Changing Communities

With more ageing, migration, and mass unemployment all impacting, the speed of change in local society accelerates: Some adapt but others are marginalised.

Perhaps faster than at any other point over the past 50 years, many UK communities are changing in multiple ways all at the same time – in their demographics, economy, and structure. As such, “people are facing a dramatic shift in their standard of living.”

Changes such as ageing populations, as well as more internal migration, are set to further strain social cohesion, with increased unemployment expected as the economic consequences of Covid19 are played out. Several see that “the speed of change in local society over the decade may well be greater than previously.” A number highlight that “housing will be a particularly significant problem.”

This is causing concern, as communities adapt to the new normal. In particular, those areas which suffer significant deprivation may feel disenfranchised, and become vulnerable to extremist organisations. Furthermore, from an Armed Forces perspective, some are concerned about the potential for some veterans to be influenced by and join, far-right organisations. Indeed, we heard that “the mobilisation of the extreme right wing is seen as the biggest threat to UK security.” Significant effort may be needed to protect vulnerable individuals from becoming engaged in extreme right-wing activity – particularly, perhaps, those with a military background. “You have people coming out of the forces who are battle trained with capability and skills that could cause bigger harm.”

The picture is not entirely bleak. We also heard that over the next decade we might see that communities adopt “a more engaged humane approach. There will be empathy to be able to do more wherever there is a crisis taking place, as a consequence of Covid19.” Certainly, while these trends vary from one neighbourhood to another, it is evident that, for those returning home after a period away, there will be a very different feel to when they left, which may make fitting back in less straightforward than expected. Increased competition for jobs will not help, and those who are less able to communicate the benefits and skills gained from an Armed Forces career may suffer. “There is a risk that the Armed Forces may continue a trend of being a minority class within society, that operates in increasingly different ways from the mainstream. As they become proportionally smaller, there is always the risk that they could become a ‘caste apart’ – they could get out of step.” For transitioning personnel, identifying ways to address this challenge should be made a priority.

An Implication: Helping those in transition to actively participate in the wider community reduces real or perceived barriers after a period in the military.





I do worry that we are increasingly thinking that for the military to be accepted by society we need to somehow be more like society in all respects. I question that. In some respects, it does, for example inclusivity and other social attributes, but in other ways, for example personal qualities there is a demand from society to be different, indeed if it is not, then what is the point?

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Thank you for this comment - it's helpful to hear different perspectives and, as we are now writing up the final report for this project, your thoughts will be included


The demographics of the veteran population will also change dramatically over the next ten years. The majority of vets are currently >70. This will not be the case in 2030.


In the North East it is not the community that finds it hard to assimilate / absorb veterans, but the veterans themselves finding it hard to come back.