The Strategy for Our Veterans - taking the strategy forward in Scotland: refreshed action plan
Refreshed action plan detailing how we intend to continue to take forward the Strategy for Our Veterans in Scotland.
Community and Relationships
Leaving the Armed Forces, and their associated camaraderie and sense of purpose, can create challenges establishing new relationships within civilian communities both for Service leavers and their families. This experience will be different for each veteran and family. Some will already have links within communities and others may be starting from scratch. That it is a personal issue, and varies greatly between individuals, presents a challenge in how to sufficiently support ex-Service personnel while respecting their private lives.
Outcome: veterans are able to build healthy relationships and integrate into their communities.
We will achieve this by:
- [New] Working with underrepresented groups within the veterans community in Scotland, to ensure their experiences and needs are more widely understood and supported.
- Integrating veterans within our wider work on social isolation, through a Programme for Government commitment to develop a new five-year plan to implement A Connected Scotland strategy, backed with investment of £10m to provide funding which will help to tackle barriers to connection.
- Working with stakeholders to further promote positive ways for veterans and their families to integrate into local communities.
- Promoting our Welcome to Scotland booklet, as a guide to families settling in Scotland. We will ensure that this resource is updated on an annual basis and promoted widely to Service families, working with the Families Federations and other stakeholders.
Employment, Education and Skills
Military service fosters leadership, organisational skills, resilience and specialist skills such as medical or technical expertise. Veterans – and their families – are great assets for all employment sectors, and a growing number of employers are actively targeting veterans to fill their skills gaps. Continued development beyond military service can also include a number of education options, both for the Service leavers and their families. It is also important to recognise that, during their school education, children of Service personnel and veterans sometimes need additional support to overcome the challenges arising from military life.
Outcome: veterans enter appropriate employment and can continue to enhance their careers throughout their working lives.
We will achieve this by:
- Continuing to ensure that veterans and their families are able to access and benefit from a range of Scottish Government supported employability initiatives, including the 'No One Left Behind' Employability Funding Stream, the Young Persons Guarantee and Fair Start Scotland.
- Working with the Scottish Government's Veterans Employability Strategic Group to continue to examine how to improve employment opportunities and remove present and future potential barriers for the Armed Forces and veterans community, including their families and work with partners to effect changes which will make a positive impact.
- Supporting further the online skills and qualifications mapping tool developed by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP) along with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and MOD. This is linked to the Skills Discovery tool in My World of Work and allows Service leavers from the main job roles that predominantly settle in Scotland to benchmark their qualifications against the SCQF, in order to understand the level of the learning they have achieved in the Scottish context and convey this to potential employers. Further work on the tool will take place in 2022-23, to expand the number of job roles and to formally launch and promote the tool as widely as possible.
- Supporting work underway where SDS is working closely with the MOD and the Careers Transition Partnership to increase the levels of careers guidance and support offered to Service leavers during their Resettlement period. Work has also expanded to include Service leaver families.
- Continuing to promote the SDS website My World of Work to the Armed Forces Community, which has a dedicated landing page for Service leavers and veterans, and SDS's engagement with the veterans community, for example during the annual Scottish Apprenticeship Week events.
Higher and Further Education
- Continuing to support the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) led Armed Forces and Veterans Community Group (AFVCG), which developed and supports the HE:FE Veterans Champions Network. The AFVCG is also linked to the SCQFP Veterans Steering Group and continue to work together on key areas such as ELCAS (Enhanced Learning Credits Administration Services).
- Continuing to promote SFC's dedicated web page outlining sources of information, advice and guidance for veterans, Service leavers and their families.
- Working with stakeholders to explore the barriers to Further and Higher Education for children of Service families. SFC continues to support the Service Children's Progression Alliance Scottish Hub.
- Supporting SFC's work to improve access through the use of data analysis, including veterans data in the college sector, which SFC began collecting in academic year 2017-18. SFC continues to use data collection on students who self-declare as veterans. A field was included in the 2021-2022 HESA Student Return to identify Service leavers in the university sector. Data from 2021-22 is expected to be available by early 2023.
Support for Families
- Contributing to the Forces Families Jobs website, providing links to adverts on the Work For Scotland website.
- Supporting the General Teaching Council for Scotland's (GTCS) work with the Families Federations to develop a joint publication detailing the requirements for teaching in Scotland.
- The Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group (SAFESG), chaired by the Scottish Government, taking a strategic lead in developing and supporting best practice for Armed Forces Children and Young People (AF CYP).
- Using the SAFESG in conjunction with education stakeholders to support and develop best digital practice and build on the research base for AF CYP in Scotland.
- Through our Programme for Government Commitment, working with key partners to create more work placements and job opportunities within the Scottish Government, set aside specifically for veterans and family members including through the Going Forward Into Employment programme.
- Continuing to develop the NHS Careers website, which provides information for people looking into a career in the NHS. A dedicated veterans landing page has already been developed for the NHS Scotland Careers website and this provides tailored information and resources for veterans. For example, the website features "Career Stories" which highlight case studies from NHS employees who have served in the Armed Forces.
- Supporting Police Scotland's aims to strengthen its partnership working in order to focus recruitment of veterans into Police Scotland as police officers, staff members and Special Constables.
- Engaging with the veterans community, including at jobs fairs aimed at veterans and Service leavers, to understand the best way to encourage and support them to apply for Scottish Government jobs.
- Ensuring that Scotland's Apprenticeship suite of offerings will continue to be promoted to Early Service Leavers, veterans and their families.
Finance and Debt
Finance is regarded by many as being in the top three areas of need for veterans, though frequently in combination with another issue. While the Armed Forces community can encounter many of the same financial issues as the general population, Service life, often starting in very early adulthood, can mean that some Service leavers are less familiar with managing their personal financial outgoings than their civilian peers who have had years of experience of doing so. It is therefore vital that personnel are given financial awareness while they are in Service and suitable advice, guidance and support as they transition back into civilian life.
Outcome: veterans leave the Armed Forces with sufficient financial education, awareness and skills to be financially self-supporting and resilient.
We will achieve this by:
- Providing clear and transparent advice on entitlement to devolved benefits. Where benefits remain reserved, we will signpost or refer individuals to organisations that can provide specialist advice. These referral pathways and guidance were put in place for Adult Disability Payment when it launched in March 2022.
- Recognising that some veterans will access benefits delivered by our agency, Social Security Scotland, and that there will continue to be significant overlaps between these benefits and veteran-specific benefits, such as between Armed Forces Independence Payment and Disability Assistance for Working Age People. We will provide guidance to make clear where there are overlaps between devolved benefits and those that remain reserved to the UK Government, including veteran benefits.
- Embedding specialist support available where necessary for the smaller number of people who need it. Social Security Scotland and the Scottish Government are working closely with a range of expert stakeholders, including the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association (BLESMA), to help us with this specialised work.
- Continuing to engage with our Seldom Heard groups, one of which is veterans, in order to maximise take-up, and to ensure that these voices are heard and considered in our policy work going forward. Our Stakeholder Take-Up Reference Group is being expanded to include representatives of organisations that support veterans.
Health and Wellbeing
We are committed to ensuring all Armed Forces personnel and veterans who serve and live in Scotland are able to access the best possible care and support, including safe, effective and person‑centred healthcare. Our continuing aim is to ensure the long‑term clinical needs of Service personnel and veterans are better understood and supported within the NHS.
Outcome: all veterans enjoy a state of positive physical and mental health and wellbeing, enabling them to contribute to wider aspects of society.
We will achieve this by:
- Continuing to use the Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group (the Joint Group) to bring together NHS Champions, Local Authority Champions, representatives of the serving community, veterans organisations, Scottish Government officials and other stakeholders such as the Service Families Federations. The Joint Group sets a number of priorities for the Implementation Group to take forward each year, largely based around recommendations from the Veterans Commissioner's reports. Many of these have already been successfully implemented, for example, access to replacement wheelchairs and hearing aids, equivalent to those issued by the MOD.
- Improving collaboration and awareness through continuing to strengthen support for the NHS Champions network. We will continue to host networking events to provide Champions with information and development on areas of mutual interest, encouraging the sharing of good practice and providing the opportunity to make and build connections and will look to expand this into work on social care with Local Authority Champions.
- Continuing to work with UK Government counterparts by actively participating in cross-border networks through the MOD/Department of Health Partnership Board and a number of sub-groups.
- We are engaging with NHS National Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland and the MOD to gather more information on veterans health. By improving how we collect, hold and use such data, this will allow us to identify areas of inequality and set metrics to address these.
- Obtaining data from the new Drug and Alcohol Information System (DAISy), which includes a field identifier for veterans and will gather key demographic and outcome data on people who engage in drug and alcohol treatment services. This will provide useful data on the nature and scale of drug misuse among veterans across Scotland.
Access to Health Services
- The Veterans Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan was published on 21 December 2021 and, through this, key principles have been identified. The new Implementation Board will work to implement these principles and ensure that veterans have parity of care, no matter where they are located in Scotland.
- Working with GP Practices, initially, on raising awareness of veterans health issues. We will look to apply the principles that underpin the Veteran Aware Accreditation scheme that operates within GP practices in England, ensuring that these are developed and applied to accurately reflect the Scottish health landscape. By greater identification of the veteran population within health, we will look to embed good practice and further raise awareness of veterans issues throughout NHS Scotland services.
- Improving accessibility to online information for veterans on NHS Inform through working with NHS24. NHS24 are leading a project to allow the development of a standardised website for each GP practice across Scotland, which will encourage dissemination of health information, as well as promote self-management and signpost to available local services. "Early Adopter" pilot areas are NHS Highland, Western Isles, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley and Lothian.
- Working with sight loss and veterans charities, to update the guidance for practitioners responsible for certifying people as sight-impaired or severely sight-impaired, to ask if the patient has ever served in the Armed Forces; if so, to signpost the veteran to the free services and support provided.
- In partnership with NHS Scotland and Combat Stress, provide funding of £1.4m for 2022-23 for the provision of a range of specialist and community-based services for veterans resident in Scotland whilst the implementation of the Veterans Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan is taken forward.
- With six local health boards the Scottish Government has provided joint funding for the Veterans First Point Network, which offers a one‑stop shop for veterans no matter their need. Funding of £666,383 for Veterans First Point in 2022-23 has been agreed whilst the implementation of the Veterans Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan is taken forward.
- Developing a bespoke employability programme for members of the Armed Forces which promotes to veterans the wide range of careers available in the NHS, highlights that the forces skill-set is an asset, and supports access to roles and work experience.
Making a Home in Civilian Society
For many veterans, leaving the Armed Forces will be the first time they find a home for themselves. Despite this, veterans as a whole are as likely as the general population to own their own home after accounting for age and sex, and there is no evidence to suggest veterans are overrepresented amongst homeless applicants. Wherever they wish to settle in civilian life, it is important that Service leavers are clear on the local options and how to find further guidance or support that they might need.
Outcome: veterans have a secure place to live either through buying, renting or social housing.
We will achieve this by:
- [New] Working with Scotland's Housing Network to encourage Local Authorities to identify the housing needs of the Armed Forces Community and to reflect this in their Local Housing Strategies.
- Improving the advice for social landlords on allocations for those leaving the Armed Forces. We published Social Housing Allocations in Scotland – A Practice Guide in February 2019, which provided clarity for social landlords about giving priority to Service leavers and on ensuring that they are not at a disadvantage when applying for social housing, due to time spent outwith an area. The guidance also reinforced the need for social landlords to have clear information and housing options in place for all applicants, including veterans. To reinforce this we will encourage all social landlords to include veterans as a priority group in their allocation policies, under the 'Reasonable Preference Allocations Priority' policy introduced in the Housing Scotland Act 2014.
- We will work with the sector to encourage social landlords to include a specific question on veterans on housing application forms to help improve the data collected, and ensure that veterans applying for social housing are identified and provided with appropriate housing options advice, and will continue to work with social landlords and veterans organisations, where appropriate, to identify and promote good practice in veterans housing.
- Continuing to provide funding through our affordable housing supply programme to deliver homes specifically for veterans, where Local Authorities identify this as a strategic investment priority. Since 2012, more than £6 million has been made available through this programme to deliver over 100 homes specifically for veterans.
- Continuing to make the Open Market Shared Equity scheme available to veterans who have left the Armed Forces within the past two years so that they can buy a home that is for sale on the open market with assistance from the Scottish Government where they cannot afford the total cost. These households have priority access to the scheme, which means that they do not need to be first-time buyers to benefit from it.
- Continuing to support Housing Options Scotland to provide its Military Matters project. Since it began in 2012, the project has supported just under 1,000 people in total. In 2020-21, the service received 266 new referrals.
- Continuing to improve action on preventing homelessness through the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan and Preventing Veterans Homelessness Pathway which was published on 25 January 2022.
Veterans and the Law
Although most veterans remain law-abiding citizens, a small minority enter into the criminal justice system. Members of this group are often among the most vulnerable veterans, with complex needs, meaning that there are often particular considerations to address when deciding on the most suitable support. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that 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.
Outcome: veterans leave the Armed Forces with the resilience and awareness to remain law-abiding civilians.
We will achieve this by:
- Engaging with the network of Veterans In Custody Support Officers (VICSOs) to review the support for ex-Service personnel within Scotland's prison estate.
- With the VICSOs, considering what specific research might provide a better understanding of the ex-Service prison population in Scotland.
- Supporting efforts being made by the Scottish Prison Service to encourage ex-Service prisoners to socialise in the prison community, possibly through initiatives such as breakfast clubs which were curtailed by the pandemic.
- Supporting SACRO's work to create safer and more cohesive communities across Scotland, by helping ensure that their support for veterans is understood by the relevant agencies.
- Supporting Police Scotland's pledges under the Armed Forces Covenant to support the Armed Forces and veterans community, including its review and refresh of the Veterans Champion role across local policing divisions and the introduction of Veterans Champions within its custody and criminal justice environment.
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