An Invisible Failing: Veterans Need Targeted Support to Rehabilitate & Fulfil their Potential

A new report from cross-party think tank Demos calls for the Government to urgently address the care and rehabilitation of ex-Service personnel, to help them to live more fulfilling and dignified lives.

Focusing on the experiences of working-age ex-Service personnel, Under-Served shines light on the difficulties they face on leaving the Armed Forces, and after their admission into residential care facilities.

Under-Served was prepared after extensive consultation with two distinct groups of working-age veterans – those who have been injured during their service, and those who have acquired an illness after returning. Both groups are entitled to care and support from veterans’ charities, yet face challenges in being connected to the right suite of services to meet their varied needs.

It is the first detailed examination of these individuals – who have remained largely ‘invisible’ to policy-makers due to their relatively small number and a lack of understanding about the issues surrounding their care needs.

The report, supported by the Forces in Mind Trust, comes in the wake of the end of a series of recent military operations, which have seen over 20,000 servicemen and women medically discharged from the Armed Forces for physical and mental health reasons – including 840 who have sustained serious or very serious physical injuries.

The report also highlights issues in the quality of care – including instances where it is insufficiently tailored or empowering to individuals’ aspirations for their quality of life.

In researching the report, the authors conducted eight in-depth interviews with working-age ex-Service personnel in residential care, and semi-structured interviews with 15 staff involved in supporting them.

While ex-Service personnel were largely happy with the quality of the care they received, these interviews helped the authors to establish a much clearer picture of the areas needing urgent improvement.

In particular, they found problems arising from the fact that ex-Service personnel are much younger than most other residents in the care homes in which they live. Activities in these homes are often tailored to the larger, older population, while younger ex-Service personnel can be left feeling under-stimulated. The lack of peers was in some cases leading to loneliness and isolation, or even to experiences of depression and declining medical conditions.

Other issues related to the pressures of their care situations on their families, with some having to travel long distances to visit, and in some instances, ex-Service personnel had experienced marriage or relationship breakdowns as a result of their injury or illness.

To address the issues facing working-age ex-Service personnel in the UK, Demos recommends:

  • Every local authority in the UK should have a designated ‘Armed Forces and Veterans Champion’ with a combined remit for health, social care, housing, employability and education.
  • Veterans UK should work with Armed Forces charities to establish and maintain a database of all UK ex-Service personnel in residential care.
  • Health and social care professionals should proactively identify ex-Service personnel with whom they come into contact.
  • A best practice network in residential care for ex-Service personnel should be established, and a best practice guide produced.
  • Armed Forces charities should sponsor an annual ‘Veteran’s Voices’ review of ex-Service personnel in residential care.
  • Residential care settings should conduct ‘skills audits’ for their working age residents, encouraging contribution to the care home and wider community.

Commenting on the report, its co-author, Louis Reynolds, said:

“Working age ex-Service personnel in residential care settings can benefit greatly from the support on offer from government departments, Armed Forces charities, and across civil society. Yet for too long, despite their often-great levels of need, this small and hidden population has been almost invisible to policy-makers. The Armed Forces Covenant places new duties on the whole of UK society to ensure that those who have served their country are not under-served when they return to civilian life. Our report not only provides the first detailed examination of ex-Service personnel in residential care, but also demonstrates how the UK can step up and meet its obligations under the Covenant. A few changes in how we share information, connect people with support, and tailor that support to individuals’ needs could significantly improve the situation, both for current veterans and those leaving the Armed Forces in the future.” 

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“As this report makes clear, the number of working age ex-Service personnel in residential care is thought to be very small, which means that the that the level of evidence provided here is necessarily limited. Nonetheless, assessing the full scale of this population would be a great step forward, and we particularly support the recommendations on sharing best practice and offering residential care more suited to the needs of the younger ex-Service person. Forces in Mind Trust has as its primary aim the generation of evidence that will influence policy makers and service deliverers, and we would invite all involved in residential care to look closely at this report and enact the changes that would improve the lives of this small, but extremely deserving, cadre of ex-Service personnel.

Notes to Editors

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think tank. We are an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Visit: www.demos.co.uk.

This report was supported by the Forces in Mind Trust. Forces in Mind Trust improves the civilian lives of ex-Service personnel and their families by providing evidence to deliver transformational and sustained change.  Visit: www.fim-trust.org

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