Monday, 21 August 2017
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The quality of support provided to men and women who leave the British Armed Forces as theyand their families transition to civilian life is extremely important. Withthousands leaving the Forces in coming years and doing so in tough economicconditions, resettlement is an issue of growing importance and concern. Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP describes a consultation exercise on the matter


Those who give so much to our country should get the service they deserve, with the
advice, support and training that will enable them to start a new chapter in their
lives. Most recognise that the service was improved by the previous Labour
government, but issues remain and provision can always be improved. We want to see a
personalised system where health, injury, housing, skills, family location and
personal ambition are all taken into consideration to support the adjustment to life
outside the Services.

Last year 800 people leaving the forces did not find work which lasted longer than
six months, so we need to do better. Everyone has access to a career consultant, but
too many people still say that the work which is offered to them does not take into
account their personal skills or experiences and people are often presented with
options that do not meet their personal ambitions. One veteran has told me, "I was
an infantry Warrant Officer. When I left and as far as my adviser was concerned that
meant I could be a warehouse manager". Equally, too many say that they do not have
sufficient choice over where in the country they can relocate to.

As more and more individuals are going through the system who will have been made
compulsorily redundant, Labour Friends of the Forces has launched a consultation on
the issue [http://labourfriendsoftheforces.org.uk/resettlement-consultation/]. We
want to hear what works, what doesn't and what changes can be made now which will
benefit service leavers. There is a questionnaire which will take a minute to
complete and space to leave more detailed thoughts on how the service can be
reformed and improved. Importantly, we want to hear from those who are preparing to
go through the system, those who have direct experience of it, or those whose loved
ones have gone through it. We want our policy ideas to be based on the experiences
of service personnel and their families and where it is clear that improvements can
be made, we will campaign for those changes. Any findings will be considered by the
Shadow Defence Team's policy review on the Future of the Military Covenant. As a
party developing our policy platform, the insights of those on the frontline are a
vital guide.

It is vital that resettlement takes into account the long-term impact of conflict
on service personnel. That is why the Labour Party has called for a 1m fund
to be established for charities to do long-term research into health and wellbeing
legacy issues from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan
[http://labourfriendsoftheforces.org.uk/2012/02/06/labour-calls-for-1m-research-fund-to-tackle-veterans-mental-health%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8/].
When we consider Forces' welfare we shouldn't just think of immediate or
in-service issues, crucial as they are, but also the issues which can reveal
themselves years after service or a traumatic event. Establishing systems to
identify and track these issues, including mental injury, should be considered
within the resettlement process.

There are a number of charities doing excellent work in this area and for some
service leavers it is a case of luck whether or not they stumble on it. There is
certainly scope for businesses to be more involved with the resettlement process so
that they can benefit from the service leavers' skills. Ex-Service personnel bring
significant qualities to the civilian workforce yet this is not always easily
communicated, which can prevent veterans from being offered jobs they are qualified
for. An improved resettlement programme could give service leavers a 'foot in the
door' to the labour market by establishing closer links to major employers,
particularly in regions with large military communities.

The question of how we all as a nation support those who have given so much in
Service is one we should consistently ask and test ourselves against. The
transition to civilian life can be tough and should be a priority for policy makers
- now more so than ever. The challenge is brought into sharp focus by the numbers
leaving the Services and doing so in a deeply challenging economic climate. By
participating in this consultation we hope you will share your ideas for how to
improve the resettlement process and in turn the lives of thousands.

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