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Greater emphasis on improved public awareness of the skills developed within the Armed Forces allows for a more aligned transition to civilian life.

As discussed, and detailed further in our ethnography work, landing back into society is a key step for all those transitioning from the Armed Forces. Doing this well is a two-sided coin and requires the veteran and their families to be ready and equipped, with reasonable expectations about how the future may unfold. At its best, it also requires the community to be open to and ready to receive those in transition, recognising all the strengths, qualities and experience they bring – but also appreciative of the difficulties they may face as they transition into the civilian world. As one workshop attendee observed, “The qualities of military personnel are very strong and are likely to fit very well with the future – but they won’t be well understood by those who are receiving them. So those receiving are as critical as those that are in transition. We need to look both at the work we do with people arriving – and also with those who are receiving.”

We frequently heard of the need to prepare communities to receive veterans and those in transition. While this sounds an ambitious goal, much has already been achieved. The 2020 Covenant Annual Report shows that over 6,000 organisations have signed the Armed Forces Covenant, and 800 GP Surgeries are now accredited as ‘Veteran Friendly’. Lessons can also be learned from other countries; in the US, the US Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a Veterans Experience Office, and one of their initiatives, the Community Veteran Engagement Board (CVEB), facilitates collaboration among local veteran-serving organisations. Each CVEB is a community group composed of veterans, advocates, veteran-serving organisations and other civic leaders who collaborate to deliver needed forces to the veteran population. Although they each act autonomously with minimal oversight, best practice is often pooled and shared across the network.

Better communication is vital, and links to the wider foresight on ‘Changing Perceptions.’ Indeed, many in our workshops felt that there was a lack of understanding among ‘receiving’ communities of the values, strengths and assets that military personnel can bring back to the community. Some believed that communicating these benefits to communities in general should be a key focus to help connect things up better in the future. Others felt that prioritising action on those communities that received most transitioning Service men and women would enable limited resources to go further.

Certainly, greater awareness may help identify transitioners and offer them support before they have a crisis. However, identifying who that is can be extraordinarily difficult for the public sector; there simply isn’t enough data, and many choose not to ask for help. Often those who are Early Service Leavers, who in 2020 made up 34%, 31% and 18% of all leavers from the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF respectively, may not even consider themselves to be veterans. Local authorities repeatedly made the point that early preventative intervention can make all the difference. To some extent, the 2021 census in England and Wales (2022 in Scotland) will help, as veterans will be asked to identify themselves.

Local Social Enterprise Partnerships were recommended as a way of providing additional support. One suggestion was to use the social enterprise structure to provide business and enterprise training for ex-forces staff, and then to help them set up social enterprises (possibly using seed funding from the trust/foundation sector), with some of the ‘markets’ being goods/services related to the specific needs of ex-forces staff.

Example Implication: Identifying transitioning personnel before they reach a crisis point significantly increases their ability to “land well”. Better data is needed to ensure the right targeted support is offered at the right time.

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