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New research shows Armed Forces Charities sector is shrinking

From January 2018 to July 2018, the sector contracted by 4.5%.

New research published today, Thursday 21st March, by the Directory of Social Change (DSC) and funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), shows the Armed Forces charity sector is shrinking, with Scottish charities and local association branches most affected.

There are currently 1,888 Armed Forces charities in the UK. This is a relatively small number compared to other charity subsectors, such as health, which is estimated to include 6,500 charities, and education, 7,650 charities1.

Since 2012, 65 Armed Forces charities have closed, with Scottish charities closing at double the rate of those opening. While there are still 633 membership association branches in the UK, which offer social and comradeship activities, there are now 152 fewer branches than in 2012.

 DSC found a high turnover of Armed Forces welfare charities opening and closing over the past six years, with close to a third of these charities having an operational lifespan of less than ten years. In total, welfare charities account for approximately two-thirds of all sector income.

Total sector income grew year on year from £741 million in 2012 to £1 billion in 2015, before dipping slightly in 2016. Overall, the 45 financially largest charities generate almost three-quarters (74.1%) of all sector income.

The report highlights the need for further research to assess:

  • The extent to which mainstream charities support the Armed Forces Community
  • If the Community prefers to access help from sector specific charities
  • The level of provision that is available at regional level

Commenting on the launch of the report today, DSC Senior Researcher and lead author, Rhiannon Doherty said: “This report holds a mirror to the armed forces charity sector and highlights significant sector trends from 2012 to 2018. It contributes to DSC’s growing evidence base which seeks to accurately profile the ever-changing armed forces charity landscape.”

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust said: “This latest report in the Focus On series is a must read for those making decisions about resources, how they can be generated and where they are best deployed, as well as for those who commentate responsibly about the sector. There is a common myth that there are too many Armed Forces charities; evidence from this report shows this is untrue.

“The recently published UK Government’s ‘Strategy for our Veterans’ draws on previous DSC work, and rightly so. This latest report is both authoritative and illuminating: rare, but invaluable, qualities.”

You can access the report here:


Understanding the transition pathway for ex-Service personnel discharged due to physical injury

FiMT has awarded £149,625 to the University of Central Lancashire, in partnership with the University of Salford, to undertake a two-year research project to understand the transition to civilian life for ex-Service personnel with physical conditions as a direct result of Service.

The research will identify the support and provisions that are available during transition for ex-Service personnel with service-related physical conditions, or physical conditions acquired whilst serving, and offer suggestions on what further, or better, support could be offered.

Project research will comprise an extensive review of relevant literature and existing data, consultation with policy and practice stakeholders, and a qualitative study with a cohort of medically discharged Service personnel.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “There is a lack of robust evidence surrounding the transition of ex-Service personnel discharged due to physical injury acquired during service.

“We have commissioned the study to ensure that the needs of this particular cohort, and of their families, are met and that we ensure their future successful and sustainable transitions. By commissioning the work in response to our analysis of where knowledge and evidence are lacking, we are putting into practice the more proactive approach our ‘Third Age’ initiative heralds.”

Dr Celia Hynes, Lead Research, University of Central Lancashire, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to undertake this much needed piece of research and as a research team we look forward to providing evidence that will inform future practice.”


King’s welcomes back the Duke of Sussex for Veterans’ Mental Health Conference

The fifth Veterans’ Mental Health Conference takes place at King’s College London today. The annual event brings together leading academics, charities and policy makers to network and to hear the latest research on military mental health from speakers of world-class reputation.

High profile guests include the Duke of Sussex, who has attended the conference three years running, and the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood, Minister for Defence, People and Veterans who gave the opening address.

Ahead of the conference Mr Ellwood said: ‘As a former soldier and current Reservist, I’m passionate about doing all we can to support the brave men and women in our Armed Forces, including the millions of veterans who have given so much to the nation.

‘For too long the issue of mental health has been misunderstood and we are working incredibly hard to break down the stigma around mental health. I’m pleased this conference will bring together academics, charities and policy makers to help us drive progress and facilitate a meaningful discussion on the latest military mental health research.’

Following the morning session, the Duke met some of the speakers including Professor Zahava Solomon from Tel Aviv University, Ms Kacie Kelly from the George W Bush Institute and Dr Heidi Cramm from Queens University, Canada.

Organised by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and sponsored by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), the theme of this year’s conference is evidence, innovation and practice. As well as influential UK and international researchers, the conference featured perspectives from Combat Stress, Contact, the NHS and the BBC.

KCMHR is the leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research. Co-directed by Professor Sir Simon Wessely and Professor Nicola Fear, KCMHR draws on the experience of a multidisciplinary team, many of whom feature in this year’s conference, including Professor Wessely, Dr Dan Leightley, Professor Edgar Jones, Dr Dominic Murphy and Professor Neil Greenberg.

Commenting on the day’s events, Professor Greenberg said: ‘We are delighted that for the fifth year running this conference has been such a great success. Being able to welcome the Duke of Sussex back for the third time has been a real honour, and we were thrilled that the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood was able to give the opening address.’

‘Having a forum to exchange ideas with colleagues in academia, the military, the public sector and Service charities is of huge benefit to the whole team at KCMHR. We hope all the attendees find the conference beneficial in working to improve the lives of service personnel, serving or retired, and their families.’

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the forth year we have sponsored this important annual knowledge sharing and networking event and we are proud to do so.

“The theme of this year’s conference, ‘Evidence, Innovation and Practice’, reflects the importance of the work that Forces in Mind Trust do. We use the evidence we generate, and completed by many of the attendees here today, to enable policy makers and service providers to be better informed in the decisions they make with regards to the Armed Forces.”

Statement from Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust:

“At Forces in Mind Trust, we agree from an evidence-based perspective with the Royal British Legion’s call for more to be done to counter the financial difficulty some Commonwealth ex-Service personnel encounter upon leaving the UK’s Armed Forces.

“Evidence from our Meeting the Needs of Commonwealth Personnel and Families report, undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University and published in March last year, highlights the difficulties Commonwealth Service personnel may encounter on the transition pathway. This work was commissioned at the behest of the Confederation of Service Charities’ ‘Foreign and Commonwealth’ cluster, which is chaired by the Army Families Federation, in recognition of their significant experience in this area.

“Our report makes 13 recommendations for improving the services and support available to serving and ex-Service personnel and their families. These recommendations include the need to address the high cost of visas, to reduce the complexities of the settlement process, and to provide better support and information to ex-Service personnel going through the visa application process

“In line with the UK Armed Forces Covenant, those who have served ‘should be treated fairly’. Our evidence suggests that whilst visa fees are not, in themselves, unfair, the scale of the fees and the inadequate preparations (including individual saving) undertaken by some Commonwealth personnel does present disadvantage and should be addressed by the Home Office and Ministry of Defence.

“FiMT’s founding objective was to enable all ex-Service personnel to have a successful and sustainable transition. We will continue to pursue this aim using the robust evidence we generate to influence policy makers and service providers.”

Creation of mental health toolkit aimed at ex-Service personnel

A mental health toolkit, MIND Fitness, specifically designed for ex-Service personnel, is to be developed thanks to funding from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

MIND Fitness will help overcome the barriers Service leavers have in seeking mental health support, enabling them to identify whether they are suffering from a mental health issue (particularly depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder), to empower them to monitor their own mental health, to recognise whether support might be helpful before they reach a crisis point, and to educate them on the wealth of support available.

King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) has been awarded £221,811 over two years to develop the toolkit.

The project builds on the recommendations of the earlier FiMT-funded KCMHR Stigma and Barriers to Care project, with the team now planning to design a practical tool to aid ex-Service personnel in identifying and managing their own mental health as a prevention strategy. It is hoped that this tool will be adopted by a range of other charities, service providers and the NHS, and ultimately have a positive impact on post-Service transition to civilian life.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Previous FiMT research has identified a variety of barriers to help seeking in the ex-Service community. Evidence shows the decision to ask for help is mainly affected by the perceived need for treatment. The toolkit being developed by King’s Centre for Military Health Research will encourage the user to independently identify their need for support and importantly where they can access it.

“We know that ex-Service personnel access services that are tailored to their needs, and where there is an understanding of the culture of the Armed Forces. This is a very important development in the management of mental health in the ex-Service community, which is vital to enabling a successful and sustainable transition.”

Dr Laura Rafferty, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, said: “We are excited to start this project which aims to develop a toolkit to target early identification and management of mental health distress in military veterans. The toolkit will provide a level of self-help to enable veterans to cope independently and provide simple information about where to seek more formal support, to both improve their quality of life and encourage veterans to seek support before they reach a crisis point.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with military veterans and stakeholders to ensure that the toolkit will fit the needs of military veterans and compliment the other services currently available to military veterans in the UK.


Exploring the employment pathways and outcomes of ex-Service personnel

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded funds of £183, 930 to the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) to undertake a two-year study to examine employment and finances across the transition process as personnel leave the Armed Forces and transition to civilian life, with a particular focus on the role mental health.

Researchers will provide a comprehensive picture of the economic aspects of transition, including how mental health, as well as pre-enlistment factors and Service history, affect economic trajectories and the experiences of potentially at-risk groups.

The study will expand current research by tracking both positive and negative changes in socio-economic status, including a focus on certain groups who historically have demonstrated less successful outcomes (ie women, Early Service Leaver, and Reserves), to gain a holistic understanding of the pathways of economic transition and how these relate to mental health and wellbeing. This work involves assessment of several large datasets and will be supported by a series of interviews.

Findings from the project will inform statutory, military and charitable bodies on how to best ensure all ex-Service personnel gain rewarding employment and can avoid the pitfalls that lead to a poor economic transition.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Two of the most important elements of a successful and sustainable transition are meaningful employment and mental health. Previous research funded by FiMT has shown that there is a correlation between both. This study by KCMHR will enable policy makers and service providers to ensure that all ex-Service personnel are informed and prepared to navigate the transition process successfully.”

Dr Howard Burdett, Kings Centre for Military Health Research, said: “This study will build on the work of King’s Centre for Military Health Research on post-service outcomes for UK veterans by producing an in-depth investigation into why some veterans are successful after leaving, while others are not.”


Peer support for Families of ex-Service personnel with Substance Use Problems

A model of peer support is being developed for families of ex-Service personnel with substance use problems thanks to funding of £108,713 by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

Researchers undertaking the 15-month project, at the University of York, seek to better understand the experiences and needs of the families of veterans who have substance use problems (FVSUs) through a thorough review of existing literature, and conducting interviews, focus groups and online surveys, ultimately working with the charity Adfam in the design of a new, bespoke model of peer support.

These activities will involve ex-Service personnel with substance use problems, the families of veterans with substance use problems, and service providers, to ensure a full range of experiences, needs and context is gathered.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Evidence shows that peer support is a successful support mechanism for individuals and groups coping with difficult circumstances. The range of methods and the scope of this study will ensure that a peer support model is specifically designed for this particular cohort.”

Charlie Lloyd, University of York, said: “There is a lot of evidence showing that families can be greatly affected by a loved one’s substance use and we also know that a relatively high proportion of veterans have problems with substance use. However, we know very little about the particular problems experienced by FVSUs. Our research will explore the experiences and needs of FVSUs and work with Adfam, family members and charities in the field to develop a peer support model designed to meet these needs.”


FiMT funds year-long study to better understand employment outcomes for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded Warwick Institute for Employment Research (IER), in partnership with QinetiQ and RFEA, £111,352 to conduct a year-long study to better understand the employment outcomes for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs).

Mixed-methods of research will be used, which will include: analysis of the latest employment statistics, surveys and interviews with veteran SNCOs and interviews with SNCOs’ spouses and partners.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “We have identified in our previous work that some Senior Non-Commissioned Officers may face a more difficult transition into civilian lives, in part due to employment pathways when they leave service.

“By researching the current situation, we can determine what is needed to create lasting positive change. We will then re-shape the environment by influencing policies to enable this group to have a successful post-service career.”

Clare Lyonette from IER added: “We are excited to find out more about the employment challenges for this particular group of veterans and to identify how their skills and experience can be successfully transferred to a civilian environment.  Our research aims to provide lasting benefits, not only for the veteran SNCOs, but also for their families.”


New report from Forces in Mind Trust calls for increased awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant

Less than a quarter (24%) of British organisations have heard of the Armed Forces Covenant and only 8% have signed it, according to report

A new report titled ‘Benefit not Burden’ commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and conducted by Shared Intelligence, calls for increased awareness around the benefits to businesses, public and voluntary sector organisations in the UK in signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant and being a veteran friendly employer.

Less than a quarter (24%) of the organisations surveyed in FiMT’s research had heard of the Armed Forces Covenant and only 8% had signed it. The report finds that the smaller an organisation is, the less likely it is to be aware of the Covenant or to have signed it or taken any action.

This lack of awareness, coupled with the lack of understanding around the potential disadvantage facing members of the Armed Forces Community and knowing what type of action an organisation can take, is a significant barrier to organisations signing and enacting the Armed Forces Covenant.

The report launched today, Tuesday 22nd January, at an event in the House of Commons, to an audience of MPs, Ministry of Defence representatives, and public sector and business leaders. It outlines straightforward steps to encourage more organisations across the UK to sign the Covenant, including supporting trade associations and membership bodies to promote the Covenant; they have a key role in encouraging organisations to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and highlighting its benefits.

Most organisations surveyed in the report that are aware of the Covenant had heard about it from a customer or client (23%), an individual within the organisation (22%) or another organisation within a supply chain (17%). Just 3% of organisations cite trade associations as the reason they are aware of the Covenant, and only 10% cite the Ministry of Defence.

Other recommendations in the report include mobilising the voice of the Armed Forces Community to encourage the organisations they work with to sign the Covenant, and encouraging local authorities, other public bodies and large businesses to use their supply chains and procurement processes to encourage businesses and other organisations to sign.

FiMT’s report provides evidence that organisations which have signed the Armed Forces Covenant are more likely to see direct benefits of employing ex-Service personnel, including recruiting or retaining skilled staff and enhancing a company’s reputation. 28% of organisations surveyed in the research claimed that they are likely to sign the Covenant over the next year.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Ex-Service personnel offer a substantial premium of capability to a prospective employer, and a commercial supplier can reap the rewards of customer loyalty and brand reputation by offering the Armed Forces Community advantageous access to goods and services, while ensuring their unique background in the military does not create disadvantage.

“The research in this report shows that there are many organisations who wish to support the Armed Forces Community, but who lack the knowledge and understanding of how to do so. It has identified some straightforward steps that could be taken relatively easily, and which would result in a substantial improvement in how the nation fulfils its side of the Covenant.”

Phil Swann, Executive Chair of Shared Intelligence, said: “Our research identified several ways of increasing awareness of the Covenant, including the role of trade bodies, supply chain relationships and mobilising the voice of the Armed Forces Community itself. The best ambassadors for the Covenant are businesses which have benefitted from delivering it.”

You can see a copy of the Executive Summary and full report here.