Forces in Mind Trust awards funds to Northumbria University to explore social isolation and loneliness among war widows

Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded £99,979 to Northumbria University to examine the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness among UK war widows.

The project, developed by Northumbria University in collaboration with the War Widows Association, aims to map and understand war widows’ experiences, identify the social participation services available to them, and examine their unmet needs.

With many military families living in Service Family Accommodation at or close to their place of work, they can form close friendships and networks with other serving families. Isolation following the loss of a spouse can be particularly prevalent for those in these communities.

There are almost 15,000 war widows and widowers in the UK today and this study will inform national debate and lead to the development of policy recommendations and guidance for improved service provision.

The project, whose start has been delayed by COVID-19, is due to begin in September 2020. It was awarded under FiMT’s Health Programme and is expected to last two years.

FiMT are committed to supporting the Armed Forces community throughout and beyond COVID-19 and this includes the continuation of funding to much needed projects such as this grant. The latest FiMT COVID-19 response can be found here.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive at FiMT says:

“Social isolation and loneliness can have a significant impact on a person’s health and wellbeing, and the issue is more pressing today than ever before. Military life brings unique challenges. Service personnel and their families often face multiple moves and, when they leave the Armed Forces they can also leave behind a very close network. This can make people more vulnerable to isolation. Losing a spouse through service makes it even harder. This research is therefore both relevant and timely and will provide us with the necessary insights to produce a powerful set of recommendations that will improve the support for our war widows and widowers.” 

Dr Gemma Wilson, Project lead at Northumbria University says:

“Internationally, loneliness and social isolation are now recognised as being linked to poor physical health and well-being, and there is growing understanding of these issues being related to both widowhood and the Armed Forces Community.  However, there is currently a lack of evidence specifically examining social isolation and loneliness in the war widows’ population, including those in the U.K. This project aims to explore the experiences of social isolation and loneliness and understand services targeting war widows’ social participation.  We are thrilled to be working with Forces in Mind Trust and partnering with the War Widows Association on this project.” 

Mary Moreland, Chairman of the War Widows Association says:

“The membership of the War Widows’ Association covers all three services, the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, irrespective of age, rank or service of the deceased. When there is no longer a serving person in the family unit those left behind are very frequently forgotten. Bereavement can add to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness, however as war widows no longer belong to the armed forces community, these feeling may be magnified. On behalf of the Association I am delighted to be working in collaboration with Northumbria University and Forces in Mind Trust on this project. It is a very exciting opportunity to build an evidence base from research on an extremely relevant topic and on a group where little research has been completed.”        

About the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):

FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012.

The mission of FiMTis to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery.

FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model around 6 outcomes in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships. All work is published in open access and hosted on the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre’s Veterans and Families Research Hub. A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made.

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About Northumbria University:

The funding was awarded to Northumbria University due to its extensive experience of working to improve the health and wellbeing of veterans and their families. The University is home to The Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families research hub – a collective of academics, service providers and service users working to understand the complexities that veterans and their families experience.


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