Support for the Veterans and Armed Forces Community 2023

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.

Key Themes

Community and Relationships

Integration into local communities

The Scottish Veterans Fund continues to provide funding to a number of projects which support veterans to integrate into the local community, such as On Course Foundation’s project of networking and employment skills through golf events or Thistle Health and Wellbeing’s Meaningful Connections project for veterans severely impacted by long term conditions.

Welcome to Scotland

An updated version of Welcome to Scotland was published in April 2023 following extensive consultation with the Armed Forces and Families Federations as well as third and public sector organisations to ensure that the guide is both up to date and contains the most important information for personnel and their families ahead of relocation to Scotland.

Social Isolation

The Social Isolation and Loneliness Delivery Plan ‘Recovering Our Connections’ was published on 8 March 2023. It outlines a range of actions across Scottish Government which will help tackle social isolation and loneliness. Included in the plan is a commitment to “engage with veterans’ organisations and make use of available data and outcomes to better identify how we can support the Armed Forces community to strengthen social connections”. Actions in the Plan will be taken forward with the support of the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group over the life of the Plan until 2026.

Underrepresented Groups

Fighting with Pride have been funded through the Scottish Veterans Fund to support LGBT+ veterans in accessing services and to develop organisations’ understanding of the needs of the LGBT+ veterans community. Future grant awards to veterans organisations will require LGBT+ kitemarking to ensure that they have appropriate policies in place to support them.

We welcomed the publication of the independent LGBT Veterans Review and its two suggestions for Scotland.

Employment, Education and Skills

Employability Initiatives

We, through phase two delivery of No One Left Behind (NOLB), continue to offer employment support services for those facing significant challenges when leaving the Armed Forces, providing tailored individual wrap-around support which some Service leavers may need. This can be holistic support as well as employability services support.

Through employability support, the key aim of the work is to ensure that veterans and those leaving the Armed Forces are able to access the full and extensive range of support in Scotland, much of which is delivered through Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs) at local authority level. We continue to work with LEPs to ensure that veterans remain a priority group.

Veterans Employability Strategic Group

During 2022 and into 2023 we conducted a light-touch review of the Veterans Employability Strategic Group to determine the most appropriate areas of focus and its membership. This work continues and we are working closely with partners and stakeholders to ensure a coordinated, collaborative approach which reduces duplication of effort and, ultimately, results in the best possible employment and skills-related outcomes for veterans and their families.

Skills and Qualifications Mapping

We provided additional funding in 2022-23 for the continued development of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership’s (SCQFP) military skills discovery tool which was formally launched at Edinburgh Castle in early 2023 with stakeholders from across the veterans community in attendance.

The tool was further developed to include over 40 new military job roles ensuring a wider range across all three of the Services. The SCQFP is also training personnel from organisations supporting veterans and those in the Armed Forces in understanding the tool so they can better support those individuals in identifying their skills. SCQFP and Skills Development Scotland are also working on a joint plan to promote and use the tool more widely.

Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) continues to work with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) to build on the existing Memorandum of Understanding and refer new employers to them, for example Allied Vehicles, which is now advertising their opportunities on the CTP job board. Furthermore, SDS is working with employers to promote the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (DERS) and the Capitalising on Military Talent toolkit.

SDS also continues to engage closely with veterans organisations, for example through their involvement in Poppyscotland’s Advance to Work course, which has helped participants with their career management skills, employability and to identify their meta-skills. Furthermore, SDS has introduced Career Information Advice and Guidance services into the Drumfork Community Centre in Helensburgh and, although available to the whole community, is utilised heavily by the spouses, partners and families of Serving personnel at nearby HMNB Clyde.

SDSMy World of Work landing page for veterans and the Armed Forces community continues to be promoted widely and during Scotland’s Careers Week in 2022, SDS showcased the page to veterans and their families. The website has also been promoted with partners including at the Poppyscotland Advance to Work course.

Armed Forces and Veterans Community Group

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC)-led Armed Forces and Veterans Community Group (AFVCG) continues to meet three times per academic year to discuss educational support for the Armed Forces community in Scotland. The group includes representation from Higher and Further Education, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, MOD, veterans charities, Skills Development Scotland, the Families Federations and the Scottish Government. The Group continues to work closely with the MOD and CTP to improve the Enhanced Learning Credits offering and has improved its understanding of the needs and views of institutions and Service personnel.

Scottish Armed Forces Evidence-Research

A proposal to establish a Scottish Military Research Hub was approved in October 2022 and two gatherings have since taken place this year to determine the hub’s membership (including Scottish universities, MOD, NHS, Charities, Association of Directors of Education Scotland and the Scottish Veterans Commissioner’s office) and agree its priorities. The hub is now called Scottish Armed Forces Evidence-Research (SAFER).


The HE:FE Veterans Champions Network has been rebranded ADVANCE with a small working group established to ensure it is able to offer briefing sessions to the right people to promote HE and FE as a viable option for veterans. Three presentations have been delivered this academic year with strong links developed with the three Family Federations and Association of Directors of Education Scotland to deliver further presentations in academic year 2023-24.

Scottish Government Employment

We remain committed to increasing the number of veterans we employ and continue to explore a number of ways to achieve this including through the Going Forward into Employment (GFIE) programme and Guaranteed Interview Scheme, which was introduced this year and gives veterans the best possible chance of securing an interview when applying for Scottish Government jobs, provided they meet the minimum criteria. There are now over 100 self-declared veterans working within the Scottish Government

We had a stand at the CTP Careers Fair at Murrayfield in April 2023 where we had the opportunity to engage with Armed Forces personnel, Service leavers, veterans and families to discuss the type of roles within the Scottish Government, where to find them and how to apply. Feedback on the day and afterwards highlighted the popularity of our jobs and a desire to work in the Civil Service.

Additionally, links to our jobs and information on Skills Development Scotland continues to be made available on the Forces Families Jobs website. This was also promoted in this year’s Welcome to Scotland publication.

NHS Employment

The Supporting Armed Forces Employment (SAFE) Programme was established in October 2022 and has recruited a small team, defined its function and is building relationships and networks. The programme will unite and enhance NHS Scotland’s efforts to attract, engage and nurture the Armed Forces Community in gaining employment across health and social care roles. The programme’s audience includes those still Serving, reservists, veterans, spouses and dependants of Serving personnel. It will be delivered through a range of activities including: enhancing the Armed Forces pages on the NHSCareers website; delivering a national engagement programme; insight events delivered by health boards; and increased communications and engagement between health boards and the Armed Forces community. SAFE will seek to design bespoke pathways for those holding medical qualifications and those looking to upskill. The work undertaken by SAFE will amplify wider NHS Scotland messaging around the attraction of working in health and social care and presenting NHS Scotland as an employer of choice for the Armed Forces.

Police Scotland Employment

To commemorate Armistice Day 2022, Police Scotland’s Annual National Forum of Veterans Champions took place at the Scottish Police College, which included 36 of Police Scotland’s Veterans Champions from across the country, the Scottish Veterans Commissioner, and a number of Armed Forces charity organisations.

In support of the Armed Forces Covenant, Police Scotland’s Positive Action Team has continued to actively support veterans and Service leavers going through the Police Officer recruitment process. Each veteran that registers their interest for the role of Police Officer is contacted by a current Officer to offer support. Information on the recruitment process is shared with the veteran/Service leaver and they are offered the opportunity to attend an online information session, hosted by the Positive Action Team. In the last year, eight online events have taken place for 140 attendees. Members of the Positive Action Team have also attended national career events hosted by the Career Transition Partnership.

Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group (SAFESG)

The Scottish Armed Forces Education Support Group (SAFESG) continues to take a lead in developing and supporting best practice for Armed Forces Children and Young People. The group has expanded its membership to include the Forces Families Federations.

The SAFESG has also contributed to the ongoing discussions around HE/FE funding policy and has provided case studies illustrating the issues affecting Armed Forces Children and Young People. The group has also considered progress against the Selous recommendations and has highlighted some areas for further development, including the use of data.

National Education Officer

We have provided short-term funding to continue the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES) National Education Officer (NEO) Role which is responsible for children and young people of Armed Forces families in Scottish schools and other settings. The NEO provided local authorities with comprehensive guidance and support on the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant legislation to improve understanding of the new duty. We will work with the NEO and local authorities to consider the impact of the Covenant duty in 2024.

We will consider opportunities to develop the use of data gathering on Armed Forces Children and Young People, building on the work done by the ADES NEO. The 2022 ADES dataset indicated a spread of Armed Forces Children and Young People across Scotland and additional work will be undertaken to consider how this data can be utilised to improve the support offered to these learners.

Finance and Debt

Signposting and Entitlement to Devolved Benefits

As we reported last year, the application form for Adult Disability Payment 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 also continue to work 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 they are entitled to. We hold regular discussions with the Ministry of Defence to ensure there is consistency in the messaging provided to veterans. Furthermore we continue to 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)

During 2023, Social Security Scotland hosted two events with Veterans Welfare Rights Advisors. At these events we explained the benefits we deliver, including our disability benefits. We provided contact details of Social Security Scotland’s Local Delivery Relationship Leads; we have local delivery staff in every local authority area who provide support to clients in completing forms and providing information about our benefits.

Social Security Scotland also ran over 60 online roadshows to promote our new Adult Disability Payment and invited representatives from organisations supporting veterans to attend, ask questions and provide feedback. British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association (BLESMA) participate in Social Security Scotland’s internal groups and have provided advice and feedback on processes and services to ensure our services are inclusive and remove any barriers veterans may experience.

Our local delivery teams have met with key groups in local areas including the use of community bases shared with the Soldiers’, Sailors’, and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA), visiting Scottish Veterans Residencies in Edinburgh and Sight Scotland Veterans at Linburn. We also regularly engage with Sight Scotland Veterans and other veterans organisations in the Highlands and Islands, who have also attended our information events.

Our local delivery teams in Aberdeen and Moray have met with veteran support groups in shared outreach spaces where they have shared information about Scottish benefits and local delivery support. Fife’s local delivery team is also based at Leuchars Station Community Centre on a fortnightly basis, providing a venue for people to receive face-to-face support to apply for our payments.

Health and Wellbeing

Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group

The Armed Forces Personnel & Veterans Health Joint Group includes stakeholders from across the public and third sector and continuously seeks to expand this network and form new connections.

During the Strategic Oversight Group meeting in May 2023, it was agreed that the Joint Group has delivered positive impact to the veterans and Armed Forces community and the Group’s programme of work for 2023 will build on this progress. For example, the Armed Forces and Veterans General Practice Recognition Scheme has been piloted with a view to launching it nationally in Autumn. Building on this, the Group will explore the requirements to expand this to secondary care settings. Similarly, the Group is considering how the work on identifying veterans within Primary Care records, as outlined in the letter issued by the National Clinical Director, can follow through in other healthcare settings.

The principles and vision for the Scottish Veterans Treatment Pathway (SVTP) have been agreed by the working group, which brought together a range of individuals involved with veterans’ health, including NHS Armed Forces Champions and the Third Sector. The Group will work on the implementation of the SVTP throughout 2023.

NHS Champions

We continue to host quarterly NHS Champions meetings which are an effective forum for Champions to discuss local activity and consider any commonality of approach to national initiatives. We shared the statutory guidance on the Covenant Duty with our Champions network, who discussed how, as individual Boards, they might take this forward and implement the guidance and share best practice. The formal Champions meetings also enable guest speakers to provide an update on activity that may be of interest and contributes to the health of veterans and Armed Forces families, this has included the lead for the NHS Supporting Armed Forces Employment Programme.

Health Data

A letter from the National Clinical Director was issued to all General Practice leads recommending some basic steps which General Practices can undertake to help identify their veteran and Armed Forces community patients. As part of the Armed Forces and Veterans General Practice Recognition Scheme, the registration form includes some questions around the experience and understanding of providing healthcare to the veterans and Armed Forces community. This information will help shape future scheme content and feed into other initiatives. Representatives from the Scottish Government are members of the Steering Board from the James Lind Alliance, which is exploring where health and wellbeing research should be focussed to make the biggest impact on the lives of the veterans and Armed Forces community.

Drug and Alcohol Information System (DAISy)

On 27 June 2023 Public Health Scotland published ‘Drug and Alcohol Information System: Overview of Initial Assessments for Specialist Drug and Alcohol Treatment 2021-22 and 2022-23’. This is an official statistics release which reported that in 2021-22, 3% of people starting treatment for substance use reported having ever served in the Armed Forces, with a further 3% not wishing to answer. For those that reported serving, 40% of veterans reported a length of service between one and four years, and 48% reporting serving five years or more.

The data from the DAISy will be incorporated into our Veterans Strategy monitoring framework and help us to better understand the impact of alcohol and drug use on veterans and how we, and other stakeholders, might better support veterans who have an alcohol or drug problem.

Veteran Mental Health & Wellbeing Action Plan

We are working with the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Implementation Board and the Implementation Team, hosted by Combat Stress, on developing a new Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Scotland pathway. The aim of this work is to implement the principles of the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan and to improve access to mental health services for veterans across Scotland. The Implementation Team is currently developing a plan for the new pathway.

The veterans mental health anti-stigma campaign, developed by See Me, was launched on 29 November 2022, at Edinburgh Waverley Station. The campaign, titled The Guard, included recordings of veterans’ stories of dealing with mental health problems, pictures of veterans displayed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and a short podcast series. To date, See Me recorded 609 listens to veterans’ stories and almost 3000 visits to the campaign’s website.

Raising awareness of veterans’ health issues

The pilot version of the Armed Forces and Veterans General Practice Recognition Scheme was launched in December 2022 and ran until April 2023. The pilot scheme was trialled in practices across nine Health Board areas. The pilot included a learning programme aimed at both clinical and non-clinical staff working in General Practices, and a registration form that provided some insight into current levels of awareness.

A report was produced and shared with members of the Joint Group, the NHS Armed Forces Champions and participating General Practices. We have gathered feedback from the Practices that took part and are using this to further shape the content and approach to the scheme ahead of the national launch, anticipated for Autumn 2023. We have shared initial analysis of the pilot with the Implementation Group, NHS Armed Forces Champions and participating practices and are exploring how this scheme can be further developed to support staff in secondary care.

Combat Stress and Veterans First Point

We are providing £1.4m of funding to Combat Stress to deliver veterans mental health services across Scotland in 2023-24. Combat Stress has recently opened new premises in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Additionally, we are providing £658,633 worth of funding to the six Veteran First Point centres in 2023-24. The local health boards have agreed to match fund this award.

Collaborative Working

We have ongoing engagement with our partners across the UK including with the UK Departments of Health and Ministry of Defence Partnership Board, OVA, Health of our Service Families Working Group and the other Devolved Governments. These meetings not only help to facilitate wider stakeholder engagement and opportunities for collaborative working but enable us to more effectively direct to appropriate specific policy areas within Scottish Government. For example, we have been involved in supporting the development of a UK-wide health and wellbeing guide for Armed Forces families and have assisted MOD to connect with the appropriate Pharmacy policy leads to facilitate a piece of work in relation to prescriptions for serving personnel. The November Partnership Board meeting is being hosted in Scotland, which will further strengthen these connections.

Improving Accessibility

We regularly review the content of the NHS Inform pages for veterans and recognise that veterans, their families and health and social care staff all access the website. We therefore anticipate additional updates to the webpages to include information about the General Practice scheme and, when launched, information on Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Scotland.

As part of the Health of our Services Families Working Group, a guide for Armed Forces families is currently being developed, which will cover access to health and wellbeing services across England, Scotland and Wales. Furthermore, we are currently considering the use of digital signposting and self-help tools to further support members of the veterans and Armed Forces community and healthcare professionals to access relevant local services.

Making a Home in Civilian Society

Affordable Housing Supply Programme

Funding can be made available through our Affordable Housing Supply Programme to deliver homes specifically for veterans where Local Authorities identify this as a strategic priority.

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 2022 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. It is hoped a full review of thresholds will go ahead in late 2023 to identify if there are any changes required at that point.

Housing Options Scotland

We continue to support Housing Options Scotland which includes the Military Matters project amongst the services it provides. Military Matters focuses on housing issues affecting people serving in the Armed Forces in Scotland, UK service personnel transitioning into civilian life in Scotland and veterans. The service offers help to find the right home in the right place. Since it began in 2012, Military Matters has helped almost 1,300 people. In 2022-23 the project received 271 new referrals.

Veterans Homelessness

We know that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. As stated in Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership – A fresh start (published 18 April 2023), by 2026 we will have delivered legislation on the new prevention of homelessness duties, subject to the agreement of parliament.

We remain committed to developing and implementing prevention pathways for groups at particular risk of homelessness, in line with the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendations. To date, five prevention pathways have been developed, including one for veterans.

We are continuing to raise the profile of veterans housing and homelessness with organisations including SFHA and CoSLA, encouraging partners to consider veterans housing issues and raise them as appropriate. We have also published a Scottish Government housing options guide which provides information on the range of options available to veterans and service leavers including when applying for social housing in Scotland and revised the social housing allocations practice guidance, to include a specific section on Armed Forces and veterans to help landlords consider their needs in their allocations polices. In addition we have worked with the OVA on cross-UK veterans homelessness projects including Op Fortitude and the Veterans Capital Housing Fund to ensure Scotland’s interests are represented.

We remain committed to developing and implementing prevention pathways for groups at particular risk of homelessness, in line with the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendations. To date, five prevention pathways have been developed, including one for veterans.

In addition, we have worked with the OVA on cross-UK veterans homelessness projects including Op Fortitude and the Veterans Capital Housing Fund to ensure Scotland’s interests are represented.

Cross-UK Working

Since the announcement of the UK Government’s Op FORTITUDE in December 2022, which will enable veterans at risk of homelessness to access supported housing and wrap-around specialist care in health, housing and education, we have been liaising with the Office for Veterans' Affairs to better understand how the programme will impact on Scotland, how it will utilise data from Scotland and how it will ensure projects navigate the different policy and legislative landscapes across each of the nations.

We have also contributed to the development of a UK-wide Veterans Housing Capital Fund. £20 million in capital funding was announced in the Spring UK Budget for veterans housing and accommodation over three years. This is a UK-wide fund and will be administered by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust on behalf of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs. Development of the fund is still in its infancy and we will continue to work with the UK Government and other partners as the work progresses.

Veterans and the Law

Veterans in Custody Support Officers (VICSOs) and Scottish Prison Service

We continue to engage with the network of VICSOs and have been invited to attend the annual VICSO meeting for the past two years. In addition, we continue to have good relationships with the Scottish Prison Service and discuss regularly how we can better understand and support research into the veterans population in Scottish prisons.

We 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. With the introduction of a veterans question to Scotland’s 2022 Census, this analysis will be refreshed and enhanced following release of the Census veteran results in Summer 2024. We are also in contact with relevant stakeholders, including the Scottish Prison Service, academics and the UK Government (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.

The Veterans Minister visited HMP Shotts in September where he met with a number of veterans in custody to hear about their experiences. In addition, the Minister unveiled a new painting at the entrance to the prison's Remembrance area.


This year we have re-engaged with SACRO as they consider how best to re-invigorate their Veterans Mentoring Service Strategic Oversight Group, of which we were previously a member.

Police Scotland

Police Scotland’s long standing internal programme of Veterans Champions continues and more have been appointed throughout Scotland this year. Their primary role continues to be promoting the bespoke referral mechanism with the Armed Services Advice Project. In addition, several policing divisions have developed close working relationships with third sector organisations. For example, 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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