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Why a good transition spells benefits all round

Why a good transition spells benefits all round


11 Dec, 2019

‘It will be a “win-win” situation for both veterans and the labour market if we can get transition from the Armed Forces to civilian life right,’ says Scottish Veterans Commissioner, Charlie Wallace (pictured above). ‘The right support towards a positive destination, rather than just any destination, is needed for veterans to reach their full potential on civvy street,’ he adds, ‘with the benefits of “a good transition” reaching far beyond individuals themselves.’

The Scottish labour market would be a key beneficiary if the transition process and support offer were re-thought and a person-centred, not system-driven, approach adopted. Veterans represent a unique and often high-performing source of talent that Scotland needs, but Service leavers need to be empowered to make informed choices, and myths and unhelpful stereotyping need to be tackled.

In a new paper, Positive Futures – Getting Transition Right in Scotland, Wallace acknowledges that, while fundamental needs are being met, it is time to re-examine transition to ensure it serves both the aspirations of Scotland’s changing veterans community and its labour market needs.

The Commissioner offers some fresh thinking and propositions aimed at kick-starting a conversation on improvement, with specific recommendations planned for the new year. The Commissioner says:

  • Government needs to set the right conditions for a seamless transition that is person-centred and not system-driven – and align this positive source of talent with labour market needs and opportunities.
  • Now is the time to recognise and capitalise on this source of talent, to help individuals and their families achieve their full potential, and the labour market gain from the skills and experience they bring.
  • Transition should be ‘owned’ by the individual and designed around their needs to enable informed choice on futures. It needs to be integrated into military life and to encourage ‘habits of independence’.
  • Close and meaningful collaboration across the whole of government is key to ensuring better outcomes for our veterans, with joint policy-making taking account of different local circumstances and delivery approaches across the four nations. Fail to do that and government will not deliver on the vision articulated in the UK-wide Strategy for our Veterans.

Currently, the veterans population in Scotland is estimated to be around 240,000, or roughly 5% of the Scottish population. While, today, most will be over 65 by 2028, it is estimated that almost half of all veterans will be of working age and each year we add up to another 1,800 ex-Service personnel, plus their families, to the population. This demographic change means not only a difference in the types of services and support they will need, but a change in the nature of the skills and expertise they will bring when they return to life and work in civvy street.

Says Charlie Wallace, ‘The challenge for government and society is to set the right conditions for a seamless transition now, and even more importantly in the future, where individual needs and aspirations can be supported flexibly and consistently. If we get it right, then not only the Service leaver but the labour market, our communities and society in general will reap the benefits of a diverse and very often high-performing source of talent. 

‘If we define a successful transition by the need to get the fundamentals of life in place on leaving the Services – securing a job and finding somewhere to live – then the vast majority of Service leavers can be said to have made a successful transition. However, we do not currently measure the other components of transition, such as long-term independence, financial security, meaningful and appropriate employment, social integration, or health and well-being. Nor do we consider the opportunity cost to the labour market and the economy of Service leavers who are not enabled to maximise their talents.’

Anyone who has been through transition knows very well that these life changes involve the whole family, not just the Service leaver. Traditionally, all three Services and the MoD have focused almost exclusively on the Service leaver. This needs to change.

Charlie Wallace, Scottish Veterans Commissioner

Positive Futures develops the thinking, and takes account of ‘big picture’ developments since the 2015 Transition in Scotland report was prepared by Wallace’s predecessor, Eric Fraser. As well as economic and demographic change and changes afoot in our Armed Forces, it takes account of the vision and 2028 outcomes set out in the first ever UK-wide, long-term Strategy for our Veterans and initial findings from the public consultation on the strategy. It sets the scene for a series of short papers on different aspects of transition, which will contain specific recommendations for government, the first of which – looking at employment, skills and learning – is planned for next spring.

Wallace concludes: ‘The introduction of new policies I expect will fundamentally change the relationship between the employer (Navy, Army or RAF) and the individual employee (the Service person). These policies will give more lifestyle choices – and personal responsibilities – to the individual. However, these new MoD policies will potentially have an effect on many of the devolved responsibilities of the Scottish government and its delivery partners. For example, on housing provision, on schools, further and higher education and learning services, and on employment and skills development for both individuals and their partners and families. 

‘It is important that the close collaboration between governments seen in the preparation of the Strategy for our Veterans continues. Our UK and devolved governments must engage positively with one another in order to ensure local delivery circumstances are reflected in policy development and design. Ultimately, this will help secure more positive outcomes for our veterans and their families.’

Positive Futures – Getting Transition Right in Scotland can be viewed here.

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