Make a success of your resettlement
How can you approach your resettlement and transition journey in a successful and positive way? The best and most practical answer to that question is probably, ‘Ask for help’, so here’s some sound advice on how to do just that …
Leaving any job can be daunting, but leaving the Forces family and taking your first steps on civvy street can be even more challenging – for a variety of reasons. This has been recognised by the MoD, and it is great to see that there is now more help than ever to prepare you for this enormous change. Having said that, planning ahead will definitely make your transition easier …
Resettlement support is out there
One of the first challenges you may face after a successful military career is finding a job that will welcome your specific skills. Fortunately, Service personnel have many skills and qualities that are eminently transferable.
The Services invest a great deal of time in the career development of personnel, and – as you will know – offer many opportunities to obtain skills, qualifications and training while serving, much more so than most civilian organisations.
Look to your strengths and consider your expertise a real advantage to your job applications. Many trade-specific skills, and military technical expertise in general, can be highly sought after – in sectors such as engineering, logistics, aviation, maritime and security, for example.
In many ways, what is even more attractive to some civilian employers is the range of personal qualities that veterans often come equipped with, such as leadership, resilience, teamwork, respect for others, loyalty and a strong work ethic. These qualities always translate well into employment, and many private-sector organisations now understand the benefits of having veterans and reservists involved in management roles, whatever the industry. So it’s not just what you know, but who you are that matters.
The MoD, through the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), provides resettlement support to eligible Service leavers and their spouses for up to two years before and after leaving the Forces. This can include providing Enhanced and Standard Learning Credits (ELC and SLC) to help leavers gain qualifications. The CTP also assists with CVs and interview techniques. For those veterans who have been wounded, these timings may be different (depending on the injury). The good news is that there is now support of some kind for everyone who leaves the Services, no matter what their reason for departure.
Many charities, such as The Poppy Factory and The Royal British Legion, run career and resettlement fairs, which inform Service leavers of support and opportunities that might be available to them on termination of their service. It is recommended you attend one of these once you start thinking about leaving the Armed Forces so that you can gather ideas about future employment opportunities. British Forces Resettlement Services (BFRS) runs events throughout the year where you can meet advisers and potential employers in person.
As another example, the Royal Marines Charity offers funding for vocational training for a variety of civilian careers, and can provide advice and guidance to those who wish to set up their own business.
The Armed Forces Covenant
Businesses, charities and public-sector organisations are encouraged by the government to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC) to demonstrate their ongoing, tangible support to the veteran community, and many thousands have already done so. The Armed Forces Covenant was introduced in 2011. It is a promise by the nation to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. The focus is on helping the Armed Forces community have the same access to governmental and commercial services as the public.
Click here to see an up-to-date list of signatories to the Covenant. It might help you discover if there are any opportunities available to you from prospective employers likely to look favourably upon the skills and experience you have gained in the Services.
Your Service family
When you leave the Forces, it is not just your working circumstances that change. Many Service leavers will also have families, and they will need to find a new home and adapt to a new way of life too. This is challenging – both emotionally and logistically – and will include deciding where to settle down, adapting to new cultural and financial circumstances, considering a partner or spouse’s career, children’s schooling, and sometimes learning to live with a permanent injury without the immediate support of a Medical Centre, DCMH or rehabilitation, as often found close to Service family accommodation.
Service families are often adaptable, though, having been required to move home countless times, and are likely to have developed keen skills in terms of managing resources and budgets to a deadline! They will probably also have developed a resilience when it comes to accepting the risks of deployment, often at short notice, dealing with injury and stress, and generally having to ‘roll with the punches’.
Service spouses and partners may themselves need to consider returning to work or establishing themselves in a new career, and they too should not underestimate the transferable skill set they have built up while supporting their serving spouse.
If you have children, they are likely to need to change schools, both during the course of your career and when you leave. There is practical advice available, and the main thing to remember is that the more information you can provide about your child(ren), the smoother their transition will be. To help facilitate this, the MoD offers support through the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS). Click here to find out more.
Despite their great strengths and adaptability, Service families will still need help and support at times, and a number of initiatives are under way to refocus provision on the needs of the family …
Each of the Forces’ Family Federations (Army Families Federation, Naval Families Federation, Royal Air Force Families Federation) offers support and resources to guide you through these topics, which you may have never had to think about before, due to the Forces having taken care of this for you with each internal move. The Naval Families Federation has published a guide aimed at Service leavers and their families, entitled Families Transition Too!, which provides clear and constructive guidance to help approach the process and make it a success. Click here for more information.
Last January, the MoD launched the Armed Forces Families Strategy (2022–32) to inspire partnership working across the UK, to ‘honour the pledge of the AFC, and to provide direction to policy makers, the single Services and public service providers to empower Armed Forces families to live rich and fulfilling lives alongside their loved ones’. The MoD’s vision through this initiative is for Armed Forces families to be recognised and respected, informed and empowered, listened to and understood. To find out what this means for you, click here to download a copy.
For advice on housing, a great place to start is the CTP housing resettlement guide which has information about the steps to take to find accommodation in the UK and abroad. There is practical information out there both single people and families. Veterans’ Gateway’s housing advice page includes contact details for a range of housing-related advice and support organisations, as well as details of its 24-hour helpline: 0808 802 1212. There is also information about applying for schools and how to access support. Do not be put off by the name – Veterans’ Gateway is not just for veterans or Service leavers themselves, but for their families too!
There may also be support schemes available in your local area. For example, a number of charities offer ‘help to buy’ support schemes or housing support generally. For more information, take a look at our ‘Unlock your housing options’ feature elsewhere on the Quest website.
Do not hesitate to ask councils in the areas you are considering moving to if there is any support or guidance they can give you as a Service leaver, as well as information about things like bin collections and where the local recycling centre is.
Those who may encounter problems with landlords or tenants can obtain free initial advice from Forces Law, a network of solicitors who specialise in acting for Services personnel.
If you joined the Services at a young age, you may never have had responsibility for things like paying Council Tax or utilities bills, because these are normally charged at subsidised rates and/or deducted direct from your pay when living in Services accommodation
You may also be unaware of the very high expenses that come with moving home, public transport fares and the other costs that come with life ‘on the outside’. Train fares in particular can be shocking and can really influence where you decide to settle.
The Family Federation for your particular Service branch (as mentioned earlier) can provide you with support and guidance here, and help you to budget accordingly. It is also highly recommended that you seek independent financial advice when you leave the Forces, in order to minimise any unwelcome shocks when going through transition.
The emotional aspect
Military culture and life involves a very different community spirit to that you’ll find in the civilian world. When you leave, you may feel unsafe, anxious and uncertain about the future. Joining veteran support hubsin your new local area can help you engage with those in the local community who understand what you are going through.
Local councils can also be a source of help in terms of advertising or promoting groups where both Service leavers and their spouses/families can mix with the local community, to get to know others and feel a sense of belonging, be that through coffee morning groups, nurseries, volunteering opportunities or local walking clubs.
Social media channels can also provide a means of connecting with those who understand the challenges and adjustments involved in adapting to life outside the Forces. Acceptance and understanding can be vital in getting used to your new circumstances.
Leaving the Armed Forces can be like leaving a family, but think positive – it is the start of something new!
Having said that, please don’t underestimate the emotional impact the change might have on you and/or your family when your military career ends. Thankfully, 99% of transitions go smoothly, but that doesn’t mean the process is without its challenges. Advance planning and budgeting can make the whole thing much easier for you.
The best and most practical advice is this: ask for help. There are many people and organisations willing to support you – the family federations, the CTP, Veterans’ Gateway, charities, local councils and information sources such as Quest, which are all focused on helping you make a smooth and successful transition from Service life.
We wish you luck!
- Armed Forces Covenant: www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk
- Bolt Burdon Kemp: www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk
- British Forces Resettlement Services: www.bfrss.org.uk
- Children’s Education Advisory Service: www.gov.uk/government/groups/the-childrens-education-advisory-service-ceas
- CTP: www.ctp.org.uk
- ELCAS: www.enhancedlearningcredits.com
- Forces Law: www.forceslaw.com
- Haig Housing Trust: www.haighousing.org.uk
- The Poppy Factory: www.poppyfactory.org
- The Royal British Legion: www.britishlegion.org.uk
- Royal Marines Charity: https://theroyalmarinescharity.org.uk
- Stoll (supported housing): www.stoll.org.uk
- Veterans and Families Support Hub: www.vfrhub.com
- Veterans’ Gateway: https://support.veteransgateway.org.uk
Forces’ Family Federations
- Army Families Federation: https://aff.org.uk
- Naval Families Federation: https://nff.org.uk
- Royal Air Force Families Federation: www.raf-ff.org.uk
Click here for details of additional support organisations.
With grateful thanks to Ahmed Al-Nahhas, head of the specialist military claims team at London-based solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, for contributing this article.