generate almost three-quarters (74.1%) of all sector income.

The report highlights the need for further research to assess:

  • The extent to which mainstream charities support the Armed Forces Community
  • If the Community prefers to access help from sector specific charities
  • The level of provision that is available at regional level

Commenting on the launch of the report today, DSC Senior Researcher and lead author, Rhiannon Doherty said: “This report holds a mirror to the armed forces charity sector and highlights significant sector trends from 2012 to 2018. It contributes to DSC’s growing evidence base which seeks to accurately profile the ever-changing armed forces charity landscape.”

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust said: “This latest report in the Focus On series is a must read for those making decisions about resources, how they can be generated and where they are best deployed, as well as for those who commentate responsibly about the sector. There is a common myth that there are too many Armed Forces charities; evidence from this report shows this is untrue.

“The recently published UK Government’s ‘Strategy for our Veterans’ draws on previous DSC work, and rightly so. This latest report is both authoritative and illuminating: rare, but invaluable, qualities.”

You can access the report here:


Understanding the transition pathway for ex-Service personnel discharged due to physical injury

FiMT has awarded £149,625 to the University of Central Lancashire, in partnership with the University of Salford, to undertake a two-year research project to understand the transition to civilian life for ex-Service personnel with physical conditions as a direct result of Service.

The research will identify the support and provisions that are available during transition for ex-Service personnel with service-related physical conditions, or physical conditions acquired whilst serving, and offer suggestions on what further, or better, support could be offered.

Project research will comprise an extensive review of relevant literature and existing data, consultation with policy and practice stakeholders, and a qualitative study with a cohort of medically discharged Service personnel.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “There is a lack of robust evidence surrounding the transition of ex-Service personnel discharged due to physical injury acquired during service.

“We have commissioned the study to ensure that the needs of this particular cohort, and of their families, are met and that we ensure their future successful and sustainable transitions. By commissioning the work in response to our analysis of where knowledge and evidence are lacking, we are putting into practice the more proactive approach our ‘Third Age’ initiative heralds.”

Dr Celia Hynes, Lead Research, University of Central Lancashire, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to undertake this much needed piece of research and as a research team we look forward to providing evidence that will inform future practice.”


King’s welcomes back the Duke of Sussex for Veterans’ Mental Health Conference

The fifth Veterans’ Mental Health Conference takes place at King’s College London today. The annual event brings together leading academics, charities and policy makers to network and to hear the latest research on military mental health from speakers of world-class reputation.

High profile guests include the Duke of Sussex, who has attended the conference three years running, and the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood, Minister for Defence, People and Veterans who gave the opening address.

Ahead of the conference Mr Ellwood said: ‘As a former soldier and current Reservist, I’m passionate about doing all we can to support the brave men and women in our Armed Forces, including the millions of veterans who have given so much to the nation.

‘For too long the issue of mental health has been misunderstood and we are working incredibly hard to break down the stigma around mental health. I’m pleased this conference will bring together academics, charities and policy makers to help us drive progress and facilitate a meaningful discussion on the latest military mental health research.’

Following the morning session, the Duke met some of the speakers including Professor Zahava Solomon from Tel Aviv University, Ms Kacie Kelly from the George W Bush Institute and Dr Heidi Cramm from Queens University, Canada.

Organised by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and sponsored by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), the theme of this year’s conference is evidence, innovation and practice. As well as influential UK and international researchers, the conference featured perspectives from Combat Stress, Contact, the NHS and the BBC.

KCMHR is the leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research. Co-directed by Professor Sir Simon Wessely and Professor Nicola Fear, KCMHR draws on the experience of a multidisciplinary team, many of whom feature in this year’s conference, including Professor Wessely, Dr Dan Leightley, Professor Edgar Jones, Dr Dominic Murphy and Professor Neil Greenberg.

Commenting on the day’s events, Professor Greenberg said: ‘We are delighted that for the fifth year running this conference has been such a great success. Being able to welcome the Duke of Sussex back for the third time has been a real honour, and we were thrilled that the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood was able to give the opening address.’

‘Having a forum to exchange ideas with colleagues in academia, the military, the public sector and Service charities is of huge benefit to the whole team at KCMHR. We hope all the attendees find the conference beneficial in working to improve the lives of service personnel, serving or retired, and their families.’

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the forth year we have sponsored this important annual knowledge sharing and networking event and we are proud to do so.

“The theme of this year’s conference, ‘Evidence, Innovation and Practice’, reflects the importance of the work that Forces in Mind Trust do. We use the evidence we generate, and completed by many of the attendees here today, to enable policy makers and service providers to be better informed in the decisions they make with regards to the Armed Forces.”

Statement from Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust:

“At Forces in Mind Trust, we agree from an evidence-based perspective with the Royal British Legion’s call for more to be done to counter the financial difficulty some Commonwealth ex-Service personnel encounter upon leaving the UK’s Armed Forces.

“Evidence from our Meeting the Needs of Commonwealth Personnel and Families report, undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University and published in March last year, highlights the difficulties Commonwealth Service personnel may encounter on the transition pathway. This work was commissioned at the behest of the Confederation of Service Charities’ ‘Foreign and Commonwealth’ cluster, which is chaired by the Army Families Federation, in recognition of their significant experience in this area.

“Our report makes 13 recommendations for improving the services and support available to serving and ex-Service personnel and their families. These recommendations include the need to address the high cost of visas, to reduce the complexities of the settlement process, and to provide better support and information to ex-Service personnel going through the visa application process.

“In line with the UK Armed Forces Covenant, those who have served ‘should be treated fairly’. Our evidence suggests that whilst visa fees are not, in themselves, unfair, the scale of the fees and the inadequate preparations (including individual saving) undertaken by some Commonwealth personnel does present disadvantage and should be addressed by the Home Office and Ministry of Defence.

“FiMT’s founding objective was to enable all ex-Service personnel to have a successful and sustainable transition. We will continue to pursue this aim using the robust evidence we generate to influence policy makers and service providers.”

Creation of mental health toolkit aimed at ex-Service personnel

A mental health toolkit, MIND Fitness, specifically designed for ex-Service personnel, is to be developed thanks to funding from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

MIND Fitness will help overcome the barriers Service leavers have in seeking mental health support, enabling them to identify whether they are suffering from a mental health issue (particularly depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder), to empower them to monitor their own mental health, to recognise whether support might be helpful before they reach a crisis point, and to educate them on the wealth of support available.

King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) has been awarded £221,811 over two years to develop the toolkit.

The project builds on the recommendations of the earlier FiMT-funded KCMHR Stigma and Barriers to Care project, with the team now planning to design a practical tool to aid ex-Service personnel in identifying and managing their own mental health as a prevention strategy. It is hoped that this tool will be adopted by a range of other charities, service providers and the NHS, and ultimately have a positive impact on post-Service transition to civilian life.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Previous FiMT research has identified a variety of barriers to help seeking in the ex-Service community. Evidence shows the decision to ask for help is mainly affected by the perceived need for treatment. The toolkit being developed by King’s Centre for Military Health Research will encourage the user to independently identify their need for support and importantly where they can access it.

“We know that ex-Service personnel access services that are tailored to their needs, and where there is an understanding of the culture of the Armed Forces. This is a very important development in the management of mental health in the ex-Service community, which is vital to enabling a successful and sustainable transition.”

Dr Laura Rafferty, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, said: “We are excited to start this project which aims to develop a toolkit to target early identification and management of mental health distress in military veterans. The toolkit will provide a level of self-help to enable veterans to cope independently and provide simple information about where to seek more formal support, to both improve their quality of life and encourage veterans to seek support before they reach a crisis point.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with military veterans and stakeholders to ensure that the toolkit will fit the needs of military veterans and compliment the other services currently available to military veterans in the UK.


Exploring the employment pathways and outcomes of ex-Service personnel

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded funds of £183, 930 to the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) to undertake a two-year study to examine employment and finances across the transition process as personnel leave the Armed Forces and transition to civilian life, with a particular focus on the role mental health.

Researchers will provide a comprehensive picture of the economic aspects of transition, including how mental health, as well as pre-enlistment factors and Service history, affect economic trajectories and the experiences of potentially at-risk groups.

The study will expand current research by tracking both positive and negative changes in socio-economic status, including a focus on certain groups who historically have demonstrated less successful outcomes (ie women, Early Service Leaver, and Reserves), to gain a holistic understanding of the pathways of economic transition and how these relate to mental health and wellbeing. This work involves assessment of several large datasets and will be supported by a series of interviews.

Findings from the project will inform statutory, military and charitable bodies on how to best ensure all ex-Service personnel gain rewarding employment and can avoid the pitfalls that lead to a poor economic transition.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Two of the most important elements of a successful and sustainable transition are meaningful employment and mental health. Previous research funded by FiMT has shown that there is a correlation between both. This study by KCMHR will enable policy makers and service providers to ensure that all ex-Service personnel are informed and prepared to navigate the transition process successfully.”

Dr Howard Burdett, Kings Centre for Military Health Research, said: “This study will build on the work of King’s Centre for Military Health Research on post-service outcomes for UK veterans by producing an in-depth investigation into why some veterans are successful after leaving, while others are not.”