The changing nature of conflict and dwindling support for our Armed Forces could result in significant challenges for many veterans over the coming years, unless action is taken now.
This is according to Lifting Our Sights: Beyond 2030 – the impact of future trends on the transition of our Armed Forces Community from military to civilian life, which has been published today by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) after a year-long analysis of future trends by the foresight think tank Future Agenda. It suggests an increasingly challenging environment for veterans when they leave service.
The report warns that unless action is taken now by all organisations supporting the Armed Forces community, Government will fail in its ambition to make ‘the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran’.
Based on insights from experts and serving and ex-Service personnel, Lifting Our Sights: Beyond 2030 analyses socio-economic trends and identifies those most likely to affect Service leavers in a decade and beyond.
- As conflict becomes more technologically advanced and the UK Armed Forces shrink in size, there will be fewer physical casualties. But new forms of engagement could have unknown and lasting psychological effects.
- The role of our Armed Forces will be less visible to the public. Reduced understanding will result in dwindling support.
- If the issue of misperception is not addressed, the number of veterans in employment could fall significantly as their skills are increasingly overlooked. There is already a ‘perception gap’, with many employers failing to recognise veterans’ value to the civilian workforce.
- Charities providing support to veterans may see a continuing decline in funding. Public sector spending cuts and Covid-19 have already led to increased need and huge reductions in income.
- All this will mean greater pressure on government finances to deliver additional public sector services – at a time of rising inequality and increased competition for resources.
Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, the charity working to ensure all ex-Service personnel transition successfully into civilian life, said:
“If we carry on along the current trajectory, there will be more pressure on government, public bodies and charities, all of whom will be ill-equipped to meet the changing needs of veterans.
“We risk losing the hard-fought gains we’ve made in the past ten years. We must take account of foreseeable changes and respond. It’s not just Government – all those who work with the Armed Forces community must adapt and act. Failure to do so would be short-sighted and, in the eyes of that Community, unforgiveable.”
The report recommends immediate action: better understanding of veterans’ skills, increased collaboration between services and greater prioritisation according to need. It calls on national and local governments, businesses, the public sector and charities to work together to ensure veterans are not left behind.
Responding to the report, Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, commented:
“As we move into a decade of change, it is vital to understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Our serving personnel will continue to play a key role in maintaining our global position and in keeping our country safe. It is only right that we take the time to consider how future trends will affect them during and after service.
“I welcome this important report and encourage all those within and around the Armed Forces community, including Government, public services, employers and charities, to take note of these foresights, so that together we can achieve the Government’s ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran.”
|Case Study: Fiona Smith, Richmond
Fiona left the Armed Forces aged 24 in 2010. She struggled to communicate her skills to civilian employers, and experienced a tough period of unemployment and years of unstable work. She says that employers often didn’t understand her skills and experience, and that she faced issues with perceptions of ex-Service personnel. Her mental health also suffered during this time, and she feels she was not adequately prepared for the transition from military to civilian life.
Fiona said: “Ten years ago I found transitioning really difficult. Given the work that has gone into the Armed Forces Covenant, and knowing what we know now, I would hope things are better for service leavers in ten years’ time, not worse.”
Politicians, civil servants, public sector leaders, charities and businesses are expected to attend an online launch of the report today. Forces in Mind Trust is also publishing toolkits to help organisations adapt and improve their support for veterans over the next decade.