The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring ex-Service personnel are properly supported when in custody or involved with the criminal justice system. Strong working relationships are in place with the third sector to make referrals, enabling holistic support for their needs.
The Veterans in the Criminal Justice System Working Group was established in November 2015 to bring together agencies and voluntary sector involved in working with veterans, and building up greater cohesion and collaboration. Supported by Veterans Scotland, Poppyscotland, Police Scotland, Scottish Prison Service, SACRO, NHS and others in the public and third sector, this group will encourage future partnership working.
Some excellent examples are already underway. Intensive work has taken place involving Police Scotland, Poppyscotland and Citizens Advice Scotland to extend the reach of the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP). Work aimed to establish a referral route for former Service personnel to help them receive specialist care and support, whatever their set of circumstances.
Since April 2014, whenever a police officer or member of police staff is speaking to a member of the Armed Forces community and considers that they would benefit from a referral to ASAP, then, with that individual’s consent, they refer them to ASAP via Citizens’ Advice Scotland. ASAP works with a wide range of organisations who provide advice and a network of support, including but not limited to benefit entitlement, debt and money advice, housing, homelessness, employment and relationships. The service is now well established, with an increasing number of people taking up help in the second year of operation. Police Scotland, through its network of Local Policing Veterans Champions, raise awareness and record data to evaluate the success of the programme.
In terms of those in custody in the Scottish Prison Service, surveys indicate that between 3-8% of prisoners report having been a member of the Armed Forces - broadly consistent with estimates in England and Wales. Approximately three-quarters (78%) had been in the Army; 9% in the Royal Air Force; 7% had been Reservists; and 6% had been in the Royal Navy, according to the 2013 Prisoner Survey. Structures are firmly in place to make sure that referrals are made to charities, regimental associations and other support networks.
- The Scottish Veterans Prison In‑Reach Group (SVPIRG) considers the needs of former Service personnel within the criminal justice system, especially those receiving custodial sentences. It comprises Scottish Prison Service (SPS) staff and third sector representation (such as Poppyscotland and Combat Stress). It acts as a conduit for communication by gathering and disseminating information to veterans and families. It also pursues research to inform policy and practice. The SVPIRG aims to ensure that incarcerated ex-Service personnel benefit from the full range of services and interventions currently provided by SPS and partner agencies.
- A Veteran in Custody Support Officer (VICSO) is now established in each Scottish prison to provide information and co-ordinate activities and services. Community veterans groups are encouraged to ‘reach in’ to ex-military prisoners to promote services and assistance they can provide to them and their families, while serving a custodial sentence and also, equally importantly, on release back into the community. It is an information and ‘sign posting’ initiative for those veterans who wish to avail themselves of the services on offer in respect to issues such as accommodation, pensions and finance, substance misuse and stress.
- As well as the local VICSO Champion working with known veterans, they also have an equally important role in encouraging - through posters, leaflets, publicity and ‘word of mouth’ - those veterans who may have chosen not to reveal their service record to come forward to benefit from the specialist assistance on offer from veterans associations.
- Veterans in custody also have full support and access as needed to therapeutic interventions and services such as the Substance Related Offending Behaviour Programme, Violence Prevention Programme and Constructs. Mental health issues associated with veterans and offending behaviour can also be addressed through channels of referral provided by SPS, the NHS and partner agencies.
Email: Nadine Milne