Focus on veterans

Highlands & Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, who spoke in Scottish Parliament debate

Range of support and opportunities for veterans highlighted as UK-wide Veteran’s strategy is debated in the Scottish Parliament.

The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has launched a consultation, asking veterans, Armed Forces Charities and the wider community to help shape a programme to improve veteran’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Positive Pathways Programme will have a budget of up to £9M to fund projects that will develop and run activities which are supportive to ex- forces mental health and wellbeing.

The consultation, asking for people’s views on activities to support veterans’s mental wellbeing, will run until 15 March 2019. The Positive Pathways Programme will open for applications in May 2019.

The programme is part of the £10M Veterans’ Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, which will also include the Strategic Pathways Programme to be delivered through a two stage application process. Guidance for the Expression of Interest stage for the Strategic Pathways Programme will be launched on 14 December 2018.

The launch was announced last week, which also saw a Scottish Parliament debate on the creation of the first UK-wide Veteran’s Strategy.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston used his speech during the debate to give his backing to a new pilot project delivered by Skills Development Scotland and the Ministry of Defence that provides bespoke careers guidance to veterans in Moray and the Highland Council area.

Mr Halcro Johnston also raised the need for change and innovation in how ex-servicemen and women are supported when they leave the armed forces, with a focus on re-entering civilian employment.

“It is very welcome that, for the first time ever, we now have an agreed strategy on supporting veterans across the whole of the UK”, he said.

“The strategy identifies six key areas where support is most needed over the next ten years: community and relationships, employment and skills, health and wellbeing, finance and debt, housing, and contact with the law.

“One of the main hurdles that armed forces veterans face is finding in finding a civilian job and adapting to civilian life. And the same can also be true for spouses who have had their career opportunities narrowed by supporting their loved ones while they are serving their country.

“We need to be there to offer advice and help when it is needed and to harness the numerous skills that a period in the armed forces provides. We have a great opportunity to make real improvements in how we help our veterans and their families; people who have given so much to keep us all safe.”

The UK-wide ‘Strategy for Our Veterans’ is intended to deliver a clear vision, expressed as: “Those who have served in the UK Armed Forces, and their families, transition smoothly back into civilian life and contribute fully to a society that understands and values what they have done and what they have to offer.”

The full strategy can be accessed at: https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/advice-and-guidance/2018/11/strategy-for-our-veterans/documents/strategy-for-our-veterans/strategy-for-our-veterans/govscot%3Adocument  

The ‘Career Guidance Collaboration for Effective Transition’pilot project in Highland and Moray mentioned by Jamie Halcro Johnston is summarised in the autumn 2018 Support for Veterans and the Armed Forces Community in Scotland report: “Skills Development Scotland, the Careers Transition Partnership, and other key partners are developing a pilot in the A96 Corridor through Highland & Moray (which will benefit personnel at Fort George, Kinloss Barracks and RAF Lossiemouth). This pilot will see early, impartial career guidance being offered from SDS qualified expert careers advisers to Armed Forces personnel as they commence transition from the Armed Forces and access their CTP resettlement programme.”