Forces in Mind Trust releases new report on the impact of self-build projects in supporting ex-Service personnel

Self-build projects can have a significant positive impact on the wellbeing and relationships of ex-Service personnel, suggests a new report by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the Forces in Mind Trust, released today (1  February 2016).

Whilst the majority of Service leavers return successfully into civilian life without too many challenges, there are some who need additional support – especially in relation to housing. It is estimated that around 15% of ex-Service personnel might be homeless for a time when they leave the Forces – which includes living temporarily in a B&B or hostel, or ‘sofa surfing’ as well as living rough. Recent estimates also suggest that between 3% and 6% of rough sleepers in London have a Service background.

The Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) is a charity that runs self-build projects for homeless people, with the overall aim of helping them to rebuild their lives, find work, and reconnect with social networks.  In 2012 the CSBA completed a pilot scheme in Bristol to support homeless Veterans build their own homes with the objective of securing permanent residence, employment and in some cases reconnecting with their families. This has been followed by a number of similar projects.

The research was commissioned to examine the first two projects, assessing the financial implications of the projects to establish a cost benefit ratio and to also examine the social processes of the projects.

Academics from UWE Bristol with expertise in economics, ethnography, health and housing tracked and evaluated the experience of Veterans as they worked on a scheme to build their own homes. The evaluation of the project identified that the initiative had transformed the lives of participants and was seen to improve relationships, job prospects, mental wellbeing and physical health. The report also highlights that the cost benefit ratio suggests that on the two projects, every £1 spent yielded up to £7.20 of benefits.

UWE Bristol’s evaluation team, led by Senior Research Fellow Anthony Plumridge conducted the assessment to measure the effectiveness of the scheme, and could now be used to help establish the best way of running similar projects in future.

The research summarised in the report included in-depth interviews with the self-builders conducted by team member, Dr. Katherine Collins, who said: “The self-builders spoke of feeling pride and a sense of achievement, increased confidence and willingness to trust. Some noticed improvements in physical health, attributed to the combination of food provided every day on site, exercise, fresh air and improved sleep. They helped out their neighbours when need arose and most participants found work using their experience on site, training and contacts made with subcontractors.”

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of FiMT, said: “There are many components that contribute to a successful transition from military to civilian life, and there is clear evidence that most Service leavers have the knowledge and resilience to cope with the process. However,  for a variety of reasons, some people struggle, and providing a secure and safe home, together with a framework of skills and employment and the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, can be the catalyst for positive change.

Self-building schemes could, it is indicated by this report, act as an enabler for change while delivering considerable benefits. The challenge now is to exploit these findings perhaps more ambitiously to expand the self-build movement across the United Kingdom, so as to reach out and transform the lives of many, many more. The evidence is here – the opportunities await.”

Notes to editors

You can view the press release here.

Ray Lock and Dr Norman Biddle are available for interview.  To arrange please contact Kate Turner at The PR Office on or on 0207 284 6944.

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 FiMT is 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 Veterans’ 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.

Useful links

About The Community Self Build Agency

The Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) has been operating for more than 30 years. Our first scheme was in Bristol following the St Paul’s riots to assist a group of unemployed and disadvantaged individuals self-build their own homes.

The project, known as “Zenzele” supported and trained 12 self-builders to plan and construct their own bedsit accommodation with individual mortgages of £12,500. They were able to occupy the properties after one year of planning and one year of construction and enjoyed equity in their own homes which at that time were valued at £45,000.

We have continued to track the 12 individuals who all became employed with one going on to be a partner in a legal company and another a Local Authority Housing Officer.

Following the success of this project Stella Clarke, then Chair of the Housing Corporation, was asked to form a Housing Association with a remit to specifically promote self-build schemes. Over the past 30 years CSBA has been involved in more than 125 schemes supporting less advantaged individuals to gain building skills and use this knowledge to gain sustainable employment.

In 2010 CSBA decided to prioritise training and support for ex-service personnel to self-build their own homes with Housing Association support and launched their first pilot scheme in Bristol.

The UWE and FiMT Report clearly sets out the personal, community, training and financial benefits that have resulted from our first schemes in Bristol. We expect even greater benefits to accrue from our current projects in Weston Super Mare, Plymouth and Wrexham. Our first two pilot projects in Bristol, as evidenced in the UWE Report, have shown that for every £1 spent we have saved the community sums ranging from £4.70 to £7.20.

Our experience has been that having collected many of the Veterans off the street, often suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, we have “Helped them to help themselves” with a mixture of on-site and off-site training, mentoring and welfare care they have benefited from moving into their own homes, obtaining full time employment and reconnecting with their families. It has been a life changing experience for them.

There is a clear and urgent need to support Veterans and other disadvantaged individuals. Helping them build their own homes especially with the current shortage of suitable and affordable housing provides them with a real sense of purpose as well as a roof over their heads. CSBA has demonstrated with its pilot schemes that this successful model can be rolled out nationally. This can only happen if future projects are properly resourced with appropriate core funding alongside essential funding for welfare and training.”

CSBA Contacts: Stella Clarke CBE – President

Dr Norman Biddle – Chairman

Our Executive Members

By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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