Support for the Veterans and Armed Forces Community 2022

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.

Finance and Debt

Signposting and Entitlement to Devolved Benefits

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

Adult Disability Payment launched in August this year. The application form asks clients about their possible entitlement to Armed Forces Independence Payment, War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement and War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance. Where appropriate, clients are then directed to Veterans UK for further advice. We have also worked with Veterans UK to develop an information sharing process between the organisation and Social Security Scotland. This is intended to ensure that veterans can efficiently access the support to which they are entitled.

We hold regular discussions with Veterans UK and the Ministry of Defence to ensure there is consistency in the messaging provided to veterans. Furthermore, as part of our stakeholder communications plan, we ensure that third party organisations, including those that support veterans, understand the overlaps and are in a position to adequately advise and assist veterans during their interactions with Social Security Scotland or the UK Government agencies administering reserved benefits.

Social Security Scotland (SSS)

SSS is continuing to work towards making the organisation more communication inclusive and has recently completed a full review of its progress towards implementation of its legal and organisational commitments.

Throughout 2022, SSS has held monthly service design workshops with its Inclusive Communication External Stakeholder Reference Group who provide expert comment and advice to make sure SSS’ services are designed inclusively. The British Limbless ex-Serviceman Association (BLESMA) are members of this group.

Social Security Scotland continues to incorporate Seldom Heard Voices, which includes veterans, within its strategic stakeholder engagement. In the lead up to changes to Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grants, SSS ensured that stakeholder organisations working with veterans and their families were included in planned communications activity.

Social Security Scotland are collaborating with the Department of Work and Pensions on an event for Armed Forces Champions based within Scotland, to promote all the benefits currently delivered by Social Security Scotland with a specific focus on Adult Disability Payment. SSS are also in the early stages of discussing a bespoke event for the Veterans Welfare Service in Scotland, working alongside the Department of Work and Pensions to build greater awareness and understanding of the benefits delivered by our organisations and promoting the take up of Social Security Scotland benefits.

Health and Wellbeing

Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group

Significant progress has been made on the priorities of the Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group (the Joint Group) which were set last year. However, due to the ongoing pandemic-related pressures on the NHS, we have been unable to complete some of these projects. It was therefore agreed at the recent meeting of the Strategic Oversight Group (SOG) in May 2022 that progress is continued on much of the work that was started last year. As a result, the focus for the year ahead is on the following areas: General Practice Armed Forces and Veterans’ Recognition Scheme; identification of veterans within Primary Care; and progressing work on developing a Scottish Veterans’ Treatment Pathway.

NHS Champions

The NHS Champions’ Network meetings have been reconvened and now meet every 3 months. The Network meetings provide an opportunity to share areas of common interest and to create a forum for updating on pertinent policy developments. The expertise that Champions have around health services and the Military provides a unique perspective, and there are Champions attached to our Joint Group priorities.

Health Data

We are working with a General Practice in Fife to improve the consistent coding of veterans. It is exploring ways to encourage veterans within the practice to self-identify that they have served in the Armed Forces. In addition, as highlighted earlier, the veterans Census question is included in the Scottish Health Survey which will improve our understanding of veterans’ health.

Drug and Alcohol Information System (DAISy)

Since DAISy was implemented, Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland (PHS) have worked together alongside local areas to ensure the data it gathers is robust and useful. We have devised a set of research questions to understand how many veterans are presenting to treatment services, the nature of their drug use and what outcomes they are experiencing. This data will help us to better understand the impact of alcohol and drug use on veterans and how we might better support veterans who have an alcohol or drug problem.

Veteran Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan

The Veteran Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan published in December 2021. It identified three core principles for future services: Equal access to service, clear and timely pathways to correct help and improved support to providers. At the debate held in the Scottish Parliament on 1 March 2022, The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans and the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care agreed these core principles. The Scottish Government has now established an Implementation Board for the Plan, chaired by Dr Charles Winstanley. The Board will report to the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care on a quarterly basis.

The Action Plan identified the need to establish systems and structures that deliver on the core principles across Scotland. These will provide consistency of service quality, effective communication, and clear data on needs and trends. Progress to date is as follows: Discussions are taking place with each NHS Health Board to identify need and potential local contribution to the new service; the post of ‘Navigator’ in each Health Board is being developed, which will be able to triage veterans to the appropriate service; See Me is developing a campaign to address the barriers veterans have in accessing mental health help. A name and a brand identity for the new service is in development.

Raising awareness of veterans’ health issues

We have convened a sub-group to take forward the work on raising awareness of issues that may impact veterans’ health. Recognising that the general practice is often the first port of call for health-related issues, we have started to develop training which will also reflect the multi-disciplinary team model found within general practice. As a result, the training is being targeted towards different roles within the practice and will be initially piloted in three Health Board areas. This approach will enable adjustments to be made to the scheme prior to wider roll out to ensure that it has a positive impact for both the patient and the practice.

Combat Stress and Veterans First Point

Funding for Combat Stress is continuing in 2022-23 to deliver veteran mental health services across Scotland. Combat Stress has successfully opened new premises in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Additionally, funding for the six Veterans First Point (V1P) centres is continuing in 2022-23 and the local Health Boards have agreed to match fund this award.

Both Combat Stress and V1P will play an important role in the implementation of the Veteran Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan.

Making a Home in Civilian Society

Housing Needs

We are engaging with Scotland’s Housing Network’s Local Housing Strategy Group to encourage local authorities to identify the housing needs of the veterans and Armed Forces community. This will include local authorities sharing examples of best practice.

Affordable Housing Supply Programme

We continue to provide funding through our affordable housing supply programme to deliver homes specifically for veterans where Local Authorities identify this as a strategic priority.

Case Study: Riverside Scotland – Supporting the provision of affordable and suitable housing for Veteran households

In 2021 Riverside Scotland worked closely with Veterans First Point Ayrshire (V1P) and NHS Ayrshire and Arran to develop a Service Level Agreement, committing each organisation to the provision of new housing and support provision for veteran families, to increase the housing options available to these households, and secure the provision of support to successfully manage and sustain their tenancy in the long term. With the agreement in place, Riverside Scotland has committed more than 10% of new affordable homes at its latest housing developments specifically for military veterans and their families who are being supported by V1P.

In summer 2021 the organisation started work on the second phase of its Tarryholme development in Irvine where it is building 77 new homes on the back of a hugely successful phase 1 development of 87 homes. This project is being delivered with the support of £6 million of Scottish Government funding through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme. Within phase 2, up to ten homes will be allocated to veteran households who are in housing need through the partnership agreement with V1P.

At its second major development, the country’s first large-scale affordable modular housing development, in Dundonald, South Ayrshire, Riverside Scotland housed ten veteran households in the period December 2021-August 2022. This number exceeds its 10% target at Dundonald with 16% of homes on the 63-unit development allocated to veteran households. The Dundonald project was delivered with £4.65 million of grant funding through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme.

Nathan and Lauren Cairns were on the South Ayrshire waiting list for 7 years and moved into a three-bed house at Dundonald in January 2022.

Lauren said, “Nathan served in the infantry and on leaving the army we were faced with the difficulty of finding a permanent home. We moved into a small two-bedroom top floor flat. Our son and daughter were sharing a room and we didn’t have any outdoor space. We couldn’t even open the windows fully.

“We were absolutely thrilled when we were allocated a new modular home. We’ve been here six months and it’s safe to say it has improved and transformed all aspects of our life significantly. It’s so much more peaceful than the flat, the kids love playing in the garden and we know they are safe. Our home is so light and spacious – such a contrast to before. It’s given Nathan a chance to breathe and we are enjoying the lovely countryside views – we absolutely love it!

“We really appreciate the support from Riverside Scotland, South Ayrshire Council and Veterans First Point in getting us to our happy place.”

Open Market Shared Equity Scheme

Open Market Shared Equity Scheme continues to classify veterans as a priority access applicant group who do not need to be first time buyers to qualify for support. In August changes were made to the scheme to reflect market conditions, permitting offers over valuation and also an interim uplift of scheme thresholds by 9% to reflect the sharp increase in house prices. The full review of thresholds will go ahead in December 2022 to identify if there are any changes required at that point.

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 over 1000 people in total. In 2021-2022, the service received 207 new referrals.

Veterans Homelessness

The Veterans Homelessness Prevention Pathway was published on 25 January 2022 and we have accepted all 24 recommendations in principle.

Official national homelessness statistics in Scotland, published on 18 August 2022, show that during 2021-22, 639 (out of 28,882) households assessed as homeless had a household member that was formerly a member of the armed forces (2% of all households assessed as homeless). These statistics show a decrease of 7% compared to 2020-21 (685 out of 28,042).

Veterans and the Law

Veterans in Custody Support Officers (VICSOs)

The Scottish Government attended the VICSO meeting at HMP Castle Huntly in May where we highlighted the work we are doing to support veterans in Scotland and discuss how we can better support the work of the VICSOs, including future attendance at a Breakfast Club event. Furthermore, we are working with the MOD to support the VICSOs to raise awareness of their work within the Armed Forces.

Scottish Prison Service

We continue to have good relationships with the Scottish Prison Service and Napier University and discuss regularly how the Scottish Government can support research into the veterans population in prison.

Scottish Government have analysed the Scottish Prison Population Statistics dataset, which includes a veteran marker (derived from prisoners self-declaring on arrival), in order to improve our understanding of the number and characteristics of veterans in prison. The analysis will be refreshed following the release of the latest prison statistics. We are also in contact with relevant stakeholders, including the Scottish Prison Service, academics and colleagues in England and Wales (including Ministry of Justice, Office for Veterans Affairs, Ministry of Defence and academics in Kings College London and Northampton) to keep abreast of research developments on veterans and the justice system, including issues such as the identification of veterans and sexual offending.

Police Scotland

Police Scotland’s long standing internal programme of Veterans Champions continues and more Champions have been appointed throughout Scotland this year. Their primary role continues to be promoting the bespoke referral mechanism with the Armed Services Advice Project. On Friday 11th November 2022 Police Scotland hosted the National Forum of Veterans Champions.

In addition, several policing divisions have developed close working relationships with third sector organisations. For example, charity Who Dares Cares have delivered PTSD awareness sessions throughout Lanarkshire to police officers of all ranks. These sessions have since been extended to City of Edinburgh. The sessions are delivered by a mental health nurse and offers police officers and staff valuable tools to assist those with PTSD.



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