The Veterans Work Consortium, consisting of Deloitte, the Forces in Mind Trust (FIMT) and the Officers’ Association (OA), used the gathering of policymakers to release new research revealing just how little the general public know about veterans.
Only 8% of respondents to the survey of 1001 British adults were able to correctly identify that to be defined as a ‘veteran’, you need only have served for one day in the armed forces.
One in five (19%) British adults, incorrectly believe that in order to be classified as a ‘veteran’, you must have been wounded during your time in the Services, while a quarter think you can only call yourself a ‘veteran’, if you are over the age of 65.
A quarter (24%) also thought that in order to be defined as a ‘veteran’ you must have served in either World War One or World War Two, while nearly half (47%) think that you can only be classified as a veteran if you have served in the British Army – disregarding both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
Deloitte partner and Chair of the Veterans Work Consortium, Chris Recchia said: “Whilst a great level of work is being done to positively enhance the veteran brand, we can see how much work still needs to be done to ensure the community is being portrayed in a true and fair light – especially with those responsible for recruiting and employing veterans. It’s vital there is an understanding of the skills they bring back into civilian society’.
The survey asked, ‘to the best of your knowledge, have you ever met or talked to a veteran?’ – only 64% came back and said ‘yes’.
Mr Recchia said: “The number who have actually met or spoken to a veteran will, of course, be higher, but sadly a lack of informed interaction with the community, is leading to 39% of the population having their view of ex-service personnel influenced by often inaccurate data, myths and what they see on television and in films.”
British adults believe nearly half (48%) of all veterans have a mental health problem, despite research from the Centre for Mental Health showing that rates of mental illness amongst UK veterans are generally lower than that of the wider population: one in five compared to one in four in the general population.
The study also revealed that British adults believe, on average, 41% of the veteran population have an alcohol abuse problem and a third (33%) of the homeless population are likely to be veterans, despite best estimates putting the figure at closer to 0.72%
The data revealed that British adults believe, on average, 24% of the prison population are veterans, when again, official statistics from the Ministry of Justice place the actual figure at a much lower 4%.
Forces in Mind Trust’s Director of Programmes, Thomas McBarnet said: “These findings show clearly that there is public misperception and misunderstanding about veterans that we need to work together to address
The survey revealed 87% of those surveyed think veterans struggle to adapt to new working environments when they leave the armed forces, while 30% felt that veterans were not suited to civilian employment entirely.
Mr McBarnet continued: “Such misperceptions are unfounded and damaging to veterans’ employment opportunities. Employers must ensure these unhelpful perceptions are addressed in their recruitment processes, so that they benefit from the skills that veterans can bring to their organisation.”
The research revealed that 39% of respondents, have their opinion of veterans shaped by what they see and hear on TV, radio and in films, with more than half (52%) saying veterans are, ‘unfairly portrayed’ by the news media.
Lee Holloway, OA Chief Executive Officer said: “There are too many occasions when the perception of veterans has been distorted against the largely positive reality. We have a responsibility to ensure the tone and language we are using when talking about veterans reflects this reality – whether you’re an employer, charity or part of the media.”
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: “The perception that veterans are ‘mad, sad and bad’ is wrong and outdated. As a former Army officer and serving Defence Minister, I have met and worked with hundreds of veterans throughout my career and their drive, skills and confidence are second to none.
“We must all do more to challenge the negative stereotypes surrounding veterans and recognise the enormous value they can add to society.”