Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Help for Heroes? Evaluating a Case Management Programme for Ex-Service Personnel in the United Kingdom

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Help for Heroes? Evaluating a Case Management Programme for Ex-Service Personnel in the United Kingdom

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Each year approximately 24,000 men and women leave the British Armed Forces and enter civilian life.1 In general, the ex-service population, which has been estimated at around 3.8 million for England, has comparable health to the general population.2 In terms of the prevalence of mental disorders, ex-service personnel are similar to their still-serving counterparts and broadly similar to the general population. The majority who leave the UK Armed Forces benefit from their experiences and are successful In their transition to civilian life.

For the vast majority of Individuals, the transition to civilian life Is unproblematic and has Improved In recent years with enhanced arrangements for transition planning for all service personnel. This has been outlined In the Joint Service Publication 5343 which Is the protocol for resettlement staff and outlines the service and help to which those leaving the Armed Forces are entitled to. Additionally, there are also specific arrangements for those who leave the service earlier than expected which were first put together In 2004 and are summarised In the Joint Service Publication 575 Early Service Leavers Guidance Notes for Resettlement Staff.4 Depending upon their length of service In the Armed Forces, a wide range of support services are offered to those who are about to return to civilian life. The first line of advice consists of service resettlement staff who are normally based within military units, while the second line consists of specialist service resettlement advisors (SRAs) again within the Armed Forces. If appropriate, the third line Is provided by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP). This organisation can provide careers advice; workshops on how to manage the transition to civilian life, finance and housing briefings; In-house training courses; referral to external training providers; and trial attachments to workplaces for individuals. Help is offered with job searches and post discharge help is also available. Additionally, those discharged on medical grounds or with a length of service of six years or more are entitled to Graduated Resettlement Time (GRT) which is time off from their usual duties in order to attend resettlement-focused activities. In general, the transition to civilian life is a smooth journey for the vast majority of service leavers, as noted by Lord Ashcroft:5

The great majority of Service Leavers who look for work find it quickly. Despite the widespread public belief to the contrary, relatively few experience serious problems.

While the vast majority do not encounter serious problems, those who do encounter difficulties often experience multiple and complex problems. Ashcroft5 argues that the relatively high profile of this group can be damaging to ex-service personnel in general:

There can be no doubt that some Service Leavers suffer real hardship; for others, transition is simply more of a struggle than it could be. I believe there is scope to make changes that will improve their prospects. Nobody should doubt my determination that all Service Leavers who need extra help should get the very best available. But it is important to recognise that this group is relatively small. Labelling the majority as damaged does a disservice to service personnel and veterans as a whole, restricts their prospects and diffuses efforts that should be applied to those who most need support. Greater recognition of this could mean more successful outcomes both for Service Leavers in general and those who currently struggle.

However, upon leaving the forces, ex-service personnel can face numerous challenges, such as unemployment, homelessness and substance abuse6-10 as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The most common mental health problems for ex-service personnel are alcohol problems, depression and anxiety disorders.7 For the minority who leave the military with psychiatric problems, there is an increased risk of social exclusion and ongoing ill health. …

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