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 Key Themes

Veterans Strategy Key Themes

Community and Relationships

Social Isolation and Breakfast Clubs

COVID restrictions have prevented in-person breakfast clubs from proceeding this year, however Legion Scotland and many other charitable organisation carried out virtual clubs throughout the pandemic to help combat social isolation.

More broadly, the Scottish Government will develop a plan to tackle social isolation and loneliness backed by £10 million across the lifetime of this parliament. As part of our first 100 days we have already announced the first £1 million to tackle issues in communities across Scotland now.

Befriending and Mental Health First Aid

We reported last year that in 2020-21 the Scottish Government provided £3,000 of funding to hold two one-day Befriending training sessions for up to 25 individuals as well as four two-day Mental Health First Aid training sessions per up to 12 individuals from the Veterans community. COVID-19 has thus far precluded the delivery of this training, but it is now anticipated that this will now be delivered by the MOD, in conjunction with Legion Scotland, before the end of this year.

Welcome to Scotland

Welcome to Scotland is a Scottish Government guide created in 2018 to ensure Service Personnel and their families are fully equipped with the correct information and support upon their move to Scotland.

An updated version of Welcome to Scotland was published in March 2021 following extensive consultation with the Military as well as third and public sector organisations to ensure that the guide is up-to-date and contains the most relevant information for personnel and their families ahead of relocation to Scotland.

Employment, Education and Skills

Veterans Employability Strategic Group (VESG)

During 2020 the VESG was refreshed with two new co-chairs and members from private sector employers. The group has agreed key areas for action linked to the SVC Employment, Skills and Learning report on Transition. An action plan for implementation is being developed with its key themes focusing on:

  • Upskilling and retraining to enable Service leavers and veterans to address skills gaps;
  • Understanding the Labour market;
  • Positive employer practice;
  • Data; and
  • Third sector support.

The action plan will give the group a clear focus on enabling Service leavers and veterans to access, sustain and progress in good jobs, building on a clear understanding of job opportunities available to them in Scotland. The Group will work with employers to promote the skills they bring to the labour market and promote alignment of services to ensure their accessibility.

Employability Initiatives

The Scottish Government, alongside delivery partners, will continue to ensure employment support services for those facing significant challenges when leaving the Armed Forces continue to be enhanced.

The employability support programmes are open to all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria, including veterans and Service leavers. Implementation of No One Left Behind phase 1 is now complete with phase 2 implementation planned for April 2022, drawing on the best practice of Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) and the Employability Fund (EF).

Employability support funding will be transferred to Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs), where local decisions will be based on the needs, strengths and capabilities of the individual and taking on board regional local employer needs and demands. LEPs are made up of public, private and third sector bodies. Veterans are priority groups within both CJS and EF programmes, and will remain so under phase 2 of No One Left Behind. The network of Local Authority Armed Forces and Veterans Champions will play a role in supporting LEPs and veterans into accessing the support and addressing any barriers to fair and sustainable employment.

Skills and Qualifications Mapping

Since 2018 the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP) has undertaken a substantial amount of work to map military qualifications to those recognised by employers and education institutions including:

  • A scoping report on priority job roles within the Armed Forces;
  • Development of a number of information leaflets for different job roles;
  • Development of a dedicated webpage on the SCQF website to support Service leavers;
  • Revision of the MOD's qualifications matrix to ensure accuracy of qualifications being offered within the Armed Forces; and
  • Conversations with a range of awarding bodies to encourage more qualifications to be recognised on the SCQF.

During 2021, the Scottish Government provided £35,000 of additional funding to SCQF to develop a skills recognition tool for use on My World of Work. The SCQF Partnership are working with key partners in Skills Development Scotland and MOD to deliver the project. Its aim is to develop a skills profiling tool specifically for Service leavers that supports them in understanding the skills they have gained in the military and how these skills translate into language easily understood by civilian employers/institutions in order to gain a job or move into further learning. The initial phase will examine around 20 job roles within the Armed Forces that were considered both priorities in terms of needing transitional support and roles typically held by those Service leavers predominantly settling in Scotland. The project commenced on 1 April 2021 with a completion date of 31 January 2022.

Further and Higher Education Champions

The SFC-led Armed Forces and Veterans Community Group (AFVCG), which supports the work of the HE/FE Veterans Champions Network, meets three times per academic year. At the June 2021 meeting the group agreed the priority working areas for the upcoming academic year (2021-22) which are closer collaborative working with MOD's Directorate of Training, Education, Skills, Recruiting & Resettlement (TESRR) and Career Transition Partnership (CTP) collaborative working.

Two members of the AFVCG sit on, and have presented to, an international veterans committee which includes participants from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and United States, and supports the sharing of best practice, ideas and common understanding.

The HE/FE Veterans Champions Group was used to determine the appetite for developing a Scottish Military Research Hub, the concept for which is Scottish universities delivering research in partnership. Thus far, nine universities have expressed an interest and representatives from the universities met in June 2021 to explore funding options for the hub and discuss potential themes. These themes are still being considered but will likely focus around key transition areas such as health, housing, education, families, etc.

Barriers to HE/FE for Service Children

Scotland's Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP) arranged a presentation to members of the HE/FE Widening Participation community to highlight the importance of support to the Service families community. Work continues with the Service Children's Progression (SCiP) Alliance to create a dedicated presentation and information toolkit to allow the presentation of HE/FE as an opportunity to Service children.

Scottish Funding Council's Data Analysis

SFC has collected data on veterans accessing colleges since 2017-18. Since 2020-21, Service leavers have been identified in the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student return, data from which will be available from December 2021.

Like veterans, Service children or children of military families are also considered one of the 'At Risk' groups. These are students at risk of not achieving their full potential, including from aspirations through to successful outcomes and appropriate employment. Students from Service families are to be identified in the HESA Student return from 2021-22,
however this data will not be available until at least 2022-23. The data on Service children or military families will in future enable SFC and other public bodies to plan and make informed decisions about students from Service families.

Forces Families Jobs

The Forces Families Jobs website is a central portal for employment and training opportunities for military spouses and family members, which was launched in 2019. All employers who advertise on the Forces Families Jobs website have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and a profile is provided for them to explain their individual commitment to being forces family friendly. The Scottish Government continues to work with Forces Families Jobs to post vacancies by directing to Work for Scotland, our own job website.

Work Placements in Scottish Government

The Scottish Government continues to offer work placements and Fixed Term Appointments (FTA) to veterans through the Going Forward Into Employment (GFIE) programme. Working with the Career Transition Partnership and other partners to identify candidates, the initiative is giving us the opportunity to take on Service leavers and veterans through short placements and FTA which could subsequently be converted to permanent. Three veterans have thus far been recruited successfully through this route and we are working with partners to further embed GFIE into our recruitment practices.

Additionally, the Scottish Government is exploring the possibility of including a field on veteran status as part of the employee data voluntarily provided by Scottish Government staff through its HR system. This would help monitor the progress of activities aimed at increasing the number of veterans employed by the Scottish Government.

NHS Careers Website

A dedicated NHS Scotland Careers webpage, designed to support veterans and promote the NHS as a post-service career, launched during Armed Forces week 2021. The page includes support for veterans to apply to NHS jobs, guidance on communicating transferrable skills, career case studies from veterans and Armed Forces family members who have transitioned and work in the NHS, information on mapping Armed Forces skills to the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF), and more. The launch of the website was accompanied by a series of social media activities, including the sharing of career case studies across social media channels.

Police Scotland – Employment and Partnerships

During the past year, Police Scotland's National Recruitment Team have undertaken several activities to focus recruitment of veterans into Police Scotland including engagement with CTP and the Officer's Association and utilising Local Policing Veterans Champions to arrange bespoke career transition events.

Both the National Recruitment and Talent Acquisition Teams support the Wounded, Injured or Sick Programme (WISP), whereby Police Scotland secondment opportunities are provided to personnel coming to the end of their Service. Additionally, Police Scotland recently announced the new Volunteering Strategy which provides more defined opportunities for those wishing to bring their experience and transferable skills into the challenging and rewarding environment of volunteering in policing. This could either be as a Special Constable within local communities, or as an Adult Volunteer in mentoring and supporting our cadre of Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV).

University of Strathclyde's Articulation Route

An articulation mechanism has been developed and this will allow those with HND qualifications to enter initial teacher education. Since 2020 three veterans have been awarded a STEM bursary whilst on the one year PGDE programme. The bursary scheme is an SG sponsorship for STEM students accepted on PGDE programmes, who receive £20k for the year.

Cyber Skills Pilot

Last year, we reported that Scottish veterans were being retrained via a cyber-skills pilot led by Skills Development Scotland, in partnership with SaluteMyJob & Abertay University. The pilot concluded this year with 14 individuals completing the course. We are working with partners to determine the employment destinations of those who completed the course.

Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group

The Scottish Service Children Strategy Group (SSCSG) was re-constituted to take a more strategic approach in improving the support to Children and Young People (CYP) from Armed Forces backgrounds.

The group updated its term of reference and was re-named the Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group (SAFESG). This group's work and minutes are now available here to raise the profile of this work. This website will also share information and resources on best practice and support for AF CYP. The SAFESG also aligns their work with the Morgan review of Additional Support for Learning and action plan.

Additionally, in conjunction with the Association of Directors of Education (ADES) National Transitions Officer (NTO), the SAFESG invites head teachers from schools across Scotland to share their insights, best practice and develop ideas with the strategic group.

Some areas of best practice the group has been working on include:

  • Safeguarding: SAFESG facilitated MOD input into the recently updated Scottish Government Safeguarding guidance to ensure the needs and considerations of AF CYP and personnel were reflected. SAFESG also facilitated discussions on Safeguarding between stakeholders to ensure alignment with the various internal processes related to this area.
  • Developing strategies to support dispersed families.
  • Considering approaches to support families moving into Scotland and their engagement with the school and the Scottish education system. SAFESG has hosted sessions with Forces Families Federations to share the knowledge and experiences of families moving to Scotland.

SAFESG is also working closely with the NTO to support the next round of data collection on Armed Forces children and young people via Seemis. Data collection is due to take place in autumn 2021 and results will be used to further enhance and develop the support available to these children and young people.

The group is also working with local authorities to understand and support local data gathering, with a view to developing and sharing best digital practice.

In alignment with the Morgan review, SAFESG is considering research opportunities to further understand barriers to learning experienced by these learners and develop approaches to mitigate them.

Finance and Debt


The Scottish Government has designed the application guidance for devolved benefits to provide comprehensive information on entitlement. Similarly, signposting will be included to refer clients to the relevant agencies for reserved benefits where appropriate.

The Adult Disability Payment (ADP) application form will ask clients about their possible entitlement to Armed Forces Independence Payment, War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement and War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance. Where appropriate, clients will be directed to Veterans UK for further advice, with whom we have worked to develop an information sharing process. This is intended to ensure that veterans can efficiently access the support to which they are entitled. Furthermore, we engage regularly with Veterans UK and MOD to ensure that there is consistency in the messaging provided to veterans.

Social Security Scotland

Over the last year, Social Security Scotland (SSS) has undertaken a number of actions to further embed inclusive communication principles. This has included close engagement with its Inclusive Communication External Stakeholder Reference Group, of which BLESMA is a member. Together, they will ensure that the agency communicates in ways that meet all of its clients' communication needs and preferences, including veterans.

Furthermore, Social Security Scotland will develop signposting and referral arrangements with a range of organisations which will make it as easy as possible for clients, including veterans, to access services. SSS will also ensure that it is able to refer clients to partner organisations that deliver other sources of financial or emotional support and will aim to make that referral process as simple as possible so that clients do not have to repeatedly give the same information to different people in other organisations.

Benefit Take-Up Strategy

The Scottish Government published the second Benefit Take-up Strategy in October 2021. Since the publication of the first Take-up Strategy in 2019, several Seldom Heard groups have been identified as being key to the development of the second Strategy. These groups are likely to experience reduced access to, or take-up of, the Scottish benefits to which they are entitled. Extensive engagement has been carried out with stakeholders representing these Seldom Heard groups, and the outcomes of this engagement has been intrinsic to the development of the Strategy. In order to ensure the inclusion of veterans in the development of our Strategy, both BLESMA and Veterans Scotland have been engaged, and representatives from both organisations attended the Benefit Take-up Round Table Event for Seldom Heard groups, held in August 2021. Going forward, we will continue to work with these organisations and build lasting relationships with the aim of increasing benefit take-up.

Money Advice Trust

The Scottish Government funded the publication of the Money Advice Trust's new guide on 'How to Deal with Debt'. This was published in January 2021 and can be found here. This includes specific signposting advice for veterans and Service personnel.

Money and Pension Service (MaPS)

The Scottish Government co-ordinated in 2020 a Serving personnel and veterans virtual roundtable which was attended by stakeholders and organisations from across the Armed Forces and veterans community. During the session, participants shared their perspectives about current challenges relating to financial wellbeing to inform the development of MaPS' Financial Wellbeing Delivery Plan for Scotland. The intention is that this will be published before the end of 2021.

Throughout the pandemic MaPS established partnership relationships with teams including Defence Transition Services and Veterans Welfare Service. This provided the opportunity for MaPS to deliver webinar presentations to raise awareness and signpost to the practical support and guidance offered by MaPS/MoneyHelper across various delivery channels.

Health and Wellbeing

Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group

The Implementation Group (IG) continues to regularly meet to drive forward progress on priorities set by the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG). The IG provided an update to the SOG in May 2021, and priorities were refreshed. The 2021-22 priorities are a continuation of the October 2020 priorities – Mental Health, employability of veterans in the NHS, and Priority Treatment – plus the addition of Veteran Aware GP Accreditation and exploring the setup of a veterans trauma network within the Scottish health landscape.

Armed Forces and Veterans NHS Champions

Utilising their knowledge of local health systems, NHS Champions provide support to veterans who are struggling to gain Priority Treatment, access to health services, or are encountering other health-related issues. We are in frequent contact with NHS Champions on a range of matters, drawing upon their knowledge of local health systems and professional expertise. Through representation at the Joint Group, Champions contribute local expertise and insight to policy development and other areas of work. For example, this year a veteran was attending a local hospital for an ongoing condition. He had been in the area for some time, but due to enduring COVID restrictions was isolated and struggling with other issues related to housing. The veteran was connected with the local NHS Champion who put SSAFA and the Royal British Legion in touch with him to offer their support and guidance.

Cross-Border Networks

We continue to participate in and reinforce mutually beneficial relationships and networks with organisations in England and the devolved nations. We continue to participate in the MOD/DHSC/Devolved Administrations Partnership Board, including continued input into the cross-nation Priority Treatment Working Group. Recognising the value of collaboration, we provide frequent updates to the Partnership Board and have brought papers for cross-nation agreement. These actions facilitate cross-nation sharing of best practice. Through the UK-wide Priority Treatment Working Group, there has been agreement to review and work on engaging with veterans/clinicians on the current terminology and opportunities for improvement.

We also have quarterly meetings with the Office for Veterans Affairs and partake in cross-nation meetings centred on health IT alignment between NHS Scotland and the Defence Medical Service. Programme Cortisone is due to rollout later in 2021, with pilots scheduled to take place across the UK. Programme Cortisone will further align IT systems within Defence Medical System and the NHS, and allow quick electronic transfer of records.

Drug and Alcohol Information System

The Drug and Alcohol Information System (DAISy) was implemented on 1 December 2020 and went live across Scotland on 1 April 2021. Public Health Scotland are developing a series of reports for use at a local and national level to better understand the issues related to alcohol and drug harms. This will include issues for veterans.

The Short Life Working Group on Prescription Medicine Dependence and Withdrawal presented its draft recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport at the end of 2020. These recommendations were then published as a consultation in spring 2021. The consultation has now closed and Scottish Government is considering the responses together with the Short Life Working Group prior to making finalised recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary.

Scottish Veterans Care Network (SVCN)

The SVCN was formally launched in November 2020, with an initial priority to develop a Mental Health Action Plan (MHAP). The Plan will be available in December 2021. Contributions to the plan have come from over 80 veterans and their representatives, NHS Boards and Integrated Joint Boards (IJBs). There has also been extensive consultation with Third Sector veterans mental health and wellbeing providers, the MOD and the Scottish Veteran Care Network Health and Wellbeing Group. The Network has linked with colleagues in England and Wales to share knowledge and experience and conducted an extensive literature review. The completed plan will aim to support veterans in Scotland to live a healthy life and be able to reach their full potential. When required, they will be able to access high quality mental health and well-being services that are tailored to meet their needs.

Suicide Prevention

Under Action 7 of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan, work has been undertaken to identify groups at elevated risk of suicide and facilitate specific preventative interventions to target them. The Scottish Government's Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, published in October 2020, featured a commitment to identify prevention opportunities for veterans, alongside existing work on at-risk groups.

Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) undertook an academic review of existing literature on veterans' suicide, and sponsored further research into their experiences with suicide and suicide prevention services, which is currently under review. This and other relevant research will be considered in the development of the new suicide prevention strategy which will be published in September 2022.

Veteran Aware Status for GPs and Hospitals

The Joint Group have decided that, as a primary entry into the health system, it would be useful to begin with General Practice accreditation. A sub-group – featuring representation from NHS, Scottish Government, Royal College of General Practitioners, and Veterans Scotland – has been established to take forward our 2021-22 priority on Veteran GP Accreditation. The accreditation will seek to further embed good practice, raise awareness of veterans' issues, and promote learning across General Practices. This work will align well with the NHS Fife Pilot Project, centred on improving methods of identifying and clinical coding veterans.

Data on Veterans Health

If expanded across Scotland, the NHS Fife Pilot Project, centred on improving clinical coding within General Practices, will provide a basis for identifying veterans within healthcare and, in turn, hopefully improve data on veterans in Scotland. Complementing this work, the Veteran Aware GP Accreditation will encourage clinical coding of veterans in practices. Additionally, the inclusion of a veterans question in the Census and the Scottish Household and Health Surveys will improve health data on veterans.

NHS Inform

The NHS Inform veterans page remains up-to-date. We frequently share emerging information with our networks, such as the Veterans Scotland Health and Wellbeing Group, as appropriate.

Combat Stress

Funding for Combat Stress has continued in 2021-22 at the same rate as the previous year. Any future funding will be determined by the recommendations from the Veterans Mental Health Action Plan. Combat Stress is in the process of closing Hollybush House in South Ayrshire with a view to opening more accessible facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Veterans First Point (V1P)

The six health boards that host V1P in Scotland have agreed to match fund the Scottish Government award to V1P for this financial year (2021-22). The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans opened a new facility for V1P Fife on 20 July 2021. Any future funding will be determined by the recommendations from the Veterans Mental Health Action Plan.

Making a Home in Civilian Society

Housing to 2040

Scottish Government published Housing to 2040, Scotland's first long-term housing strategy, in March 2021, following extensive consultation with the housing sector and people of Scotland, including Veterans Scotland's Housing Group. Housing to 2040 sets out a vision that everyone in Scotland should have access to a safe, warm, affordable and energy efficient home that meets their needs in the place they want to be, regardless of tenure. Equality is at the heart of the strategy and the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including the right to adequate housing, will be included in a new Human Rights Bill to be introduced in this Parliamentary term.

Local Housing Strategies

Following the refresh of Local Housing Strategy (LHS) guidance in 2019, which requires consideration of the needs of Armed Forces communities, local authorities are demonstrating this in their Local Housing Strategies. For example, in North Lanarkshire Council, consultative LHS for the period 2021-2026 proposes to strengthen support for the Armed Forces community through further engagement and consultation with the community and their representatives.

Social Housing Allocations

The position remains in Scotland that in law, the responsibility for the allocation of social housing lies with social landlords (local authorities and registered social landlords). Each landlord sets out in their allocations policy how they allocate their social housing. Our guidance for social landlords in Scotland on allocations is practice guidance to support landlords in complying with legislation and statutory guidance. It also covers areas of policy and practice where landlords set out their own criteria and priority categories in accordance with local needs.

The allocations practice guidance encourages landlords to consider giving priority to Service personnel and ex-Service personnel appropriate to the context in which they are allocating homes. This priority is over and above any priority for those Service leavers who are homeless, threatened with homelessness or have a high level of housing need as set out in the reasonable preference categories. Landlords should also ensure Service personnel and ex-Service personnel are not disadvantaged in accessing social housing because of their time in Service.

Affordable Housing Supply Programme

Funding continues to be available to deliver homes specifically for veterans where Local Authorities identify this as a strategic priority. Since 2012 over £6m has been made available through the programme to deliver over 100 homes for Veterans.

Earlier this year Riverside Scotland began the construction of 19 homes specifically for veterans across two sites in North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire and Hillcrest Housing Association are due to complete five homes for veterans in Edinburgh in January 2022.

These projects are being supported with over £1.8 million of Scottish Government grant.

Housing Options Scotland

We continue to support Housing Options Scotland to provide its Military Matters project. This service focuses on housing issues affecting people serving in the Armed Forces in Scotland; all UK Service personnel transitioning into civilian life in Scotland, and veterans – helping them to find the right home in the right place. Since it began in 2012, the project has supported just under 1000 people in total. In 2020-2021, the service received 266 new referrals.

Homelessness Prevention Pathway

A pathway to prevent homelessness for veterans is currently being developed by members of the Veterans Scotland Housing Group. This has included wide consultation with a range of homelessness, housing and Armed Forces and veterans organisations and
veterans with lived experience.

The report, with recommendations, is expected to be published by the end of 2021.

Veterans and the Law

Veterans in Custody Support Officers (VICSOs)

We have regular engagement with stakeholders from the VICSO network to better understand how they are supporting veterans in custody, if there are opportunities for collaborative efforts and if the Scottish Government can provide support. Furthermore, we have developed good relationships with the Scottish Prison Service and Edinburgh Napier University to understand and, where appropriate support, research into the veterans population in prison. We will consider research as it is published, including any recommendations made.

Breakfast Clubs

The Scottish Government supports the use of Breakfast Clubs in prisons to encourage veterans to socialise in the prison community. We are working with the VICSO network, in particular the Governor of HMP Perth to understand how we can support breakfast clubs being rolled out across the prison estate in Scotland. We will attend a veterans Breakfast Club event and VICSO gathering when we are able to do so.

Supporting the work of Sacro

Sacro has recently established a strategic oversight group for its Veterans Mentoring Service which will oversee the work of the Service in supporting veterans who are in or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. The Scottish Government is a member of the Strategic Group, which will help ensure that we can support Sacro and the veterans for whom they provide support. The group last met in late September 2021.

Police Scotland – Champions and Support

Police Scotland continues to invest in its cadre of Veterans Champions across the country, located in each Local Policing Division and across the custody estate within the national Criminal Justice Services Division (CJSD). The core role of Veterans Champions is to promote, amongst their divisional colleagues, the existence of Police Scotland's bespoke referral mechanism with the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) for serving and former members of the military.

In November 2020, Police Scotland's National Forum of Veterans Champions became a virtual event, which resulted in enhanced sharing of information, ideas and innovation which has ultimately led to an increase of over 375% in the number of referrals being submitted by police officers in the past nine months. The Champions have promoted the referral mechanism within their respective communities and frontline police officers are better informed and equipped to support serving and former members of the military when they need it.