Forces in Mind Trust has published an interim evaluation of an advocacy programme which helps ex-Service personnel and their families to navigate support services and get their lives back on track…

The military Advocacy service (mAs) is run by specialist charity seAp (Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote). The FiMT-funded evaluation, being conducted by University of Plymouth research unit SERIO, has found that the support provided by mAs has been positive for members of the Armed Forces community and has also been useful for other support providers.

Organisations in the charity sector felt the service is complementary to the support they offer, fills a gap in existing provision and is flexible and responsive to the needs of the community.

Using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, and backed by in-depth client interviews, the evaluation found that those who accessed support from mAs reported significant improvements in their mental wellbeing and in their ability to deal with problems. The clients also felt that that they were being listened to and that their issues were being taken seriously.

The fact that mAs is designed specifically for the Armed Forces community, and many of the advocates have an Armed Forces background, was found to be particularly helpful by clients who had previously been reluctant to access, or continue accessing, more generic support services.

Ex-Service personnel and their families accessed mAs for a range of reasons, most commonly for help with benefits payments, health and social care and housing. Over a two-year period, the evaluation found that mAs supported 140 cases with financial difficulties which resulted in positive financial gains of over £750,000 for clients through grants, benefit and pension gains and written-off debts.

While the report found that the service is positive, many stakeholders felt there is a need to increase awareness of mAs and better communicate its offer to stakeholders. It also found that there is appetite for a greater level of service coverage, both in terms of geographical reach and the number of advocates, to ensure that more of the Armed Forces community can benefit from the services offered.

The report can be accessed here and a final report, which will include a social return on investment analysis of mAs, is due to be published in 2020.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “While the majority of ex-Service personnel transition successfully from military to civilian life, previous research has shown that for some, transition can be a challenge and they can face difficulties in knowing where to go for support.

“mAs seeks to help them with this by providing a tailored, client led, and peer delivered advocacy service for ex-Service personnel to ensure they receive the support they are entitled to. FiMT funded this evaluation to generate an evidence base of the impact of mAs, and the interim report is already showcasing the positive outcomes for ex-Service personnel who have used the service.”

Liz Fenton, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of seAp, said: “Advocacy is about standing alongside clients with the aim of helping those clients get their voices heard. Here at seAp we have been really excited to see how well this approach translates to working alongside veterans with complex problems and to see the impact.”