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Work with FiMT: Communications Officer

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) is currently recruiting a full time Communications Officer 

Location: Victoria, London

The Communications Officer will contribute to the delivery of FiMT’s mission, and increase FiMT’s impact, by developing and executing the Trust’s influence and communications work with policy makers and service providers.

FiMT was established in 2011 with a £35 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund to spend over a 20-year period. Our vision is for all ex-Service personnel and their families to lead fulfilled civilian lives, and our mission is to enable successful sustainable transition back to civilian life. The Trust awards grants and commissions research to generate a strong evidence base for influencing policy makers and service providers, and has recently increased its focus on influencing and convening thought-leadership activity.

The role of the Communications Officer is critical to the effectiveness of FiMT in achieving its mission. The Trust is seeking to recruit an experienced and flexible Communications Officer with strong traditional and digital communication skills, stakeholder management and Public Affairs expertise.

Full job description here.

To apply, please email a CV (no more than 2 sides of A4) and a Supporting Statement explaining how your skills and experience fit the role, to Rodrigo Voss, om@fim-trust.org

The deadline for applications is: 31 July 2019.
Interviews will be held in London.

Researchers say benefits sanctions should not be imposed on veterans

A new study has revealed that ex-Service personnel with physical and mental health problems are struggling to navigate a “baffling” benefits system and should not incur sanctions.

The research, led by the University of Salford and supported by the University of York, involved 120 interviews with ex-Service personnel and found the need for greater understanding of veterans’ complex needs and suggests that sanctions are not the answer.

Participants in the study were found to have insecure employment, with several struggling with debts and rent arrears, and some resorting to foodbanks or “going through the bins”. Others live with embarrassment, shame and resentment at a system they call unfair and bewildering.

Universal Credit (UC) appeared to have introduced a further layer of complexity and received damning criticism from respondents leaving the Armed Forces and their families.

The report, funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), titled Sanctions, support and Service leavers: Social security benefits and transitions from military to civilian life, launched today, 18th June, at an event in the House of Lords.

This is the first major study investigating the experiences of ex-Service personnel navigating the benefits system. The research makes 12 recommendations, which include the need for:

  • the system to ensure that benefit sanctions are not applied to those Veterans experiencing mental and physical health impairments resulting from Service in the Armed Forces.
  • an urgent review of the assessment process applied to those claiming working-age incapacity benefits, to ensure assessors are qualified to assess the health needs of people leaving the Armed Forces.
  • for the DWP to ensure that Armed Forces background is consistently recorded by Work Coaches to ensure appropriate tracking of the needs of individual veterans and their progress through the system.
  • Each Jobcentre to have one designated individual who takes a lead in supporting the ex-Service community.
  • Guidance on the UK social security system to be included as part of the transitional support for those leaving the Armed Forces.

More profoundly negative impacts on individuals and their families came from the threat of benefit sanctions for non-compliance with conditions imposed by the Jobcentre Plus. Some, rather than being supported by the State were reliant on military charities, and third-party organisations like housing associations.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The evidence from this study clearly shows the need for identification and understanding of the complex needs of the minority ex-Service community who are in need of welfare support.

“The majority of ex-Service personnel make a successful transition back to civilian life; for the few who encounter difficulty, we need to ensure that consistent signposting to relevant support services is achieved and the benefits system is easier to navigate.”

Professor Lisa Scullion, Associate Director of the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit at the University of Salford, who is leading the project, said: “Allowances are made to veterans who claim benefits as part of the Armed Forces Covenant, but until now very little has been known about their experiences within the benefits system. We found people who desperately did not want to claim benefits and only did so as a last resort, but who found the system baffling and had been given little preparation for dealing with it.

“It was evident that some of our participants struggled with adjusting to the precarious labour market that we have today. But also, to then have to confront some of the conditions attached to benefit receipt is a shock for people.” “Yes, there is significant good practice within the DWP and notably among their Armed Forces Champions, but the variation across geographical areas and even within Jobcentres is worrying.”

Read the full report here.

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Research funded to understand why ex-Service personnel commit serious violent offences

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded the Probation Institute a grant of £80,404 for an 18-month project to research the factors influencing the behaviour of ex-Service personnel who commit serious violent offences and how such offences could be prevented in the future.

Researchers will develop case studies from approximately 12 interviews with ex-Service personnel who have committed serious offences of violence, their case workers and their families with the view of designing a learning source for practitioners working with serious offenders.

There are a number of evidence gaps the research will address which include: identifying the factors leading to the crime; gaining a better understanding of the factors influencing the individual’s choices and patterns of behaviour; and assessing the transition experience and years following.

The experiences of the families will be included to provide an holistic understanding of the needs, risks and protective factors and how families might be more effectively engaged to prevent serious offences occurring.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Our aim is to enable all ex-Service personnel and their families to have a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life. We do this through generating robust evidence to influence policy makers and service providers in the decisions they make about the community we represent.

“The Probation Institute has highlighted an evidence gap in relation to why ex-Service personnel have a higher conviction of serious violent offences to a person than the wider public. This latest research aims to identify factors that influence the individual and what preventative measures could be put in place to reduce the likelihood of this trend continuing.”

Helen Schofield, Acting Chief Executive, Probation Institute, said: “The Probation Institute is very pleased to be working again with the Forces In Mind Trust to support ex-Service personnel and in particular those who find themselves in personal difficulties which impact on the well-being of others.”

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On-line mentoring platform for ex-Service personnel struggling with social isolation to be trialled

TimeBank, a national volunteering charity, has been awarded funds of £143,281 by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), to develop, pilot and evaluate an on-line mentoring platform for ex-Service personnel who have been affected by mental health and wellbeing problems in Scotland.

The 18-month project will be divided into two stages. The first six months will be a revision and refinement of training materials and a pilot of the online platform. In the second stage, 30 beneficiaries will be matched with an on-line volunteer mentor, with an average of six months’ support provided.

Mentoring will take place through an on-line video platform developed by Odro, a leader in video-based technology, which allows beneficiaries to have conversations with their mentors in real time as well as being able to exchange files and messages.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “FiMT previously funded TimeBank to deliver a face-to-face mentoring project in Glasgow and Edinburgh between 2014 and 2016, which resulted in the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine’ report. The report included a recommendation to make the mentoring service more widely available across Scotland, and this innovative application of modern communication technology is the result. The funding awarded today reflects that recommendation, and also the success of the mentoring scheme for ex-Service personnel in those two cities in Scotland.

“We look forward to the development of the on-line mentoring platform and the subsequent evaluation. The results of this 18-month project will influence how support can be better provided to ex-Service personnel and their family members dealing with mental health problems.”

Phil Pyatt, Chief Executive, TimeBank, said: “We are delighted to be working with FiMT once more to support Scottish veterans and their families, many of whom have complex problems including mental health issues. We will also be able to continue to show, through our partnership with leading veterans’ charity Erskine, that volunteer mentoring is a powerful tool to alleviate their stress and isolation and help them transition to sustainable, healthy and productive civilian lives. We are very excited to be able to reach out to many more veterans through this new online volunteering model.”

Research Consultancy, The Lines Between, will test the viability of the technology, and assess the impact online mentoring has made to the ex-Service personnel and their families struggling to maintain a successful transition to civilian life.

This new project draws on TimeBank’s extensive experience of delivering volunteer mentoring projects that support vulnerable people through difficult transitions in their lives.

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Pioneering E-Learning Programme Rolled Out To Help Probation Staff Identify Ex-Service Personnel Under Supervision

Programme launches to help ex-Service personnel under supervision from reoffending by improving their identification and support pathways

The Probation Institute and Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), today launch ‘Working with Ex-Armed Services Personnel Under Supervision’, an e-learning programme that enables Probation Staff to better identify and support ex-Service personnel under supervision. The e-learning course and the teaching materials are available to all probation prison services and third sector organisations across England and Wales.

Previously, Probation Staff had no specialist training to enable them to identify ex-Service personnel, making them unable to gain access to tailored services, and therefore more likely to reoffend.

The Anglia Ruskin University National Audit of support for ex-Service personnel in the Criminal Justice System found that 4-5% of the prison population is currently made up of ex-Service personnel. Those who have served in the Armed Forces are more likely to be in prison for the first time – 54% compared with 34% of the general population. However, less than half of ex-Service personnel under supervision are registered on probation case records as having served.

The Probation Institute’s e-learning programme tackles this by recommending that all service users are asked by Probation Staff if they have served in the Armed Forces and by highlighting to them how best to support the rehabilitation of this group.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The most effective way to identify someone who has served in the Armed Forces is to ask them directly. The Phillips report2 from 2014 states that ex-Service personnel in the prison system are a vulnerable group. And their Service history, which could have some bearing on their offending behaviour, is currently being overlooked by Probation Officers.

“Leaving the Armed Forces is successful for the majority; but for a small group, extra support is needed to navigate the transition pathway. Whether it be due to things they have encountered through time in service, or through the loss of the protective factors of Armed Forces life, a minority find themselves under probation supervision. We must ensure that this particularly vulnerable cohort are identified as having served and are signposted to the appropriate support services.”

Inga Markelyte, Learning and Development Consultant Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company said: “Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company has made use of the excellent e-learning resource available via the Probation Institute on working with ex-armed services personnel. This is a subject that expert knowledge and support is often required, and therefore having a refresher on what works best when working with veterans and also having a concise resources list detailing services available to veterans is extremely useful. The fact that the course is free of charge and is available to everyone (whether employed by Probation or not) is fantastic.

“The feedback we have had from practitioners was that the course was easy to follow; helpful to the practitioner role; the videos were really good; the resources list was particularly useful; clear information provided with well-worded questions; the subject was broken down into nice, easily digestible parts; the quality of the videos was impressive and the information contained was up to date and relevant to probation services; this was a good refresher about working with veterans.”

Helen Schofield, Chief Executive, Probation Institute, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this learning resource and grateful to FiMT who funded both the initial research on which the learning is based and the e-learning product. We are also grateful to the National Probation Service, Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, Sodexo, PACT, Ostling Training, Project Nova and Tom Harrison House in Merseyside, for the staff and services users both in the steering group and featuring in the e-learning programme.”

Glyn Owen, ex-Service person, said: “In my opinion the e-learning tool provides vital insight into the benefits of, firstly identifying veterans in the criminal justice system, and then hooking them up with support networks aimed specifically at ex-military personnel. I believe if veterans are signposted to the assistance available this would not only improve the quality of their lives and their family’s lives, but also considerably reduce the risk of re-offending.”

FiMT provided funds of £41,500 to enable the development of the e-learning programme.

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Service families highlight the need for more structured support when returning to civilian life

Research undertaken by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), released today, to assess how engagement with, and by, families works during the process of transition back into civilian life and where it could be improved, highlights the need for more accessible and inclusive support.

BIT conducted 53 interviews with families, and serving and ex-Service personnel to understand what the barriers and facilitators are for families when engaging with transition support, and how best to utilise behaviour and social sciences to overcome these barriers and encourage behavioural change.

The content from the interviews contributed to the following recommendations included in the report,

  • To reduce information overload: Break transition into smaller, more manageable steps to achieve long-term goals. Encourage follow through, set deadlines and send useful tips and reminders.
  • To involve the family in transition: Ensure that information and support are accessible to families and use inclusive language.
  • To link with social networks: Tap into existing social networks or generate new ones to encourage knowledge sharing and support.
  • To continue support after transition: Recognise that transition does not end at the point of leaving. Provide access and signpost to support. Follow up with regular check-ins.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The recommendations the Behavioural Insights Team has presented in their report are as a result of their engagement with families, and serving and ex-Service personnel.

“We now look to find effective ways of embedding the necessary behavioural changes in individuals and organizations. This research has the potential of achieving great impact on the support offered to families in the transition process and their engagement with it. We hope the MOD, and organizations providing transition support, incorporate these recommendations into their transition procedures.”

The year-long project was funded by the Forces in Mind Trust and is the first in a two-phase project, with findings influencing a pilot project which would be the second phase.

Victoria Fussey, Senior Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team, said: “The move back to civilian life can be hard for people leaving the Armed Forces, as well as for their families. Through this project, we’ve gained a better understanding of how people experience transition and suggested a number of ways that designing services based on this understanding and the science of human behaviour and decision making can be used to improve the transition process.”

Read the full report here.

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Investigating increases in PTSD among ex-serving personnel who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded funds of £83,162 to King’s College London (King’s) to investigate the increase in PTSD among ex-Service personnel who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

An ongoing MOD funded study by King’s indicates that, of those deployed, the lowest reported levels of PTSD is found in those still serving in the Armed Forces. The highest level is found in regular personnel who deployed in a combat role to Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequently left service.

Researchers on the 15-month study will provide a more in-depth understanding into why this ex-serving sub-group is at an increased risk, and how this might be addressed.

The project will use quantitative data to compare the course of PTSD symptoms over the past 10-14 years, and will look into the factors that influence these trajectories.

The qualitative component will enrich the statistical analysis by asking previously deployed ex-serving regular personnel about traumas encountered throughout their lives, factors placing them at risk and supporting resilience, whether they recognise having mental health problems and their experiences of leaving the military and help-seeking.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “It is clear from previous research that there is a difference in prevalence of PTSD among the ex-serving and serving personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In line with FiMT’s third age, we seek to inform better understanding in areas where there is an evidence gap.”

“This study by King’s will enable us to influence policymakers and service providers to ensure that future combat personnel are at less risk of developing PTSD.”

Dr Sharon Stevelink, Lead Researcher, King’s College London, said: “We are excited to have been awarded this grant. Our study aims to explore the higher levels of PTSD in ex-serving personnel to ensure we understand why this group is at an increased risk, and how this could be addressed.”

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Small-scale randomised control trial of PTSD treatment given go-ahead

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded funds of £318,114 to King’s College London (King’s), to undertake a small-scale randomised control trial of a treatment for ex-Service personnel with PTSD.

Researchers on the 28-month study will recruit and support 60 ex-Service personnel in Northern Ireland in a comparative evaluation study of Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM), against an existing Gold Standard Treatment, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT).

RTM is a non-trauma focused therapy developed in the US based on Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), which seeks to understand verbal and non-verbal language patterns and intentionally changes them to enable someone to think and/or feel differently about something that had previously distressed them.

Evidence from US veteran studies report low dropout rates, with most participants PTSD symptom free at 6-week follow-up; the treatment also appears to be quick to administer and to demonstrate results and is well tolerated.

NLP is widespread in UK veteran charities; however, the lack of regulation has led to concerns by various bodies (including Devolved Governments, NHS veteran services, key charities) about the potential of the therapy to cause harm, to deter future help-seeking, or to be complex and costly to administer at scale.

The overall aim of this pilot project is to establish whether it is feasible to undertake at a later date a much larger UK-wide study to determine whether RTM provides a quick, well tolerated and effective treatment, and is no less effective in terms of the rehabilitative outcomes when compared to the existing Gold Standard Treatment, TF-CBT. This is the first important stage in a scientifically rigorous approach to evaluating and understanding whether RTM holds the potential for healing that it promises.   

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “At FiMT we have adopted a programmatic approach to the work that we are funding to achieve more impact and influence with the recommendations produced from research reports.

“This untested treatment being trialled by King’s sits within our health and wellbeing programme and has the opportunity to be ground-breaking and life changing to ex-Service personnel with PTSD. The study could also have profound implications for trauma-focussed therapy in wider society.”

Jackie Sturt, Professor of Behavioural Medicine in Nursing, said: “Mental health interventions underpinned by NLP are being delivered across the UK, to many populations. This pilot trial begins an essential programme of work to establish whether NLP holds promise when held up to the scientific microscope of a well-designed randomised controlled trial. We are very excited to be undertaking this much needed work”.

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FiMT Working Together Award Winners 2019 – Unforgotten Forces