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Holistic Transition

To help ensure a lasting, stable transition, support design moves beyond the basics of employment and housing to include wellbeing and involving the needs of the leaver’s family.

The findings of the ethnographic work, including the transition journey phases, make it abundantly clear that the process of transition is far more than a set of functional transactions, such as finding a home and getting a job, that happen at a single point in time.

In itself, this is not a new foresight. The MOD’s 2019 Defence Holistic Transition Policy, Joint Service Publication, JSP100, is specifically designed to support Service leavers and their families to adjust to other aspects of the transition to civilian life. It aims to complement the existing resettlement policy and the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) to ensure that those in transition consider all aspects of civilian life that may differ from military provision, including housing, health matters, budgeting and life skills. At its heart is the Life Skills training package, which will be delivered to Service personnel and their families throughout their Service career, to allow individuals to make appropriate plans, preparation and informed decisions about their future. As we heard: “The terminology of transition is not helpful. It’s about thinking about life after the military while they are in Service – that’s why we call it Life Skills – these skills are applicable in Service, as well as after.”

This shift in emphasis was seen as an important and very welcome development, but as we heard from participants, a broader shift in culture and focus will be required in order for transition to be truly holistic. For example, the need to view transition as a journey through time. “A cultural change both inside and outside the Armed Forces is required.

We need better preparation to help transitioners and their families plan how they will leave, how they manage their transition and then provide joined-up service provision after they leave.” Another example cited was a need to place more emphasis on self-awareness, and the role and responsibility of the individual for their own behaviour through transition. “It is critical to nurture self-worth and self-determination at the same time as providing support. The Armed Forces are not the God’s gift to the community they think they are. There are too many Service leavers with an arrogance that they think they know how to lead; to do this and that. When I left the Forces, I learned that all behaviour is contextual, and ex-Service people are not always good at changing context. If I could do one thing it would be to start teaching them from day one on how to manage their own behaviour”.

The provision of support to partners and families was also identified by many as an area where more focus over the next decade would be welcome and helpful for situations such as establishing community roots, locating schools for children, and potential employment opportunities for transitioners’ partners. One way of doing this could be to break down any perceived barriers between those who are currently serving and those who have served: “We have long argued that the hard wall between serving and ex-serving people needs to become far more permeable … An almost institutional change is needed to bring the serving and ex-serving communities closer together.”

Identifying the change required is one thing, delivering on it quite another. As one workshop participant put it: “Delivering selflessness to your unit – that is absolutely crucial. We don’t want them to be thinking about transition, we want them to be thinking about the unit. It’s a tension we haven’t quite worked out yet.”

Some believed a much harder line might need to be taken in order to help ensure a more robust and holistic transition, such as compulsory sign-up to relevant training. We heard: “We need to be really mindful of how huge a shift this is for the Armed Forces Community – and trying to get the message from the top all the way down is so hard. At times, the Career Transition Partnership team get highly frustrated by the number of people (i.e. very few) who take up the amazing offer. There isn’t the right attitude across the military to get people to engage. In the future, it has to be compulsory, not an opt in.”

Looking forward, what seems clear is that there will be increased emphasis given to the transition journey of an individual and their family, over time and from an emotional, more inclusive standpoint. Doing so will assist in delivering an easier transition for many.

Example Implication: The Armed Forces formally recognise the value of including all elements of transition as part of its mandated training and development programme.

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