A report by Healthwatch Essex has found that veterans in the county are still facing significant challenges when transitioning out of the military into civilian life.
During the pandemic, when isolation has been more prevalent than previously, the charity engaged with veterans to understand what matters most to them and the barriers they face in accessing the services they need.
The report ‘What Matters To Veterans’, outlines a number of challenges in transitioning to civilian life, ranging from a lack of preparation for leaving, a lack of understanding of civilian healthcare, an inadequate ability to manage finances and a proliferation of military charities making the landscape complicated to navigate. Many veterans the charity spoke to felt that more could be done before leaving the military to provide support and understanding of how to prepare for life during transition, with one veteran describing the experience as, ‘like coming out of prison.’
The sudden change in lifestyle was a significant factor with a number of the participants using terms such as, ‘not fitting in’, ‘unable to adjust’ and ‘civilians don’t understand me’ to describe their feelings of being out of place. This was highlighted when discussing employment, support services and speaking to professionals.
Many veterans said they went long periods of time after leaving the military without hearing from anybody. The planning and resettlement preparation appears to have improved in recent times, however once they had left there seemed to be a lack of communication. Veterans felt forgotten about and many believed there should be more welfare checks completed by the military once you have left, even if it is just during the first few months.
With thousands of military charities in the UK, there was confusion among many veterans about which one would be most suitable to meet their needs and, combined with culture of not easily reaching out for help, the choice overwhelmed and prevented many from taking that step, with thousands of veterans across the UK finding themselves homeless in the years following discharge.
Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, Samantha Glover said: “It’s clear that many veterans in our region are still finding the transition to civilian life difficult. The report reflects a number of these stories and makes recommendations about practical action which could be taken to alleviate this.
“Simple follow up after leaving and a dedicated welfare officer with military experience would help with many of the issues raised in the report. We have identified the need for veteran training for GP surgeries in Essex and are working collaboration with BLESMA, Help for Heroes and the Local Medical Committee to introduce this.
“I hope this report raises awareness of some of the issues faced by veterans and poses questions for military charities, support services and other relevant government-led organisations to consider and that the clear and practical recommendations outlined are taken up by local and national organisations to help those men and women who have done so much for us and our country.”
Colin Branch, Welfare Services Manager for Help for Heroes, said: “This is an important report as it shines a light on the experiences of veterans living across Essex. A veteran cannot be one with the community without the community understanding the veteran, and vice versa.”
Paul Findlay MBE, Veteran and Vice Chair of Healthwatch Essex, said: “Veterans are an important part of our community. Providing a platform for their voice to be heard and acknowledged is crucial in their needs being met. This research carried out by HWE will go a long way to ensuring those within Essex are well represented.”
The full report can be found here.
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