At the FiMT Research Centre conference last week, we received so many great questions that there wasn’t time to cover them all in the designated Q&A sessions. We have submitted the remaining questions to our speakers and on this page will share responses we receive from the speakers.
Session 1 – Scotland: Housing
- Question submitted by Pat Calley: With the shortage of local authority housing and increase in private landlords, is there any provision or some kind of support/incentive for landlords to give priority to veterans for their properties?
Response: There is no incentive that we are aware of. One of the recommendations in the pathway was the creation of a tenancy sustainment service within the Private Rented Sector but no mention of including an incentive.
- Question submitted by Gavin Oxburgh: How many veterans/participants in the research?
For the Homelessness Prevention Pathway, 17 Veterans were interviewed, along with 18 organisations providing housing and support for veterans. We also held a consultation event through Homeless Network Scotland which attracted 60 participants. In respect of academic research, the main Scottish Veterans Health Studies research projects, which looked at the health of veterans in comparison with the wider population, analysed anonymous health data on 57,000 veterans in the 2012 study, and 78,000 veterans in the 2017 study.
- What can the rest of the UK learn from the Scottish approach?
Collaboration, Cooperation and Communication are key.
From Charlie Wallace: Scotland has an advantage in that it is relatively small and so it is easier to make and sustain connections across the spectrum of support for veterans. Trying to do something similar across the whole of England would, I suggest, be almost impossible. I therefore recommend that England concentrates at a more local level to develop similar connections to those we have in Scotland. The key is those connections. They involve everybody from the statutory sector through the third sector to the private sector. It is principally focussed on informing people about the benefits of the military for maximising individual talent which sets the bedrock upon which support for those veterans in need can be built.
- Question submitted by Andy Bacon: Are the more established (older) veterans seeking housing those who were longer serving or short service but delayed housing issues?
In Scottish Veterans Residences’ (SVR) experience of providing accommodation for those at risk of homelessness or those that are homeless, it is a mixture. We don’t routinely review length of service and date of leaving the Armed Forces against the age of the applicant and the date of their application. A review of our data would establish whether there are trends.
For Veterans Housing Scotland, tenancies allocated between 2019 – 2021 (125) show that 31% were in the 31 – 40 age range and 31% were aged 50+. 36% of all allocations left service more 16 years ago. 16% had over 16 years’ service with 40% completing between 0 – 5 years’ service.
- Is there evidence on the levels of support for veterans with physical disabilities versus those without? For example, in relation to housing, transition and mental health support?
Veterans’ housing provision in Scotland, as identified in the Homelessness Prevention Pathway, shows there is more discrete housing provision available for veterans with physical disability than those without. VHS has 656 properties for ‘disabled Veterans’ and Erskine has 4 ‘assisted living apartments’. Haig, SVR and Erskine between them have 369 properties and en-suite rooms for Veterans without physical disability, noting that a number (<10) of SVR’s en-suite rooms and flats have been adapted for Veterans with a physical disability. In view of transition and mental health support, we believe that such support is equally available to both physically disabled and other Veterans.
- Question submitted by Katelyn Sylvester, Boston University: Could you elaborate on why veterans are less likely to have alcohol and drug dependencies?
Neither heavy drinking nor drug use are acceptable within the serving population, and both these topics have been included in mandatory health education programmes for serving personnel for many years. In addition, there is a Compulsory Drug Testing programme whereby random, unannounced testing takes place in barracks and the majority of those who are found to have taken drugs will face disciplinary action and discharge from service. It is plausible that the influence of these programmes remains deeply ingrained in those who have served, even many years after discharge.
- Question submitted by Lauren Godier-McBard, ARU: How do you think that the changing demographic of veterans is going to impact their housing needs?
It is likely that in keeping with the wider aging population, there will be a requirement for more sheltered and very sheltered accommodation. In addition, we are seeing an increase in demand for single person accommodation and in more remote locations.
- Question submitted by Jim McDermott: Is the nature of veterans’ homelessness in Scotland different to that in the rest of the UK, or are there lessons that can be passed on to benefit organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? If so, is there a mechanism for such communication?
In SVR’s experience (and we accommodate Veterans from across the UK) there does not appear to be any difference to the nature of veterans’ homelessness in Scotland and other parts of the UK.
- Are veterans truly more likely to be homeless than the general population?
The Scottish Government statistics show that Veterans are NOT disproportionately likely to experience homelessness. 2.4% of homelessness applications were from veterans in 2020/21. However, Veterans who are homeless are more than likely to be male and older than non-veterans, especially when they reach the age bracket 35+.
They are more likely to have more complex needs, especially in the areas of physical disability (7% vs 4%), general medical conditions (14% vs 8%) and mental health problems (33% vs 27%), and are more likely to have multiple issues than non-veterans (55% vs 51%). They are more likely to have slept rough, although the percentage who have slept rough is still small. They are less likely to have learning disabilities (2% vs 3%) and drug and alcohol dependency than non-veterans (10% vs 12%).
- What is the relevance of the Homeless Veterans campaign? Does this campaign have an impact or feed into stereotypes?
This question would be best answered by the Cobseo Housing Cluster, which has commissioned the research for the No Homeless Veterans Campaign. We can confirm that the main aim of the project, as stated in the research funding application is, “to create an integrated strategy or ‘Roadmap,’ through original research and building upon current research that can prescribe the definitive solution and action plan to address UK veterans’ homelessness for good.”
- Question submitted by Mitali Sakharkar, Boston University: Could you speak about how/if the counsellors/mental health services are catered/adjusted specifically for a veteran population vs a general population, especially in regards to hypnotherapy (in my experience, not a front-line therapy)?
SVR’s onsite counsellors provide counselling that is appropriate to the individual. The mention of hypnotherapy in the presentation was not intended to identify it as a default or front-line therapy, but to illustrate the range of available therapies.
- Question submitted by Catherine @ Queens Uni, Belfast: Is the demographic of ‘middle aged’ veterans becoming prominent because that age range are more likely to answer a survey? Do younger veterans ignore surveys and avoid giving their information (however it is collected)?
Collection of credible and useable survey data is challenging which is why the results of the census will be important. However, the data on service utilisation are not based on surveys and are thus likely to be reliable.
- Question submitted by Dai Williams: Impressive progress in mapping institutional support services for ex-service personnel but social support can be a significant factor in navigating major life transitions: 1) Informal 2) Former service networks e.g. regiment associations 3) Local communities, leisure interests, faith groups etc 4) Important for veterans and family members, partners/children. How is social support included in strategic priorities?
Veterans Housing Scotland has recently introduced a support service that will explore relationships at local levels that create the opportunities for partnership working between social groups and organisations. The Defence Garden Scheme and modelling that was presented by the NI group are of particular interest.
Session 2 – Wales: Criminal Justice System
- Question submitted by Chloe Mackay: Do you think there are still gaps in support for veterans in the CJS in Wales?
Response from Maj Rob Denman: Yes, particularly around dealing with people with profound needs. For example, those with mental health issues or those who are estranged from family.
- Question submitted by Jim McDermott: Veterans are present in the Criminal Justice System on both sides of the cell door. A fairly sizable proportion of prison officers in England are former veterans. Is it the same in Wales?
Response from Maj Rob Denman: Yes it is anecdotally. I would say that the proportion of prison officers who are veterans is slightly higher in Wales. The staff there tend to either stay in Wales throughout their career or gravitate there from other areas of the UK on transfer.
- Post-STOMP, what lessons should be incorporated across the UK Criminal Justice System?
Response from Maj Rob Denman: 1) Early intervention of x-ASP during the custody process. 2) Greater awareness and training of staff. 3) The creation of a forces friendly environment. 4) Innovative use of IT. 5) Forward leaning stakeholder engagement.
- Where can we gain access to Dr Nikki Lloyd Jones’ research reports?
Nikki’s work is available to read on the Hub, including her research report ‘Leaving The Armed Forces and Living as a Civilian‘ and the work Nikki contributed to on ‘Supporting the Transition of Military Personnel’.
- Question submitted by Alex Creamer: Is there any future research considered looking at spouses/partners/families of veterans and their needs and challenges through transition? Specifically using similar methods to the research presented.
Response from Nikki Lloyd Jones: There is a potential for the concept mapping approach to be adopted to identify challenges and prioritise needs as described by the spouses/partners/families of veterans. I think this would be best achieved by using a combination of the following to ensure all had the opportunity to contribute:
1 A mix of online access to the software (technologically savvy with good communication skills)
2 Engaging with groups at meetings (to offer encouragement and support through the process)
3 Through individual engagement (desktop option for those who are less confident and/or may need more guidance)
- What is the definition of being the best place in the world for veterans? That definition is important to lead on the research to make it happen.
Response from Nikki Lloyd Jones: A world where social justice education is core and there is respect for the contributions each person makes to the safety and success of society. (I Iike the John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum approach to social justice).
- Do you have further reports/papers being released soon that relate to what you were discussing in your presentation?
Response from Nikki Lloyd Jones: No, but there are two papers which could be written up if the right journal was identified.