Part 2 What we know about Veterans in Scotland
Findings in Scotland
The overall picture evidenced by our consultation in Scotland – and reinforced by the feedback we gathered from the Scottish responses to the wider UK public consultation – is a positive one.
Respondents and stakeholders acknowledged the improvements in support for veterans in Scotland in recent years, many of these improvement driven by the Scottish Government’s response to recommendations made by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner in previous reports on Transition, Housing Information, Employability Skills and Learning and in the two Health and Wellbeing reports – Are We Getting It Right? and A Distinctive Scottish Approach.
But there were areas where the feedback indicated that further work was needed. These are addressed in more detail in the pages that follow, set out against the cross-cutting factors and key themes of the Strategy. There were strong and consistent messages around the subjects of Transition, Data and the Armed Forces Covenant, and families of Service personnel were also highlighted as an important element.
The Transition process
Respondents rightly emphasised the fundamental importance that the transition process plays in ensuring that those leaving the Services, along with their families, are able to adjust and settle into their new lives as civilians. While the transition process is reserved to the UK Government and managed by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the majority of services that ex-Forces personnel encounter in Scotland are devolved, in particular around housing, health and employment.
We have therefore sought to work closely with the MOD to ensure that the feedback we gathered during our consultation, particularly that provided by the many veterans with whom we engaged during their Resettlement courses as they were preparing to leave the Forces, was communicated clearly to those responsible for the transition process.
The vast majority of veterans in Scotland left the Services many years ago and, listening to some of their feedback, it was clear that the transition process has come a long way from that which existed in the past. Many older veterans were critical of the minimalist approach that they described from their experience and their recollections highlighted the importance of recognising their needs as well as of those who have left the Services in more recent times. Although there have been improvements in the transition process, there were common views that it needed further attention to provide effective preparation for civilian life.
The Resettlement workshops that are currently delivered to Service leavers by the Careers Transition Partnership, MOD’s provider of resettlement services, were praised during our engagements. However, there were common views that the transition process needed to begin earlier, to be expanded so that the focus was wider than employment options (for example with more emphasis on further education, securing suitable housing and managing money) and to have more consistent support by the Chain of Command of those preparing to leave the Armed Forces.
We are pleased that the MOD has now introduced its Holistic Transition Policy and we hope that this will be a significant step in improving the process for Service leavers.
A concern that was raised frequently by organisations who support veterans was about data. There was a common view that greater clarity on numbers, needs and locations of veterans would enable service providers, such as Health Boards and Local Authorities, to have better evidence with which to plan and monitor the services that they deliver for veterans. Similar concerns have been raised across the UK and improving the data that is available will be a priority for our work going forward, working together with MOD and the UK Government.
Armed Forces Covenant
The Armed Forces Covenant is well known to much of the Armed Forces and veterans community in Scotland, with many of the respondents citing it in discussions. All of the Local Authorities in Scotland are signatories, as are a large number of public, private and 3rd sector organisations. The Scottish Government has consistently supported the aims of the Covenant. However, the consultation also highlighted that there is some misunderstanding when it comes to the interpretation of the principles of the Covenant, particularly around priority treatment at the point of receipt of local services. This was also a theme of the Veterans Commissioner’s 2017 report Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing in Scotland – Are We Getting it Right?.
Support for families
Respondents were keen to emphasise that getting it right for our veterans couldn’t just focus on the veteran as an individual. The role that families play in supporting our veterans is extremely significant, before, during and after the transition process, a message that was reinforced in the feedback across the UK. In short, the impact of Service life on families needed to be recognised, both during and after the time spent in the Armed Forces.
Building the evidence base
It was widely acknowledged that significant improvements could be made to the availability and use of data regarding veterans in Scotland. Stakeholders highlighted during the consultation the challenges that the limited reliable data on the veterans community created for them.
Recent years have seen some important additions to the evidence base, namely the Annual Population Survey, The Scottish Veterans Health Study and the incorporation of veterans ‘flags’ into wider data collection exercises. The work and reports by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner have also helped form an overall picture in priority areas.
The veterans population
It was estimated that in 2016 there were approximately 2.5 million UK Armed Forces veterans residing in Great Britain. This is forecast to decrease year-on-year to 1.6 million by 2028.
In 2017 there were an estimated 220,000 UK Armed Forces veterans in Scotland, amounting to 9% of veterans in Great Britain and 5% of all household residents in Scotland.
It was also estimated that more than half (129,000; 58%) of the veterans residing in Scotland were aged 65 and over. This balance is likely to change significantly in the coming decade, resulting in a younger age profile in the veterans community and potentially different needs.
While there are positive indications in areas such as housing for veterans in Scotland – a 49% decrease in homelessness applications by veterans from 2008-09 to 2018-19, compared to a 37% reduction in all applications over the same period – we know there remain persistent challenges that need to be addressed.
By ensuring that we seek to improve the evidence base about the veterans community in Scotland as part of our response to the Veterans Strategy, we have the opportunity to build on the positives and also address any issues where they present.
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