A new service has been developed which shows signs of being able to improve wellbeing and relationships between veterans living with mental health disorders and their families.
The Restorative Approaches Veterans and Family Service (RAVFS) provided by TGP Cymru is a new service that facilitates whole-family interventions for veterans and families. Early evaluation has indicated that RAVFS can help improve the relationships between veterans living with a service-related mental health disorder and their families, using a restorative framework.
Following the success of the service on a small scale, the researchers and organisations involved are calling for a roll-out of the service to all Local Health Boards in Wales that provide mental health support to veterans, along with research to further test the RAVFS model on a larger scale.
TGP Cymru is a charity which delivers children and family services within a restorative framework. Working in collaboration with Veterans’ National Health Service Wales (VNHSW), they developed and applied their provision to support veterans and their families. The charity focuses on building positive communication skills; increasing empathy; understanding behaviour and needs; and encouraging problem solving skills to collaboratively find solutions.
RAVFS has been offered to veteran families in addition to the psychological therapy provided by VNHSW in parts of South-East Wales. Families have reported that the service has helped families talk to each other, understand how the veterans’ behaviour is linked to poor mental health and think about ways that these behaviours can be changed or accepted, which led to a reduction in family conflict.
One partner of a veteran who took part in the research said: “It’s helped dramatically with our communication and the attitude between the family…I didn’t know how much talking to each other would impact attitudes and feelings for the positive”.
It is acknowledged that there is currently a gap in provision of support for the families of veterans with mental health conditions. Forces in Mind Trust recently published a Policy Statement on Relationships which indicates that, while support is available for veterans, the needs of families are often not addressed. The charity has recommended more integrated support for families in veterans’ mental health services and increased involvement of the family in transition from the military to civilian life. The findings from this evaluation suggest that services such as the RAFVS could help to provide this missing support.
Tom McBarnet, Director of Programmes at Forces in Mind Trust, said:
“It is clear that this holistic approach, which involves the whole family, can be beneficial for veterans’ support services. Mental health support for veterans has significantly improved in recent years, including the introduction of Op Courage in NHS England and the support provided by Veterans NHS Wales. But this has not been extended far enough. We know that families and strong relationships play a really important role for veterans who face mental and physical health challenges. Forces in Mind Trust’s recent Policy Statement highlights the importance of having a strong social network, particularly for transition out of the Armed Forces. This pilot study was small, but the findings are promising. We now hope to see this service replicated across Wales, and for further results to help shape veterans’ support services in future.”
Mike Clark, Director of Family Services at TGP Cymru, said:
“TGP Cymru have been providing services to children and families for many years. We are very proud to have developed the RAVFS service for veterans and their families alongside Veterans NHS Wales and are encouraged by the positive outcomes from the pilot service. We are confident that the model we have developed is effective on a small scale and now want to develop the model and service provision wider across Wales to enable a greater number of veterans and their families to benefit from the service. The RAVFS team have demonstrated that effective partnership working with Veterans NHS Wales has improved outcomes for veterans and their families and we are thankful to the Forces in Mind Trust for their confidence and belief in both TGP Cymru and the RAVFS service.”
Dr Annie Williams, Research Fellow at CASCADE, said:
“CASCADE is committed to supporting the wellbeing and safety of families and children through collaborative, strengths-based and relationship-focused models of care. CASCADE is delighted to have been able to help RAVFS extend this type of support to families and military veterans negatively affected by mental health challenges. The positive delivery and receipt of the service is an exciting development which calls for further exploration of its use in wider military veteran settings.”
Neil Kitchiner, Director and Consultant Clinical Lead at VNHSW, said:
“We really liked being able to refer our veterans and their families to TGP as we are not funded to undertake this work. Those families that did take up the offer were very complimentary about the TGP therapist in helping them communicate better as a family and have strategies to take forward. I miss not having TGP to refer veterans and their families to.”
Notes to Editors
About the research
This was a mixed method study carried out by the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) at Cardiff University and funded by Forces in Mind Trust.
Qualitative: interviews with VNHSW therapists, RAVFs manager and practitioners, veteran and families using the service as well as veterans who had refused referral to RAVFS, focus groups with partners.
Quantitative: SCORE15 self-report measure (9 veterans, 10 partners, 3 children).
Quotes from participants in the study:
Family members of veterans:
“I was at the bottom the day we first met – there was so much going on that I felt I was being swallowed and I didn’t know how to cope with any of it. I am at a good place. We talk more, I am more considerate and understand him better…I am more aware regarding my emotions and issues. Before RAVFS started I didn’t admit how much help I needed/my issues. Now I feel I can ask for help when I need it”.
“Since RAVFS have been working with us, I feel that me and [my partner] can communicate much better. I can tell him my feelings, he’s been opening up a lot more and is more loving. We are more understanding of each other”.
“We listen and we understand each other more…With dad it has opened my eyes to how I impacted him. I’ve also realized mum needed more support from me too. I’ve changed”.
“[my partner] is more interested in what is happening in my recovery. There is better communication between me and [my partner]. She has been more understanding about my PTSD and more sympathetic”.
“It has really improved our family life for the better”.
“Working with TGP has been invaluable in helping me have a fuller understanding and insight into the veterans home situation. As a therapist I am reliant on what a veterans tells me and TGP has brought the family context into frame. The veteran themselves may be more inclined to talk about their family situation with me, knowing that there is some support available.”
About Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):
FiMT was founded in November 2011 by a £35 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund (now The National Lottery Community Fund). As a member of Cobseo – the Confederation of Service Charities and a permanent member of its Executive Committee, the Trust works within the Armed Forces charities sector, and much more widely, to support the UK’s Armed Forces Community.
The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life. We deliver this by working with others to identify the barriers to successful transition, find out what works to overcome these barriers and then working together to make this happen, including by strengthening the Armed Forces charities sector through collaboration and leadership, and by building its capacity.
FiMT’s grants and commissions are designed to generate sustained change that improves the lives of ex-Service personnel and their families. FiMT awards grants to support its Change Model based on six outcomes: Housing; Employment; Health; Finance; Criminal Justice System and Relationships.
What we fund: www.fim-trust.org/what-we-fund/
The Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) aims to improve the well-being, safety and rights of children and their families.
We are concerned with all aspects of community responses to social need in children and families, including family support services, children in need services, child protection, looked after children and adoption.
What we do
- Generate internationally recognised primary research evidence
- Make our research accessible to all; including people who use services, professionals and policymakers.
- Develop social care research capacity in Wales by providing opportunities for researchers from undergraduate through to senior career stages.
- Engage a range of collaborators in research, including children and young people, parents and carers, practitioners, policymakers and social care providers from the public, private and third sectors.
About TGP Cymru:
TGP Cymru is a leading independent Welsh children’s charity working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children, young people and families in Wales. They may be experiencing difficulties in accessing appropriate services in health, education or social care – these include children with disabilities, children with emotional health needs and children seeking asylum.
TGP Cymru has its Head Office in Cardiff and projects across Wales offering independent and confidential support to children, young people and families through advocacy, participation, counselling, family group meetings, restorative approaches and conflict resolution. We also offer advocacy support for those experiencing problems with emotional health and wellbeing and produce communication passports for children and young people with communication needs. We work with children, young people and families, giving them a voice to have a say in their future and ensuring that their rights are upheld.