National acclaim for helping service personnel resettle

21 November 2017

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Thomas and Jenny Stone receive prizes

Two University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) staff have received national awards for their work with service leavers.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mike Thomas and engagement officer Jenny Stone were named as winners of BSI Resettlement Awards, which celebrate the achievements of service leavers who have successfully transitioned from the armed forces to civilian life and to acknowledge the efforts of organisations offering support to service leavers during this transition.

Professor Thomas, a former Royal Navy submariner, mental health advocate and co-founder of the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services (CMVES), won the Nationwide Award for Outstanding Contribution to Resettling Military Families.

The judges said: “Mike has, throughout his career, been unwavering in the support to serving, ex-serving military personnel and their families and has a real understanding of the issues faced when leaving service having lived through that experience himself. He devised and implemented a purposefulness project which was piloted at Catterick with successful outcomes for ensuring those struggling with resettlement had the best opportunities to gain additional qualifications or employment.”

"I feel very proud and honoured to have been named as the winner of this award. Service leavers and resettlement are areas which are very close to my heart so to be recognised for my work is truly humbling."

Professor Thomas said: “I feel very proud and honoured to have been named as the winner of this award. Service leavers and resettlement are areas which are very close to my heart so to be recognised for my work is truly humbling.”

Jenny collected the Service Leaver Trainee of the Year prize. She joined the army after leaving school aged 16 and dedicated 14 years of her life to the service. After taking redundancy, she secured a job as a charity programme manager but found this unfulfilling.

Last September Jenny successfully gained a place to study a Masters of Mental Health Nursing at UCLan and she does this alongside her part-time role with the CMVES, based at UCLan.

She said:  “I was honoured and humbled to receive such an award, particularly when there are many others equally deserving.  At times my life is busy and it can be a challenge spinning many plates, but receiving the award made me pause to reflect on the work I do and I am very grateful that those who nominated me appreciate my efforts.  I feel it is a privilege to be able to use my own knowledge and experience to help others and I am grateful that I am in a position to give something back.”

Jenny was also shortlisted alongside Dr Celia Hynes, CMVES co-founder, for the Baltic Publications Award for Excellence in Support of Service Leavers. The CMVES, which was specifically set up to support UK veterans in employment and education following their previous careers, was shortlisted for the Officers' Association Award for Excellence in Work Experience Programmes for Service Leavers category and the FDM Award for Best Academic Course Provider Catering for Service Leavers.

In addition to the success at the resettlement awards, the University has now officially signed an armed services covenant.

Engagement officer Jenny Stone
Engagement officer Jenny Stone

"The signing of the community covenant by the University of Central Lancashire reinforces the ongoing commitment the University has to support the armed forces community."

The covenant is a written and publicised voluntary pledge from businesses and charitable organisations who wish to demonstrate their support for the armed forces community. The covenant’s twin underlying principles are that members of the armed forces community should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured or the bereaved.

Professor Thomas said: “I’m delighted to have signed this covenant on behalf of the University. We are known for our compassion and for opening our doors to everyone without prejudice but this signing really does rubber stamp our efforts to help people and their families who have given their all to their country and are now looking to the future.”

Colonel Phil Harrison, Commander of the British Army in the North West, has worked with Professor Thomas on a range of initiatives for helping service leavers and their families with the resettlement process. He commented: “We are delighted to cement our relationship with the University and we are really looking forward to working together to ensure even more options and help are readily available.”

Dr Hynes added: “The signing of the community covenant by the University of Central Lancashire reinforces the ongoing commitment the University has to support the armed forces community.”

The CMVES has also been shortlisted for the Queen’s award for volunteering.