The purpose of this report is to reflect the experiences of the wider veteran community, seek to understand how well served all veterans and their families are by existing services, capture observations and findings, and make outcome focused recommendations to the Scottish Government to support continuous improvement for veterans and their families.

 

Vision and Strategic Priorities

Vision

  • A Scotland where the contributions and sacrifices made by veterans and their families are recognised and appreciated and where all veterans feel valued by society.

 Strategic Priorities

  • Our veterans and their families are empowered to make informed choices to secure positive futures.
  • The diversity of our veteran community is clearly recognised and valued, with support and services accessible to all.
  • Policy makers and service providers will be responsive to need, collaborative in approach and aligned in their efforts to maximise impact.
  • Our communities and employers better understand, value and support veterans as they integrate, contribute, and build fulfilling lives

The strategic context is informed by four key strands.

The Armed Forces Covenant which says that those who serve in the armed forces, veterans, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services, and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, such as the injured and the bereaved. The Armed Forces Act 2021 saw the Armed Forces Covenant strengthened in law. This places a legal obligation on specified public bodies, including health boards and local authorities, to consider the principles of the Covenant when delivering relevant functions.

Renewing our Commitments sets out the Scottish Government ambition ‘to make Scotland the most attractive destination for Service leavers and their families, offering high living standards, great job prospects and a society that respects and values their contribution'.

The joint UK ten-year A Strategy for Our Veterans which aims, by 2028, to see that ‘every veteran feels even more valued, supported, and empowered and never disadvantaged as a result of their Service.’

The Scottish Government refreshed Action Plan published in August 2022, sets out a range of activity intended to respond to the changing needs of veterans and their families and make a positive impact on their lives. That action plan sets out a commitment to: ‘Work with underrepresented groups within the veteran's community in Scotland, to ensure their experiences and needs are more widely understood and supported.’

This report, therefore, has a particular focus on the needs and challenges faced by women veterans, families of veterans, non-UK veterans, the bereaved, and LGBT+ veterans as it is essential to ensure their experiences, needs and circumstances are not overlooked.

A key theme across these strategy documents is that veterans – and by extension their families – should be able to build healthy relationships and integrate into their communities. It is recognised that, for a range of reasons, leaving the armed forces and establishing new relationships within civilian communities can be challenging.

While it is important to understand that everyone is different - in their needs, experiences, circumstances and expectations – everyone should have access to high quality information and support if and when they need it. This may be before, during or after the transition period (however that is defined) and needs may change over time.

The UK and Scottish Veteran Strategies have a range of cross cutting factors that sit at the heart of collective efforts to support veterans and their families, and which are essential to success in developing and delivering high quality services and support. These are:

  • Collaboration
  • Coordination
  • Data
  • Perception
  • Recognition

This report draws on a range of policy reports, evidence, and research publications. Some are specifically referenced while others have provided helpful context and background to the key themes and issues explored.

The report has, however, been informed by listening directly to the experiences of veterans, their families, and the communities and organisations that represent and support them. Hearing first-hand about those experiences – where things work well and where they do not – has been immensely powerful in gaining a sense of the areas where further work is required to improve the support available.

Fifteen focus groups entitled ‘Hearing the Veterans Voice’ were held during 2023. These discussions were either on-line or in person, framed around a specific theme or topic. Other, less formal discussions also took place with individual members of the veteran community. This totalled 22 meetings in all, with over 160 participants.

Veterans Voice forums feedback

Wider engagement activity has taken place throughout 2023 and has also helped inform the recommendations in this report. This has included: attending conferences, speaking engagements and a variety of different events across Scotland and the rest of the UK; meetings with various stakeholders, charities, and armed forces representatives; and discussions with individuals and groups of academics, researchers, volunteers, policy makers and service providers.

Wider engagement statistics

Engagement Events

  • Academia and Research – 14
  • Policy makers and decision takers – 39
  • MOD and Service organisations - 11  
  • Public bodies, service providers and charities – 62
  • Veterans Voice engagements - 22
  • Attending conferences, speaking engagements, other events – 40

 

Acknowledgements

My most sincere thanks go to everyone who has taken the time to share their individual experiences, their research findings, or their professional expertise over the past 12 months. Particularly huge thanks go to Sophia, Virginia and Kent for sharing their stories for this report. I would also like to recognise the valuable support from organisations that facilitated focus groups including: Fighting With Pride, Ria Jackson at the V Word, Blesma The Limbless Veterans, Forces Children Scotland, The RAF Widows Association, Lanarkshire Community Hub, Association of Wrens, Edinburgh & District Branch, Simon Brodie from Orkney Veterans Breakfast Club, Combat Stress Edinburgh, Inverness Military Wives Choir, Allen Gibson from Active Stirling and the Governor and staff of HMP Shotts.

 

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A showcase of artwork by #veterans is set to open at The Scottish Submarine Centre in Helensburgh. Inspired by experiences of war and life after service, the exhibition aims to highlight the positive impact of art on mental health and wellbeing.

Learn more at https://www.submarinecentre.org/
A showcase of artwork by #veterans is set to open at The Scottish Submarine Centre in Helensburgh. Inspired by experiences of war and life after service, the exhibition aims to highlight the positive impact of art on mental health and wellbeing. Learn more at https://www.submarinecentre.org/
13 hours ago
Delighted to be back at ACVC Hub in glasgow yesterday. It was inspiring to see veterans involved in such a wide range of arts and crafts, while enjoying camaraderie and fellowship.
Delighted to be back at ACVC Hub in glasgow yesterday. It was inspiring to see veterans involved in such a wide range of arts and crafts, while enjoying camaraderie and fellowship.
16 hours ago
A great visit to Community Veterans Support to hear about the activities and comradeship veterans can find here. I was delighted to meet some of the Veterans who get together and to get a better understanding of the support and services provided.
A great visit to Community Veterans Support to hear about the activities and comradeship veterans can find here. I was delighted to meet some of the Veterans who get together and to get a better understanding of the support and services provided.
1 day ago
It was a pleasure to visit Glasgow's Helping Heroes this morning, to learn more about the fantastic work they do to support the veteran community. I had the chance to meet some of the veterans they work with and to hear first hand about the positive impact they make.
It was a pleasure to visit Glasgow's Helping Heroes this morning, to learn more about the fantastic work they do to support the veteran community. I had the chance to meet some of the veterans they work with and to hear first hand about the positive impact they make.
1 day ago
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