The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is introducing changes to the way members of the Armed Forces Community are supported when accessing the benefits system.

Will Quince & Leo Docherty meet Armed Forces Champion Linsay Jones

Building on the existing network of Armed Forces Champions, a new model is now providing effective tailored support to veterans, service personnel and their families, working alongside and complementing an additional 13,500 Work Coaches the department has recruited across the country. A dedicated Armed Forces role has now been introduced at middle management level in each of the 11 Jobcentre Plus Groups. These Armed Forces Champion Leads oversee the 50 Armed Forces Champions who are stationed across the Jobcentre Plus network, and there will be at least one Champion in each Jobcentre Plus District.

Research from Forces in Mind Trust built the case for the funding of these new posts. In 2019, Forces in Mind Trust published research led by Professor Lisa Scullion at the University of Salford, and supported by the University of York. ‘Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers’ was the first substantive qualitative research in the UK to focus specifically on the experiences of veterans within the social security benefits system. The aim of the project was to generate an evidence base to inform policy to better support veterans and their families trying to navigate the benefits system.

Alongside this new model for their Champions network, DWP has also recently introduced an Armed Forces question into the Universal Credit (UC) system.  As part of the online application process, all people now making a claim to UC are asked if they are a veteran or are currently serving, so they can access additional help and support. This also follows a recommendation made in the ‘Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers’ report. The new question, if consistently applied, will help to measure progress and to ensure veterans receive the support they are entitled to.

Following the success of the previous research and its impact on UK policy, a second research project is currently ongoing. Also led by Professor Lisa Scullion and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, this second project will build on the previous work, to capture the experiences of ex-Service personnel and their families during a period of significant welfare reform. The project will also examine the impact of the changes which have been made since the last report.

Mike Ellicock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “We are pleased to see these changes introduced by DWP, which should help to ensure that veterans and their families receive the right support when accessing universal credit. The research Forces in Mind Trust funded clearly demonstrated a need to make the benefits system easier to navigate for ex-Service personnel, and for consistent signposting to relevant support services. Following the impact of the original research, we are delighted to be working with Professor Lisa Scullion on a new project to build on this, to ensure all ex-Service personnel receive the support they are entitled to.”

Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said:

“The Armed Forces do our country proud and we are forever grateful to them for the sacrifices they make in order to serve our nation. It’s not just about recognising that though, veterans offer a range of transferrable skills like no other – they are a gold mine of talent.”

“This network will build on what has been in place and help to provide additional specialist, individual support to them and their families as they take the first steps to find a job and receive the financial support they are entitled to, helping them better readjust to civilian life.”

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said:

“Every Jobcentre Plus district in the country now has an Armed Forces Champion providing direct support to former services personnel as well as their families to help them make new benefit claims, and will sign-post them to other organisations where appropriate.”

“The new network of local Champions, and group leads, stationed in Jobcentres in England, Scotland and Wales will also support veterans to retrain and apply for work.”