Support for Veterans and the Armed Forces community: report 2017

This document sets out the work that is being done to respond to the recommendations made in the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s first three reports.

6. Wider support for the Armed Forces Community

6.1 Working with our Partners

The Scottish Government has a solid track record of working collaboratively with Local Authorities, wider public sector and charities, including Veterans Scotland, Poppyscotland and Legions Scotland, to deliver support to the Armed Forces community.

The Veterans Employability Strategic Group is a great example of how partners from across the sector can work together to best effect to focus efforts on improving services available for personnel transitioning from the Armed Forces and veterans. Recent ventures between the Scottish Government, Business in the Community Scotland and Salute My Job have also proved how collaboration can deliver positive results, with the launch of a useful guide for employers: Capitalising on Military [24] Talent, to raise awareness of the pool of talented individuals who leave our Armed Forces each year.

We recognise that Local Authorities are a key partner in delivering many of the issues which are of most importance to veterans. This year we have worked with the Ministry of Defence to produce a guide for Local Authorities in Scotland [25] to share best practice and help them deliver on their commitments to the Armed Forces community. The Scottish Veterans Minister has also written to all Local Authority Champions highlighting the guide and other sources of advice and promoted attendance at the 2017 Annual Armed Forces and Veterans Champions Gathering. This Gathering provided an opportunity to discuss existing best practice and to strengthen valuable links between those who are supporting veterans in local areas.

Scotland has an Armed Forces and Veterans Champions in each of our Local Authorities, Health Boards, within Police Scotland and the Department for Work and Pensions. Skills Development Scotland is also establishing a Veterans Champion in each of its five areas.

The Scottish Veterans Commissioner also recommended that such a network be replicated within colleges and universities in Scotland. Although this is primarily a matter for colleges and universities, this recommendation was discussed with the Scottish Government in September 2017 and support for developing a network of champions was established and will be considered further by the expert group (section 5.4) in due course.

6.2 Health

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all UK Armed Forces veterans living in Scotland are able to access the best possible NHS care and support.

Subject to the clinical needs of all patients, veterans continue to be entitled to priority NHS treatment and services for health problems which were sustained as a result of serving their country. Armed Forces and Veterans Champions within NHS Boards continue to play a vital role in ensuring the implementation of the priority treatment guidelines.

The Scottish Government hosts an Armed Forces and Veterans Health Joint Group meeting, chaired by the Director-General Health and Social Care and Chief Executive NHS Scotland. These meetings bring together a range of stakeholders including the Champions from the NHS Boards, representatives from the serving community, veterans organisations and the Scottish Government to discuss a range of issues such as improving healthcare information. At the recent meeting in May 2017, it was accepted that the Joint Group should meet more frequently.

On 30 August, the Scottish Veterans Commissioner published a thought-piece, entitled 'Veterans' Health & Wellbeing in Scotland – Are We Getting it Right? [26] This concluded that veterans in Scotland are generally in relatively good health and have a positive experience of accessing health and social care provision. The Commissioner has identified a number of key areas he feels are worthy of further exploration and debate. Two further reports will follow which the Scottish Government will consider in due course.

Medical records

From work which began in 2010/11, all serving personnel and their families based in Scotland now have a Community Health Index number to facilitate access to the full range of NHS treatment and services whenever they are required.

The Scottish Government is continuing discussions with the Ministry of Defence to explore what more can be done to streamline the transfer of military health records to local GPs when personnel leave the Armed Forces.


Scotland has a well-established state-of-the-art National Specialist Prosthetics Service which is working well. The single multidisciplinary team approach across two specialist centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow also has links to centres in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee. NHS Scotland has made it a priority to ensure that veterans have equal access to this important service. Should their injuries be as a result of Service, they are entitled to receive priority treatment.

Mental Health

Many of the key themes and commitments in the Scottish Government's new ten-year Mental Health Strategy will also impact positively on veterans and their families; the strategy has improving access to services and supporting earlier intervention at its core. It highlights Scottish Government's support for the ethos of the Armed Forces Covenant and, as set out in Renewing Our Commitments, that no one should suffer disadvantage as a result of military service. In supporting efforts to meet the needs of veterans and their families, local partnerships are encouraged to consider how best to provide services locally for them.

The Scottish Government continues to provide funding of £3.6 million over three years to 2018, in partnership with NHS Scotland, for the provision of specialist mental health services for veterans resident in Scotland at the Hollybush House Combat Stress facility in Ayr. A full range of specialist mental health assessment, treatment, education, advice and support is offered to help recovery and improve the quality of life for those veterans across Scotland who need help.

The Scottish Government has partnered with a number of local NHS Boards/Integrated Joint Boards offering funding to support the continuing Veterans First Point network which offers one-stop-shop drop-in centres for veterans. The Scottish Government has committed £825,000 in 2017-18 to achieve this, and has made a match funding offer for the next two financial years to 2020 to encourage sustainable services in the local area. Service delivery, however, rests with individual Boards.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will give longer term funding to the Veterans First Point Central Team. In 2017-18 around £150,000 will be provided to the Central Team.

6.3 The Justice System

Scottish Prison Service

The Scottish Prison Service has established the Veteran in Custody Support Officer ( VICSO) Champions who continue to operate in each Scottish prison, to help those who receive a custodial sentence. In 2010 a Scottish Veterans Prison In-Reach Group was established to examine the welfare needs of ex-Service personnel in custody.

Police Scotland

Each of the 13 local policing divisions along with Custody Division has a Veterans Champion responsible for promoting the needs of veterans locally. The Police Scotland Champions Network meets regularly to share knowledge and best practice. Guest speakers from relevant partner agencies are invited to these meetings to ensure strong awareness of local and national veteran support services. This work is overseen by a senior officer to ensure that strong engagement between the veterans community, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government continues.

Police Scotland's Armed Services Advice Project ( ASAP) referral system has been in place for three years to enable officers to refer individuals in need of assistance to relevant support groups through a single point of contact. This referral service involves collaboration through Police Scotland, Poppyscotland and the Citizens Advice Service Scotland. Over 850 referrals have been made by Police Scotland to the service since its inception.

6.4 Service Children

The Scottish Government-led Scottish Service Children Strategy Group [27] ( SSCSG) continues to guide and engage in work around supporting children from Armed Forces families in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has added an explicit reference to children from Service families and barriers to learning in the revised Additional Support for Learning ( ASL) Code of Practice, which was the subject of a recent consultation. Additional support needs encompass a wide range of issues, including those which might impact on children from Service families, such as coping with periods when a parent is deployed or dealing with interrupted education. The Code, which is due to publish late 2017, supports Local Authorities and schools in their statutory duties.

The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland ( ADES)' dedicated National Transitions Officer ( NTO), funded through the Ministry of Defence Education Support Fund, has a key role in directly working with Scottish Local Authorities, schools and Service families. Collaborative working has seen us add to a growing suite of guidance for practitioners and parents, including:

  • The SSCSG supported the MOD Parent Support Officer to develop an 'Introductory Guide to Education in Scotland' [28] for Armed Forces parents.
  • ADES developed 'Guidance for Local Education Authorities on the Admission of Children and Young People of Armed Forces Families to Scottish Schools' which sets out how education authorities can provide a balanced approach to admissions, taking account of the circumstances faced by Forces Families.
  • The NTO is developing a website [29] with partners which will include guidance, resources, local authority pages and partner organisation information when the website goes live later in 2017.
  • The NTO has also supported the development of two film resources:
  • Getting it Right for Forces Families for educators. The film [30] is being circulated across Scotland with accompanying resource materials; and
  • a film for parents is in production, with input from Tri-Service Armed Forces families and school communities, for release later this year.

The SSCSG will continue to engage with key partners to develop advice and guidance on issues of importance to the education of and support for children from Service families.

The NTO has worked with Local Authorities to adapt their management information system to enable them to identify where school pupils are from an Armed Forces family (and if so, whether regular, reserve or veteran). Local Authorities are in the early stages of beginning to accumulate and analyse data.

The NTO delivered six education forums last year across Scotland which welcomed 125 attendees, including teaching, local authority staff and parents (regular, reserve and veterans). Feedback from these forums is being used to develop resources and to prioritise future work.

The Education Scotland national self-evaluation tool 'How Good is Our School 4' [31] now includes specific quality indicators on 'transitions' and 'ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion'. Both are significant in supporting children from Armed Forces families and are being used by schools to help improve practice and by HM Inspectors in school inspections.


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