Support for veterans: strategy

How we will take forward the Strategy for our Veterans and achieve the best possible outcomes for our veterans and their families now and in the future.

Key Themes

Community and relationships

Strategy outcome: Veterans are able to build healthy relationships and integrate into their communities.

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.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • Informal veterans gatherings, such as breakfast clubs, many of which were broadened to include families and the general public, were increasingly popular and were favoured by many over the more traditional and formal veterans’ events.
  • Activities to help veterans who may experience loneliness or social isolation should be a priority and supported wherever possible.
  • The older generation of veterans can be at increased risk of greater social isolation and loneliness.
  • Opportunities to promote wider relationships beyond the immediate Armed Forces and veterans community should be encouraged.
  • More could be done to promote recognition of veterans as assets to communities, instead of a disproportionate focus on those needing additional support.
  • Families have a crucial role to play in establishing relationships within communities and beyond.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Continue to emphasise the narrative that veterans are assets to communities.
  • Work with MOD and other partners in Scotland to make the transition process as smooth as possible.
  • Look for opportunities within our wider policies to help veterans and their families build local networks.
  • Continue to support families settling in Scotland to understand the services and support available to them.

We will do this by:

  • Integrating veterans within our wider work on social isolation.
  • Expanding the criteria for the Scottish Veterans Fund, to emphasise inclusion and social integration, so that future local projects can be supported.
  • Working with Legion Scotland and other stakeholders to further promote breakfast clubs as positive ways for veterans and their families to integrate.
  • Providing a programme of development for breakfast club volunteers across Scotland to receive formal training on Befriending and Mental Health First Aid.
  • Responding to the Veterans Commissioner’s focus on transition as a key future theme of his work, with an emphasis on how communities in Scotland can best work together to support veterans.
  • Promoting our Welcome to Scotland booklet, as a guide to families settling in Scotland. We will ensure that this resource is updated and promoted widely to Service families, working with the Families Federations and other stakeholders.

Employment, education and skills

Strategy outcome: Veterans enter appropriate employment and can continue to enhance their careers throughout their working lives.

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.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • Employers do not always understand the significant skillsets and personal attributes that veterans can bring to the workplace. Where they do however, employers are benefiting.
  • More could be done to help prepare Service leavers for life after their military service, including options around employment, further education, etc.
  • The specific skills and qualifications gained during Service are not easily translated into civilian equivalents, making it difficult for Service leavers and for employers to fully recognise what the individual has to offer.
  • Spouses and partners can need additional support too, as the mobility which goes with Service life can create difficulties in sustaining stable employment.
  • More data and other evidence would help those supporting Service children’s education better target their support.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Introduce guidance to increase wider understanding of qualifications gained in military service and continue to support the process of translating military qualifications into those civilian employers recognise.
  • Seek to provide clearer pathways for those transitioning out of the Services into employment in Scotland.
  • Encourage further education and training as realistic and accessible options for those leaving the Services.
  • Promote further recognition of skills and experience gained in the Services to employers and the wider community.
  • Develop support for Armed Forces spouses and partners who seek employment or training in Scotland.
  • Continue to work with stakeholders, to promote and support the education needs of Service children in schools.

We will do this by:
Employability Support

  • Ensuring 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; Community Jobs Scotland; Employability Fund; and Fair Start Scotland.
  • Using the Scottish Government’s Veterans Employability Strategic Group to examine how to improve employment opportunities and remove potential barriers for the Armed Forces and veterans community, including their families.
  • Launching the Support for Veterans page on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) website and Infantry Qualifications leaflet created through the Military Qualifications Mapping project led by the SCQF Partnership, working with a range of partners. Through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), we have provided a further £20,000 funding for 2019-2020, supplementing the £20,000 provided in 2018-2019 to extend the work looking at how to map military qualifications against those which are recognised by employers in Scotland. We will continue to fund this valuable work through to 2023. Further outputs will include more guidance on qualifications for different roles, skills profiling and work to ensure more of these qualifications are recognised on the SCQF.
  • Continuing to support the pilot project, where, through partnership between Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Careers Transition Partnership, some Service leavers will be offered careers guidance during their Resettlement training.
  • Continuing to promote the SDS website My World of Work, 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

  • Working with the SFC and key stakeholders, through the SFC-led Veterans Group, to develop a Network of Champions for Further and Higher Education. The Network will provide a single point of contact in each of Scotland’s colleges and universities for veterans, ex-Armed Forces and their families.
  • Promoting 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. This includes supporting the establishment of a Service Children’s Progression Alliance Scottish Hub, led by the Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET) and hosted by Heriot-Watt University. The Hub will champion the progression of children and young people from military families into further and higher education.
  • Supporting SFC’s work to improve access through the use of data analysis, including data in the college sector SFC began collecting in academic year 2017-18 about veterans. SFC have also arranged with Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the inclusion of a field in the 2021-2022 Student Return to identify Service leavers in the university sector. Once the data is gathered and returned in the wider HESA record, SFC will be able to consider veterans’ representation, success rates, and how many are supported by articulation and other routes such as the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP).

Support for families

  • Supporting the development of a Co-working Hub in Helensburgh to support families based in Faslane. This follows the model of the Leuchars Co-working Hub, which was the first hub in the Military Co-working Network, and we will consider if the model could be further extended to other areas.
  • Contributing to the Forces Families Jobs website, providing links to adverts on the Work For Scotland website.
  • Expanding the criteria for the Workplace Equality Fund, to incorporate the Armed Forces community, including veterans and spouses.
  • 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.

Specific pathways

  • Working with the Careers Transition Partnership to provide work placements in Scottish Government for individuals transitioning from the Armed Forces.
  • Continuing to develop the NHS Careers website, which provides information for people looking into a career in NHS. We are exploring ways that we can provide dedicated information and resources for veterans. For example, the website features “Career Stories” and we will look to highlight case studies from NHS employees who served in the Armed Forces.
  • Supporting Police Scotland’s aim 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 the Service leaver community, to understand the best way to encourage and support them to apply for Scottish Government jobs.
  • Ensure that Scotland’s Apprenticeship suite of offerings will continue to be promoted to Early Service Leavers, veterans and their families.
  • Continuing to support the relationships between GTCS and the Armed Forces to overcome barriers that may be experienced by Service personnel interested in pursuing a teaching career in Scotland. The GTCS have introduced Provisional Conditional Registration for teachers who have appropriate previous experience.
  • Supporting the University of Strathclyde to develop an articulation route that allows Service leavers with HND qualifications to enter initial teacher education programmes.
  • Working with SDS to provide £60,000 to a consortium led by SaluteMyJob to deliver a pilot project to upskill/reskill veterans and spouses into Cyber Security jobs, between January and April 2020.

Service Children’s Education

  • Working with Local Authorities, schools and other stakeholders to deliver another event for practitioners and MOD personnel to share good practice around supporting Armed Forces children, and their families, in schools.
  • Sharing practitioner resources and case studies of supporting Armed Forces children, on Education Scotland’s National Improvement Hub.
  • In line with Education Scotland’s self-evaluation framework, ‘How Good is Our School’, encouraging schools and Local Authorities to use data to help deliver improvements for Armed Forces children and young people.
  • Seeking, with support from the MOD’s Directorate Children and Young People, opportunities to build on the research base in Scotland on Armed Forces children and families’ school education experiences.

Finance and debt

Strategy outcome: Veterans leave the Armed Forces with sufficient financial education, awareness and skills to be financially
self-supporting and resilient.

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.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • There is insufficient focus on managing money during the transition process for Service leavers.
  • Awareness about the support and benefits available in Scotland could be improved, especially with the changing landscape of devolved benefits.
  • There are resources available to support those in financial difficulty, but they are not always readily accessible or easily understood.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Work with MOD to ensure that the financial landscape in Scotland is clearly understood and that sufficient information is made available to Service leavers during their transition.
  • Ensure that the welfare and benefits available to veterans in Scotland are well understood by the veterans community.
  • Ensure that there is no disadvantage in accessing this support as a result of military service.
  • Ensure that there are support tools available for those who are experiencing financial difficulty and that these are made easily accessible and tailored where appropriate.

We will do 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 will be in place prior to Disability Assistance for Working People going live in early 2021.
  • 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. The Scottish Government is 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.
  • Working with veterans organisations to help promote and maximise take-up of benefits.
  • Promoting, with our partners, the Moneyforce website, a programme led by the Royal British Legion that aims to improve the financial capability of the UK Armed Forces by providing money guidance to all those serving in the military and their families.
  • Working with the Money Advice Trust, who, in designing their new guide “How to Deal with Debt” which is due for launch in 2020, will engage with the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP), part of Citizens Advice Scotland, to ensure that the specific needs of the veterans’ community are addressed as appropriate in the guide.
  • Ensuring that veterans stakeholders, including ASAP, are formally consulted as part of the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) Scottish Action Plan for Financial Wellbeing to be launched in 2020.

Health and wellbeing

Strategy outcome: All veterans enjoy a state of positive physical and mental health and wellbeing, enabling them to contribute to wider aspects of society.

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.

The Scottish Veterans Commissioner examined healthcare provision for veterans in depth in his 2018 report Veterans’ health and wellbeing: a distinctive Scottish Approach. The report contained 18 recommendations covering a wide range of issues including physical health, mental health, governance and leadership.

The Scottish Government accepted all the recommendations contained in the report and is committed to taking forward the approaches outlined, which were developed after an extensive period of consultation across the veterans community. Throughout this work, our continuing aim is to ensure the long-term clinical needs of Service personnel and veterans are better understood and supported within the NHS.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • In general, most veterans in Scotland are in good health and there are many excellent organisations in Scotland offering additional support for those who need it.
  • There is a need, particularly among health providers, to understand better the number, location and needs of our veterans with improved evidence and data.
  • Some veterans still do not want to declare their service, for example, to their GP.
  • Mental health support is still a priority, with a need for bespoke support in some cases.
  • Signposting between organisations could be improved, but data protection can be a barrier.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Continue to work to ensure that all veterans and Armed Forces families do not experience disadvantage when accessing health services in Scotland.
  • Continue to focus on mental health as a priority area.
  • Encourage veterans to declare as ex-Service when accessing support.
  • Implement the recommendations of the Veterans Commissioner’s report in full to create the conditions for the Distinctive Scottish Approach to healthcare which the report calls for.

We will do this by:
Collaborative working

  • 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 has set a number of priorities for the Implementation Group to take forward this year, based on recommendations of the Veterans Commissioner’s report. These include: wheelchairs, defining priority treatment, hearing aids and the Scottish Veterans Healthcare Network. The group will also ensure that we create the conditions for achieving the ‘Distinctive Scottish Approach to Veterans Health’ as described by the Veterans Commissioner.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Better data

  • Improving how we collect, hold and use data on veterans’ health. We are engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s Data Driven Innovation Project, and NHS Information Services Division are working with MOD to gather information on veterans’ health. This will enable us to draw up key messages, identify areas of inequality and set metrics to address these.
  • The new Drug and Alcohol Information System (DAISy) will gather key demographic and outcome data on people who engage in drug and alcohol treatment services and a field identifier for veterans has been included. This will provide useful data on the nature and scale of drug misuse among veterans across Scotland.

Access to health services

  • Developing the National Veterans Care Network, which was announced in December 2019. The Network will facilitate the sharing of good practice and expertise across Scotland, as well as adding to the resilience of existing services. A key objective and early priority for the Network will be the development of a Veterans’ Mental Health Action Plan, ensuring it complements Scotland’s 10 year Mental Health Strategy and veterans have parity of care, no matter where they are located in Scotland.
  • Working with hospital and GP surgeries in Scotland to promote the accredited Veteran Aware status for hospitals and GP surgeries in Scotland, awarded to NHS providers who deliver healthcare which is particularly responsive to the needs of veterans. The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh already has this accreditation so we intend to build on this, delivering hospital accreditation across Scotland before moving to surgery level accreditation.
  • 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 Scottish War Blinded, Veterans Scotland and other relevant 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 by Scottish War Blinded. The patient information leaflet that accompanies the Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) Scotland form, also includes contact details for Scottish War Blinded.

Specialist support

  • In partnership with NHS Scotland and Combat Stress, continuing to provide funding of £1.4m per year until 2021 for the provision of a range of specialist and community based services for Veterans resident in Scotland.
  • 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. Between 2017-2020 the Scottish Government has provided a total of £2.4 million to support the Veterans First Point services network. Discussions around funding after 2019-2020 are ongoing.
  • Supporting the Step Into Health programme which promotes and encourage members of the Armed Forces on leaving service to join the NHS. Though primarily an employability initiative, Step into Health will tackle health inequalities by increasing the number of NHS staff who are veterans themselves, acknowledging their forces skill-set as an asset and enabling them to have a shared vocabulary and experience with veteran patients, resulting in improved health outcomes for veterans.

Making a home in civilian society

Strategy outcome: Veterans have a secure place to live either through buying, renting or social housing.

For many veterans, leaving the Armed Forces will be the first time they find a home for themselves. Despite this, veterans as whole are as likely as the general population to own their own home after accounting for age and sex[4], and there is no evidence to suggest veterans are overrepresented amongst homeless applicants[5]. 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.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • The different policies and practices across public, private and 3rd sector housing providers were not always easily understood.
  • More could be done to promote best practice across different housing providers.
  • Homelessness among veterans remains a concern although many stakeholders believe that the public perception of the scale of the problem is disproportionate.
  • There are elements of legislation, particularly around private rented tenancies, that made it more difficult for some charities to provide support for veterans.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Improve the understanding of housing support and provision available.
  • Aim to identify, share and promote best practice wherever possible.
  • Ensure that veterans have good awareness and access to our core housing support programmes.
  • Continue to address the issue of homelessness experienced by veterans.
  • Work with stakeholders to ensure that housing legislation supports the wider veterans population.

We will do this by:

  • Continuing to engage with veterans organisations on our Housing to 2040 vision and route map. This follows our commitment to plan together with stakeholders for how our homes and communities should look and feel in 2040 and the options and choices to get there.
  • Amending legislation so that, from 1 July 2019, where the landlord is a charity providing accommodation to veterans, a private residential tenancy agreement will not apply. This will ensure that veterans specific accommodation in the private rented sector can continue to be used, ensuring that a veteran may be offered temporary accommodation for a period of rehabilitation and training, or permanent accommodation in line with the organisation’s charitable purpose and the needs of the veterans.
  • Considering how we can improve our data, for example through encouraging social landlords to add a veterans question to housing applications forms, and considering the feasibility of adding a question to the Scottish Household Survey and any new rough sleeping data collections that identify veterans.
  • Working with the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Housing Options Scotland and other key housing stakeholders 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. We will also work with these partners and veterans’ organisations such as Veterans Housing Scotland, where appropriate,
    to identify and promote good practice in veterans housing with social landlords.


  • Improving guidance available. For example, in September 2019 we published refreshed Local Housing Strategy guidance which encourages Local Authorities to fully consider the housing requirements of the Armed Forces community. The guidance has also been strengthened to encourage appropriate engagement with relevant organisations, such as Veterans Scotland, to better understand the needs of the Armed Forces community when developing Local Housing Strategies. The Scottish Government expects all Local Authorities to review and report annually on progress with delivery of Local Housing Strategy outcomes.
  • Promoting the publication recently produced by Poppyscotland and its partners, Housing in Scotland – A Best Practice Guide, which provides guidance for social housing providers on how they can best support the Armed Forces and veterans community.
  • Improving the advice for social landlords on allocations for those leaving the Armed Forces through the Social Housing Allocations Guidance. We published Social Housing Allocations in Scotland – A Practice Guide in February 2019, which provides clarity for social landlords about giving priority to Service leavers and on ensuring that ex-Service personnel are not at a disadvantage when applying for social housing due to time spent outwith an area. The guidance also reinforces the need for social landlords to have clear information and housing options in place for all applicants, including veterans.


  • 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 £4.5 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 helped over 600 people, with 75 new referrals in 2018-19.
  • Continuing to improve action on preventing homelessness through the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan and Veterans Pathway. As part of the work as a follow up to the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group’s final recommendations we are committed to developing a pathway in 2020 to prevent homelessness for veterans. We recognise that veterans are at high risk of homelessness and will work with relevant stakeholders, including MOD, Local Authorities and third sector partners to develop the pathway.

Veterans and the law

Strategy outcome: Veterans leave the Armed Forces with the resilience and awareness to remain law-abiding civilians.

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.

During our consultation, stakeholders told us that:

  • Whatever their reasons for falling into the criminal justice system, veterans needed support to help their rehabilitation.
  • Early Service leavers, including those administratively discharged, often needed additional support.
  • More could be done to identify vulnerable personnel, to ensure that appropriate agencies were aware of their needs as the individuals left Service.

Going forward, the Scottish Government and its partners will therefore:

  • Continue to work with our partners in the justice system to support veterans who need it.
  • Look to improve the data and evidence we hold about the experiences of veterans within the justice system.
  • Consider the specific needs of veterans within our wider policies on rehabilitation.

We will do this by:

  • Working with MOD and the Defence Transition Services to ensure that those who are most vulnerable receive support and advice early on, to prevent negative outcomes.
  • 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 the project being piloted by the Governor at HMP Glenochil, to mirror a “breakfast club” approach” to encourage ex-Service prisoners to socialise in the prison community.
  • 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 activities 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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