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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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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”.


FiMT Working Together Award Winners 2019 – Unforgotten Forces

Forces in Mind Trust funds campaign to end veterans’ homelessness

Ex-Service personnel make up 3 per cent of those accessing homelessness services in England

The Cobseo Housing Cluster, through co-chair Stoll, has been awarded funds of £197,450 from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) to develop and deliver a campaign to help end veterans’ homelessness.

Campaign leaders of the year-long project will be increasing awareness within local authorities, as well as housing and advice agencies, of ex-Service personnel requesting housing support; and developing a more coordinated and collaborative approach throughout the housing and charitable sectors.

Local Authority Housing Departments, homelessness charities and advice agencies will be encouraged to ask every individual who presents as homeless whether they have served in the Armed Forces and, once identified, they should be signposted to the specific support services available.

Evidence from previous FiMT research shows that as many as three per cent of those accessing homelessness services in England have served in the Armed Forces, which translates to over 1,000 ex-Service personnel classed as homeless and up to 4,000 requiring urgent support to find accommodation every year.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “FiMT has funded this campaign as a response to our previous research into homeless provision and ex-Service personnel, released in March 2018. The recommendations in that report called for more government funding to support homeless ex-Service personnel, and for Local Authorities to routinely check if someone seeking housing assistance has served in the Armed Forces.

“The recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, of extra funding to support vulnerable ex-Service personnel, reflects the acknowledgement from the government that more needs to be done to help support those individuals who have served and who now need some extra help in their civilian life.”

Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive, Stoll Housing and Co-Chair of Cobseo Housing Cluster, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this grant to continue our vital work to try and bring homelessness amongst the Veteran community down as close to zero as possible. A clear housing pathway is vital for vulnerable Veterans leaving the Armed Forces.

“This award will enable us to work closely with Local Authorities and other civilian agencies to ensure Veterans get the support they need. We need Local Authorities to ask those seeking housing support whether they have served in the Armed Forces and, if they have, to have a clear plan to signpost them effectively.”


Pilot study will improve employment prospects for ex-Service personnel with physical and mental health conditions

Ex-Service personnel who are being assisted with physical and mental health issues will also be offered intensive employment support in a pioneering pilot by The Poppy Factory, funded by The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

Delivered in partnership with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the three-year study in The Wirral will bring the employability charity’s long-established expertise supporting ex-Service personnel with health conditions into an NHS healthcare setting for the first time.

A highly experienced employability consultant from The Poppy Factory will be embedded in the NHS multidisciplinary team to deliver comprehensive employment support to ex-Forces men and women who are wounded, sick or injured.

The package, based on the principles of Individual Placement Support (IPS), takes each individual’s physical health and mental health needs into account, with the aim of securing meaningful long-term employment.

It is intended that the study, which will be evaluated by the University of Nottingham, will reveal any gaps in knowledge and research, help improve existing services and forge closer links between health providers and the Armed Forces charity sector.

The £289,843 pilot will take place at the Stein Centre in St Catherine’s Hospital in Birkenhead, Wirral, an area with one of the highest concentrations of ex-Service personnel in the country. It will see The Poppy Factory work closely with health and social care partners in the local area.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Knowledge and evidence should form the basis of any policy. FiMT’s latest published research, by the Directory of Social Change, highlighted how the Armed Forces Charity sector is shrinking, underlining the need to encourage collaboration with statutory service providers.

“This unique study by The Poppy Factory has the opportunity to change how employment and health services are delivered to this small but vulnerable group of ex-Service personnel.”

Deirdre Mills, Chief Executive of The Poppy Factory, said: “We are very grateful to The Forces in Mind Trust for supporting and funding this important pilot project, which brings the expertise we have developed in communities around the UK into a clinical healthcare setting for the first time.

“The study will enable us to help many more veterans with physical and mental health conditions fulfil their potential outside the Forces by moving back into meaningful and sustained employment.”

Dr Anushta Sivananthan, Consultant Psychiatrist and CWP Medical Director, said: “We’re delighted to be working with The Poppy Factory to meaningfully meet the needs of ex-Service men and women in a person-centred way. Meaningful employment can be vital to people’s social inclusion and this pioneering pilot will help shape the way our veterans can fulfil their potential.”