When the time comes for you to make the transition to civvy street, it’s vital to seek out the right support to help your journey go as smoothly as possible – even more so if you’re leaving as a result of injury or illness …
Leaving the Armed Forces for whatever reason is likely to be a challenging, exciting or potentially daunting prospect. It may even be all three. If you have been injured as a result of your service, these feelings may well be amplified. However long you have served, during the time you were enlisted you had many of the aspects of civilian daily existence taken care of. Being in the Armed Forces was your job. You may have lived in MoD accommodation, never had to worry about negotiating with a removals company if you changed location, had the ability to eat in the mess, the bins were put out on collection day, and so on. You also benefited from MoD-provided health and dental care.
So when the time comes to leave there are a lot of things you will need to organise and learn how to manage for yourself. As you are no doubt well aware if you are reading this, the official MoD process for this is called ‘resettlement’. It can start up to two years before you are due to be discharged and can continue for a further two years once you have left the Armed Forces. If you are being medically discharged due to injury or illness the process can be longer.
Good preparation can make the transition to civilian life far more manageable and less stressful for you. There are steps you can take while still serving, and services available to you both in the period up to your discharge and for a short time afterwards.
There are numerous organisations and charities out there to assist you once you no longer have the support network that being in the Armed Forces provides – but you need to know where to look, which is where the advice in this article comes in.
Support from the MoD
Every unit should have a Resettlement Information Staff Officer. When you know your discharge date you can contact them as they can provide you with information and direct you to services available within the MoD system to support your transition.
Support for the next stage in the resettlement process is provided by your service through a Service Resettlement Adviser. They are there to give advice and guidance on the transition package that will suit your needs.
The third stage of support during resettlement is provided by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), the MoD’s official provider of Armed Forces resettlement support, which assists Service leavers’ transition to civilian life, with a focus on finding new careers and jobs.
Education and training
As a Service leaver you are entitled to free courses and training in the lead-up to your departure. The level of assistance available is dependent on the length of time you have served: the longer your service, the greater access you have to the available support and training – although every Service leaver, regardless of length of time in the Forces, will be able to access some training and support.
If you have been medically discharged, you automatically qualify for the Core Resettlement Programme. If you have served less than four years, you are called for the early Service leavers and you can access core services too.
What does the CTP do?
First, you will need to register with them. If you have served for at least six years you are entitled to join the Core Resettlement Programme (CRP). You will receive the full range of services that CTP provides, as well as resettlement activities up to 35 days prior to discharge (known as Graduated Resettlement Time, or GRT). This time is to be used to undertake training, and to attend courses and interviews. The comprehensive programme includes one-to-one career consultant support, financial and housing information, an online Personal Resettlement Plan, one-to-one employment and job-finding support, civilian work attachments and vocational training to gain civilian recognised qualifications.
The CTP offers a range of courses, from building, engineering, health and safety, medical, sport and leisure, to transport and logistics. You can also get help with writing your CV, interview preparation and finding jobs.
As a Service leaver you are eligible to receive a set amount of funding each year, to be spent on nationally recognised qualifications. It can also be used to fund a degree if you go on to university. Standard Learning Credits (SLC) fund small-scale learning, while Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC) – which of course are the main focus of the magazine you are holding in your hands or reading online – are designed to provide help towards the cost of gaining a further or higher education qualification. During your service you may have registered for and made use of ELC, which you can continue to claim for up to 10 years after your departure date. (You can find out more about funding here and read all about the ins and outs of the ELC claims process elsewhere on this website.)
Finding a job in civilian life can be difficult but the extent of the skills you have acquired while serving, and how these can be applied in a range of jobs, may surprise you. All veterans will have excellent team-working skills, great organisational ability, be able to work well under pressure and meet objectives set by clients or management. The values upheld by members of the Armed Forces, such as loyalty, discipline, respect for others and integrity, are very appealing to employers. You may have developed technical expertise that is in demand in the civilian sector. An Accounting Officer can be a financial manager or financial supervisor, a Field Artillery Battalion Operations Officer can be an operations manager and a Sergeant can be a team leader.
There are ex-military recruitment agencies out there to help you too, and you can find links to their websites through www.CTP.org.uk/recruiters
Another source of support can be the Armed Forces Covenant. This is a commitment by the government that all those in the Armed Forces, both serving personnel and veterans, along with their families, be treated fairly and with respect. Those businesses that have signed up to the Covenant pledge that you will be given help with education and family well-being, finding a home, starting a new career, accessing healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.
While in the Forces, many of you will have had your accommodation provided for you, either on base or in a house with your family. Once you leave you will have to organise your own accommodation. This can also be a challenge, especially if you joined at a young age and went from your family home straight into the Services.
You will need to decide what sort of property you want to live in. Your renting options include renting privately, shared ownership (part buy/part rent), housing association properties (affordable housing) and local authority housing (particularly for those of you with children and limited cash funds). If you are able to buy, you can purchase at market value, via shared ownership (part buy/part rent) or look at affordable housing schemes.
You will also need to decide where you are going to live, and you may have different reasons for wanting to live in certain areas. Often you will decide to live close to family or friends, or perhaps to move somewhere new for a job opportunity.
As part of the Resettlement Programme you are able to attend Civilian Housing Briefs, which are held at Regional Resettlement Centres (RRCs) in the UK, and Education Centres in Germany and Cyprus. You can apply to attend any briefings. These usually last half a day and are designed to give you the information you need to make informed choices on your civilian housing.*
If you have been discharged from the Armed Forces because of injury or illness there are a number of schemes to ensure that people with medical issues or additional vulnerabilities can access the appropriate standard of accommodation. Social and affordable housing providers can prioritise service personnel and veterans on housing waiting lists if they have a serious injury, medical condition or disability sustained as a result of their service.
There are affordable housing options open to Service personnel (and ex-Service personnel within 12 months of discharge). Schemes prioritising Service personnel include the Forces Help to Buy Scheme, some dedicated shared ownership schemes, shared equity loans for former Service personnel and the mortgage guarantee scheme.
If you have been injured and are being medically discharged you can continue to access the military’s medical facilities for up to six months after the date of your discharge. This is something you can discuss with your medical team in the lead-up to your departure date.
Three months before your discharge date you will have a full medical. You are also recommended to have a final dental check as well, while still under the Services remit. After resettling, what is important – whether or not you are injured – is to register with the local GP in the area in which you relocate, so you can continue to have your medical care needs met after you leave.
Wherever you relocate to, the local authority can be a mine of practical and helpful information, from basic day-to-day tips such as when the bins are collected, through to social initiatives to help integrate you in to the local community. They are well worth checking out, albeit that approaches vary from council to council.
It can be tough … but help is at hand
Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult. You may find yourself missing friends and colleagues with whom you had built up close relationships. Your regular routine will have changed. To counteract this, a good point of contact is your local branch of SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity. It offers advice and assistance to veterans at any stage. It can help you find out which benefits may be available to you, provides support to those with disability and mental well-being needs, and can put you in touch with other Service leavers.
Likewise, The Royal British Legion provides help and support to thousands of veterans up and down the country. It offers a range of services at its branches and drop-in centres, where it can give specific advice and help on housing needs as well as being there for you if you are feeling lonely or isolated after you have been discharged. If you are feeling like this, do not hesitate to seek the support that is out there.
Citizens Advice can also provide advice and assistance on any housing or legal issues you may encounter. Most councils run community groups and clubs for those wanting support and to get to know people in their area.
Leaving after suffering an injury
Leaving the Forces can be difficult, especially if you have been injured. Due to injury you may no longer be able to take up the opportunities you planned and transitioning to civilian life may be even more of a challenge. While there is a lot of support out there, it may be the right time to explore the circumstances in which the injury occurred and whether you might be entitled to compensation. While some experience physical injury, others experience harassment, bullying or sexual assault.
Those who are medically discharged, bringing their career to an end prematurely, may feel worried about how to provide for the future. If someone was responsible for your injury then a claim may provide you with peace of mind and security for the future.
If you want to get further information about compensation you can speak to someone regarding an Armed Forces Compensation Scheme claim. You can also speak to a solicitor as you may be entitled to make a civil claim too. There are strict time limits on when to bring claims, so if you feel you may be entitled to compensation you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
If you enjoyed your time in the Forces but your service has come to an end prematurely you could consider applying to one of the reserve forces. They are always looking for new recruits and could offer a good way to combine your new civilian life with some of the aspects of active service you enjoyed.
Finally, you will always receive around six months’ notice of your discharge date, so try to use this time to prepare as best you can for civilian life so that, when you do leave, the transition is as smooth as possible.
* Please be aware that responsibility for delivering civilian housing briefs is moving to Defence Transition Services in October 2022. There may be a pause in delivery of the briefings during autumn 2022. Please direct any enquiries about the schedule to DBSVets-DTS-Central@mod.gov.uk