Injured ex-Service personnel should not face benefit sanctions, report finds

Ex-Service personnel with service-related physical or mental health injuries should not have benefit sanctions imposed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), say researchers of a Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded report titled “Sanctions, support and Service leavers: welfare conditionality and transitions from military to civilian life” released today, Thursday 19th April.

The report, by the University of Salford and the University of York, is the first major study investigating the experiences of ex-Service personnel and the benefits system. A common experience was the perception that staff carrying out assessments for benefits sometimes had little understanding or, regard for, the mental health issues facing military veterans.

Evidence was generated largely from face-to-face interviews with 68 ex-Service personnel, a number of who were struggling financially, with many living with debts, rent arrears, court fines and some having to use food banks.  These interim findings present nine recommendations, including:

  • That DWP urgently review the assessment process applied to those claiming working-age incapacity benefits to make sure assessors are qualified to assess the mental and physical health issues of people leaving the Armed Forces.
  • Each Jobcentre should have one designated individual who takes a lead role in supporting Armed Forces Service leavers and their families interacting with the social security system.
  • Guidance on the UK social security system setting out an individual’s rights should be included as part of the transitional support for those leaving the Armed Forces.
  • DWP should ensure that all Jobcentre Plus staff are provided with training on the adjustments and easements applicable to Armed Forces Service leavers and their families, and more broadly around the mental and physical health impairments that may impact on some Service leavers’ fitness to undertake paid work and/or ability to engage in compulsory work focused activities.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the first study to look qualitatively at the experiences of ex-Service personnel who need to use the benefits system, and it is worth emphasizing that most transition successfully without such recourse. The recommendations included in the report will help provide the DWP with the information that will help increase the awareness of their staff to the needs of the Armed Forces community and hence improve the outcomes for those ex-Service personnel that do require welfare support.”

Dr Lisa Scullion, Associate Director of the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit at the University of Salford, who is leading the project, said: “We found people who desperately did not want to claim benefits and only did so as a last resort, but who found the system baffling and had been given little preparation for dealing with it.

“Allowances are made to veterans who claim benefits as part of the Armed Forces Covenant but until now very little has been known about their experiences within the benefits system. This research has suggested that there is a gap between some of the Covenant commitments and what is actually experienced on the ground, and we would urge the policy makers to look carefully at our findings and recommendations.”

You can read the full report here.

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Note to Editor:  Ray Lock is available for interview. To arrange please contact Tina McKay, Communications Officer at FiMT on co@fim-trust.org or on 07956 101132 or 0207 901 8916.

Dr Lisa Scullion is available for interview. To arrange please contact Conrad Astley, University of Salford press office, on 0161 295 6363 or c.l.astley@salford.ac.uk.

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. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.

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 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.

Useful links

About the study

The two-year study, called Sanctions, support and Service leavers:  welfare conditionality and transitions from military to civilian life, was funded by a £171,995 grant from the Forces in Mind Trust.

Research was conducted with members of military families who are in the benefits system, primarily across the North West, North East and London, to understand how people who have left Service find their way into the social security system and the wider impact of these policies.

The research also includes interviews with policy makers and key stakeholders representing military charities and other third sector organisations.

Around 15,000 men and women leave the British Armed Forces every year. While most are able to easily move into civilian life, there are some who experience problems such as mental health issues, physical disabilities, drug and alcohol misuse and financial hardship.

 

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