Publication - Progress report

Veterans and Armed Forces community: Scottish Government support 2021

This report highlights our continuing support for the Veterans and Armed Forces community in Scotland and provides an update on this year’s achievements and work undertaken to improve support and access to services for our Armed Forces, Veterans and their families.

Veterans and Armed Forces community: Scottish Government support 2021
Veterans Strategy Cross-Cutting Factors

Veterans Strategy Cross-Cutting Factors

Collaboration and Co-ordination

Armed Forces and Veterans Champions

The previous Veterans Minister met with the network of Local Authority Armed Forces and Veterans Champions at the end of 2020. During this roundtable discussion, the Champions' Role Description was agreed and defines how they will deliver their role in support of the Armed Forces and Veterans community in their Local Authorities. Furthermore, we continue to engage Champions to leverage their local knowledge and expertise, for example in support of the Scottish Veterans Commissioner's latest recommendations on Employability, Skills and Learning.

In addition, during 2021 we have established relationships with the new network of Champions in the Department for Work and Pensions in Scotland to determine how they are supporting the Armed Forces and Veterans community and how the Scottish Government can best support their efforts.

Supporting the Armed Forces Covenant

The Scottish Government continues to be an active member of the Armed Forces Covenant governance structure, including the Covenant Reference Group.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government continues to contribute to the Armed Forces Covenant and Veterans annual report, which details how the principles of the Covenant are being delivered across the UK.

The Scottish Government continues to engage with the MOD as it seeks to further embed the Armed Forces Covenant into legislation through the Armed forces Bill introduced in January 2021. We worked closely with the MOD in advance of introduction to try to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose in Scotland and we will continue to work with MOD as they develop the Legislation's statutory guidance.

Unforgotten Forces Consortium

The Scottish Government continues to fund the Unforgotten Forces Consortium, a partnership of 16 civilian and ex-service charitable organisations with the purpose of delivering a wide array of services to Veterans in Scotland. The Scottish Government has contributed £250,000 per year from 2020-21 until 2022-23 (for a total of £750,000) to support their work in improving the health, wellbeing and quality of life for older Veterans in Scotland. In 2021, the consortium expanded the targeting of their support to include all veterans
over 60 years of age, instead of
the previous 65.

Scottish Veterans Fund

The Scottish Veterans Fund (SVF) continued in 2021, with a further £200,000 awarded to 16 projects across Scotland, with a specific focus on projects that supported recovery from the COVID pandemic. From 2022-23, the funding available through the SVF will increase to £500,000.

Relationship with the Services and Family Federations

The Scottish Government has an excellent relationship with the Armed Forces and Families Federations in Scotland. We continue to hold regular discussions with the three Services to ensure a joined up approach to supporting the Services in Scotland at both Official and Ministerial level. We worked closely with the Military during 2021 to support the delivery of Defence and national security priorities within the various and ever-evolving COVID restrictions, helping the Services to better understand where, and how, the various restrictions applied and how essential Defence business could continue to be delivered safely and appropriately.

We continue to have regular discussions with the Family Federations across all three Services and worked with them in 2021 to address issues around the rollout of the COVID vaccine in Military Bases and in the development of the latest version of the Welcome to Scotland document.

Data

2022 Census and other surveys

The Scottish Parliament agreed that Scotland's Census, which will take place on 20 March 2022, will include for the first time a question on previous service in the UK Armed Forces. This will help to support a better understanding of the veterans community in Scotland including numbers, location, employment status, housing and other needs such as healthcare and education. Analysis of the Census Outputs will help to inform policy development and targeted support.

Recognising that the Census only takes place every ten years, we have identified opportunities for more regular data collections by including the same question from the Census in the Scottish Government's three primary surveys: Scottish Household Survey (SHS), Scottish Health Survey (SHeS) and Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS). All three surveys intend to include the veterans Census question in their next sweeps with subsequent Scotland-level analysis expected to be available at varying points during 2023. Having a question in each of these national surveys will improve considerably our understanding of the profile, circumstances and needs of veterans in Scotland, which in turn will help inform policy and services. Each of the surveys also collate re-contact samples, consisting of respondents who consent to being included in future research. This will give us the option to utilise this sample to carry out more in-depth research with respondents who identify as veterans.

Research on the veterans community

We have built strong relationships across the wider academic and research community to better understand and, where appropriate support, the delivery of research on the veterans community in Scotland. This close engagement will help us to recognise research being delivered and whether there is any need/scope for policy interventions to address the findings.

We are developing a proforma to be sent to veterans stakeholders to better understand what data, if any, is currently collected by different organisations across Scotland. This exercise will contribute towards an overview of veterans data collections, supporting the co-ordination of data across the community. It will help us to identify what data might be used to measure progress against the Veterans Strategy and help us to identify evidence gaps and areas for development. In addition, we are exploring options to understand how relevant data held and/or published by the Scottish Government could be developed to improve the evidence base on veterans' interactions with the justice system, which would in turn help measure progress against a number of outcomes linked to the Veterans Strategy.

Exploring data-sharing opportunities

As part of the Administrative Data Research Scotland (ADR-S) programme, the Scottish Government has been working with the MOD to gain access to their Service Leavers Database (SLD) in order to enable public benefit research on Scotland's veterans population. Information Governance documents to enable the data share are in the final stages of review between SG and MOD. Once acquired, the SLD dataset will be indexed against the National Registers of Scotland's population spine and the NHS Central Register to provide a best estimate of veterans residing in Scotland. Edinburgh Napier University is leading on an ADR-S project proposal to link the SLD with Scotland's 2011 Census. The analysis of this data linkage project seeks to answer key questions on the social and personal circumstances of our veterans community, and compare and contrast these to non-veterans. Those questions are based on the themes of the Veterans Strategy.

Additionally, the Scottish Government is an active member of the new Veteran and Covenant Data Working Group, which aims to co-ordinate efforts to build a better evidence base in support of delivering the Armed Forces Covenant and the Strategy for our Veterans. Scottish Government officials have presented on the Veterans Strategy monitoring work and have established good relationships with counterparts in the OVA, MOD and Welsh Government. The group is actively exploring options to work collaboratively to improve the available evidence on veterans in Scotland.

Perception and Recognition

Promoting veterans as assets to employers

For the first time, the Veterans Employability Strategic Group (VESG) has membership from private sector employers. This is an important step towards bridging the gap between public sector policy, service delivery partners and employers to support an improved understanding of the benefit of employing veterans and thus ensuring they are better supported to find suitable employment. The VESG is currently establishing working groups as part of its future focus, one of which is an employer-led group.

In addition, the Scottish Government's 2021-22 Programme for Government has committed to securing improved opportunities for veterans, ensuring that those who have risked their lives in the service of the nation can access good jobs once their time in the military is over. We will launch a public awareness campaign next year, targeting employers and the business community to help increase employment opportunities for veterans.

Transition

In addition to the five primary Cross-Cutting Factors, our Veterans Strategy consultation told us that Transition remains a key issue for some of our Service leavers. It was clear from our engagement that veterans felt that little priority had been given to the Transition process in the past, but that it has come a long way since then. Stakeholders were clear that the process needs to start earlier and go beyond employment into wider support, including education options, finding suitable housing and managing money.

Holistic Transition Policy

The Scottish Government provided comments to the MOD in advance of a refresh of its Holistic Transition Policy in April 2021. The policy is intended to support Service personnel and their families better prepare for life after the military on a through-career basis. It recognises that transition is far wider than employment and that a wide range of life changing issues can affect both the Service person and their immediate family as they leave the Armed Forces. Through the policy, the single Services will identify potential vulnerable Service leavers and facilitate a referral to the new Defence Transition Services.

Engagement with Defence Transition Services

We have built strong relationships and engage regularly with the Defence Transition Services (DTS) which has ensured that DTS can better support its clients in Scotland with a good understanding of the devolved services and support which are available to veterans in Scotland. In addition, DTS have the opportunity to raise with us issues experienced by their clients which we can then take forward as necessary, including improving guidance and signposting and through the provision of advice. This year, following an issue raised by DTS, we worked with partners to better ensure that veterans do not face disadvantage when applying for social housing.

Scottish Veterans Commissioner – focus on Transition

Following the publication of the Commissioner's Transition scene-setting paper in December 2019, he has since published two additional reports on Employment, Skills and Learning (December 2020) and Housing (June 2021), both in the context of Transition. These reports contained a number of recommendations for the Scottish Government and, for the first time, the UK Government.

The Scottish Government welcomed both reports and accepted their recommendations. We continue to work with partners to prioritise the delivery of the Commissioner's recommendations and again contributed to his annual progress report. We look forward to his report on veterans Health, the final paper in the series focused on Transition.


Contact

Email: VAFPU@gov.scot