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Thursday 1 October 2020

New research highlights the challenges experienced by Service leavers as they transition into civilian life

Interim study focusses on people with physical injuries and conditions as they leave the UK Armed Forces

An interim report published today, 2 October 2020, by the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Salford, examines the journey for Service leavers with a physical condition or injury as they transition out of the Armed Forces and into civilian life.

The initial findings suggest that some Service leavers can face difficulties during the medical board and discharge process. This highlights a need for a clear, transparent and personalised discharge process, with better communication of decisions and appropriate timeframes, to enable the completion of resettlement courses and adequate preparation for civilian life.

The research, which was commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust, also found links between physical and mental health, with many of the participants reporting a subsequent impact on their mental health, in particular having to adjust to a new identity of being both ‘disabled’ and also losing their status in the Armed Forces.

Some participants also described feelings of stress resulting from financial uncertainty caused by not knowing if, or when, they would receive financial compensation, as well as the potential impact of their physical condition on their ability to find employment in the civilian job market.

This interim report presents findings from the first stage of a two-year research project which is due to report in the autumn of 2021.

"The people we spoke to said more clarity was needed around the medical discharge process and that support should be provided on a longer-term basis once people are discharged"

Dr Celia Hynes, Senior Engagement Officer at UCLan

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust says: “We decided to commission this research as very little is known about the experiences of Service personnel who leave the Armed Forces with a physical condition which was acquired in service or as a result of service.

“The research team have already uncovered areas of challenge for this diverse cohort and identified where improvements need to be made. The next stage will delve further into the issues, going back to the participants to explore their journeys as they navigate the civilian world, while continuing to engage with stakeholders to ensure that the challenges are fully understood and acted upon.

”This approach to action research will ensure better chances of successful transition for the greatest number of Service leavers, and underlines our strategic intent to deliver substantial impact across all our programmes.”

Dr Celia Hynes, Senior Engagement Officer at the University of Central Lancashire, has led the project. She said: “The people we spoke to said more clarity was needed around the medical discharge process and that support should be provided on a longer-term basis once people are discharged. It was also evident that leaving service with a physical illness or injury impacted greatly on a person’s mental health, so greater support was needed in this area.

“We are looking forward to the next phase of the research which will provide insight into the journeys that each person has travelled since our initial contact.”

You can read the interim report online and if you would like to find out more about the project, please contact Dr Celia Hynes at CHynes1@uclan.ac.uk