Shoulder to Shoulder, a unique volunteer mentoring project which supports ex-service men and women who are struggling to adjust to civilian life, is meeting a need and addressing a gap in service provision, says an external evaluation from research consultancy The Lines Between.

Speaking at the launch of the report at Westminster today (October 18), Helen Walker, Chief Executive of TimeBank, the volunteering charity which runs the project, said: “Many service veterans are in a state of crisis in their lives, with complex problems including financial hardship, homelessness, alcohol dependency and health issues. The struggle for them is to move on from the military and settle into civilian life, so support from both military and civilian charities, working in partnership, is vital to address their range of needs.  We need to ensure we work together so that each veteran gets the support they need, whoever is delivering it.”

Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine (S2SE) is a two-year volunteer mentoring programme for ex-service men and women and their families in Glasgow and Edinburgh, delivered by TimeBank in partnership with the Scottish veterans’ charity Erskine.  It is funded by The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and the Henry Smith Charity and draws on TimeBank’s extensive experience of delivering volunteer mentoring projects that support vulnerable people through difficult transitions in their lives.

Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine recruits and trains volunteers to provide one to one mentoring support to veterans who are recovering from mental health issues or struggling to adjust to life after the military. They actively encourage the veterans to manage their finances, use public transport, take exercise and write CVs.  They help them access local support services and sort out their housing issues. Volunteers also support veteran’s family members, who often face unique challenges in understanding and dealing with the issues their partners, sons and daughters are going through.

The external evaluation highlights the success of the Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine project and its positive impacts for both veterans and volunteers. It says the unique nature of the service is clearly providing a valued and useful addition to services that support veterans and points to increases in confidence, self-esteem and social networks resulting from mentoring. It concludes that the voluntary nature of the mentors’ contribution is a particular motivator, creating a social bond that encourages engagement in the project and complements professional services. Volunteers on the project felt they had learnt more about mental health issues and veterans’ support needs and gained a feeling of self-worth that came from doing something valuable.

The Armed Forces community in Scotland numbers half a million – 10% of the population – of whom 230,000 suffer from long-term illness or disability. In addition; adult members of the ex-service community are (41%) more likely to live alone than other adults (24%) in Scotland; 15% are affected by social isolation; 10% have long-term mental health problems and 20% have employment-related problems*.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust said: “Mental health is one of the key challenges that ex-Service personnel can face when coming out of the Armed Forces. A better understanding of these challenges, and how best they can be overcome is invaluable to helping ex-Service personnel and their families have successful transitions into civilian life. The Trust welcomes the findings of the evaluation of this pilot project and we look forward to seeing how this work develops in the future.”

18 October 2016


For media enquiries, please contact Julia Shipston, TimeBank Communications Manager, at or 07713163003.

TimeBank is a national volunteering charity, started in 2000. It recruits and trains volunteers to deliver mentoring projects to tackle complex social problems and also works with businesses to engage their staff in volunteering. TimeBank believe that great volunteering can transform the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries by building stronger, happier and more inclusive communities. TimeBank’s Shoulder to Shoulder volunteer mentoring programme was launched in 2010 in London and has since been extended to Scotland. It recruits and trains volunteer mentors to provide practical support, enhancing recovery and helping veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. For more information see

Erskine has been caring for veterans since 1916.  As Scotland’s foremost provider of care for veterans and their spouses, Erskine offer unrivalled nursing, residential, respite and dementia care within four care homes in Scotland.  Erskine’s proud history also extends beyond its provision of medical and nursing care by employing and promoting all employment opportunities for veterans and offering housing to veterans and their families in 44 cottages within the Erskine estate. The charity cares for over 1,000 residents each year.  For more information visit our website –

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations.  FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012.

  • The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery.
  • FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model around 6 outcomes in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships.
  • All work is published in open access and hosted on the Veterans’ Research Hub.  A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made.
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