An engaged Armed Forces community
The Ministry of Defence defines the Armed Forces community as being all those (Regulars and Reserves) who have served in the British Armed Forces, and their families, including the bereaved. According to the 2014 Poppyscotland Household Survey, the population size of the Armed Forces community in Scotland then was approximately 530,000 individuals, around 10% of the Scottish population. Poppyscotland’s one-year impact report for the Welfare Support Service showed that mental health was one of the top three presenting issues beneficiaries required support with.
Besides forming a sizable group within Scottish society, we also know from data obtained via the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP), which is funded by Poppyscotland and delivered in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, that ex-Service personnel presented to the service with an average of five issues per client in 2019. This is compared with a bureau average of two issues per client. This suggests that members of our Armed Forces community who require support are more likely than their civilian peers to have multiple and complex needs. Clients have been supported with a range of issues including benefits, debt, finance, housing, employment, health, and legal matters.
The Scottish Approach to Policy-Making places people at the heart of finding solutions to the challenges that affect their daily lives. The Scottish Government makes use of working groups to oversee policy planning, development, and delivery. The membership of these working groups often includes people with experience of the policy being examined. However, despite their unique needs, members of Scotland’s Armed Forces community are noticeably absent from the membership of these policy working groups.
We therefore maintain that in light of the unique and often multiple and complex needs of the Armed Forces community in Scotland, who additionally represent a significant group within society, it is imperative that the Scottish Government consult with and involve that community in future policy development. In particular, we believe there should be a cross-government commitment to involve our Armed Forces community in any working groups established to develop and take forward policy, ensuring their specific needs are recognised and their experiences learnt from.