Call for veterans’ family support service to be rolled out and developed across Wales

An evaluation of the Restorative Approaches Veterans and Family Service (RAVFS) has been published, funded by Forces in Mind Trust.

A new service has been developed which shows signs of being able to improve wellbeing and relationships between veterans living with mental health disorders and their families.

The Restorative Approaches Veterans and Family Service (RAVFS) provided by TGP Cymru is a new service that facilitates whole-family interventions for veterans and families. Early evaluation has indicated that RAVFS can help improve the relationships between veterans living with a service-related mental health disorder and their families, using a restorative framework.

Following the success of the service on a small scale, the researchers and organisations involved are calling for a roll-out of the service to all Local Health Boards in Wales that provide mental health support to veterans, along with research to further test the RAVFS model on a larger scale.

TGP Cymru is a charity which delivers children and family services within a restorative framework. Working in collaboration with Veterans’ National Health Service Wales (VNHSW), they developed and applied their provision to support veterans and their families. The charity focuses on building positive communication skills; increasing empathy; understanding behaviour and needs; and encouraging problem solving skills to collaboratively find solutions.

RAVFS has been offered to veteran families in addition to the psychological therapy provided by VNHSW in parts of South-East Wales. Families have reported that the service has helped families talk to each other, understand how the veterans’ behaviour is linked to poor mental health and think about ways that these behaviours can be changed or accepted, which led to a reduction in family conflict.

One partner of a veteran who took part in the research said: “It’s helped dramatically with our communication and the attitude between the family…I didn’t know how much talking to each other would impact attitudes and feelings for the positive”.

It is acknowledged that there is currently a gap in provision of support for the families of veterans with mental health conditions. Forces in Mind Trust recently published a Policy Statement on Relationships which indicates that, while support is available for veterans, the needs of families are often not addressed. The charity has recommended more integrated support for families in veterans’ mental health services and increased involvement of the family in transition from the military to civilian life. The findings from this evaluation suggest that services such as the RAFVS could help to provide this missing support.

Tom McBarnet, Director of Programmes at Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“It is clear that this holistic approach, which involves the whole family, can be beneficial for veterans’ support services. Mental health support for veterans has significantly improved in recent years, including the introduction of Op Courage in NHS England and the support provided by Veterans NHS Wales. But this has not been extended far enough. We know that families and strong relationships play a really important role for veterans who face mental and physical health challenges. Forces in Mind Trust’s recent Policy Statement highlights the importance of having a strong social network, particularly for transition out of the Armed Forces. This pilot study was small, but the findings are promising. We now hope to see this service replicated across Wales, and for further results to help shape veterans’ support services in future.”

Mike Clark, Director of Family Services at TGP Cymru, said:

“TGP Cymru have been providing services to children and families for many years. We are very proud to have developed the RAVFS service for veterans and their families alongside Veterans NHS Wales and are encouraged by the positive outcomes from the pilot service. We are confident that the model we have developed is effective on a small scale and now want to develop the model and service provision wider across Wales to enable a greater number of veterans and their families to benefit from the service. The RAVFS team have demonstrated that effective partnership working with Veterans NHS Wales has improved outcomes for veterans and their families and we are thankful to the Forces in Mind Trust for their confidence and belief in both TGP Cymru and the RAVFS service.”

Dr Annie Williams, Research Fellow at CASCADE, said:

“CASCADE is committed to supporting the wellbeing and safety of families and children through collaborative, strengths-based and relationship-focused models of care. CASCADE is delighted to have been able to help RAVFS extend this type of support to families and military veterans negatively affected by mental health challenges. The positive delivery and receipt of the service is an exciting development which calls for further exploration of its use in wider military veteran settings.”

Neil Kitchiner, Director and Consultant Clinical Lead at VNHSW, said:

“We really liked being able to refer our veterans and their families to TGP as we are not funded to undertake this work. Those families that did take up the offer were very complimentary about the TGP therapist in helping them communicate better as a family and have strategies to take forward. I miss not having TGP to refer veterans and their families to.”

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