The Probation Institute and Forces in Mind Trust have launched ‘Working with Ex-Armed Services Personnel Under Supervision’, an e-learning programme that enables Probation Staff to better identify and support ex-Service personnel under supervision…

The e-learning course and the teaching materials are available to all probation prison services and third sector organisations across England and Wales. Previously, Probation Staff had no specialist training to enable them to identify ex-Service personnel, making them unable to gain access to tailored services, and therefore more likely to reoffend.

The Anglia Ruskin University National Audit of support for ex-Service personnel in the Criminal Justice System found that 4-5% of the prison population is currently made up of ex-Service personnel. Those who have served in the Armed Forces are more likely to be in prison for the first time – 54% compared with 34% of the general population. However, less than half of ex-Service personnel under supervision are registered on probation case records as having served.

The Probation Institute’s e-learning programme tackles this by recommending that all service users are asked by Probation Staff if they have served in the Armed Forces and by highlighting to them how best to support the rehabilitation of this group.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The most effective way to identify someone who has served in the Armed Forces is to ask them directly. The Phillips report from 2014 states that ex-Service personnel in the prison system are a vulnerable group. And their Service history, which could have some bearing on their offending behaviour, is currently being overlooked by Probation Officers.

“Leaving the Armed Forces is successful for the majority; but for a small group, extra support is needed to navigate the transition pathway. Whether it be due to things they have encountered through time in service, or through the loss of the protective factors of Armed Forces life, a minority find themselves under probation supervision. We must ensure that this particularly vulnerable cohort are identified as having served and are signposted to the appropriate support services.”

Inga Markelyte, Learning and Development Consultant Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company said: “We made use of the excellent e-learning resource available via the Probation Institute on working with ex-armed services personnel. This is a subject where expert knowledge and support is often required, and therefore having a refresher on what works best when working with veterans and also having a concise resources list detailing services available to veterans is extremely useful. The fact that the course is free of charge is fantastic.

“The feedback we have had from practitioners was that the course was easy to follow; helpful to the practitioner role; the videos were really good; the resources list was particularly useful; clear information provided with well-worded questions; the subject was broken down into nice, easily digestible parts; the quality of the videos was impressive and the information contained was up to date and relevant to probation services; this was a good refresher about working with veterans.”

Helen Schofield, Chief Executive, Probation Institute, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this learning resource and grateful to FiMT who funded both the initial research on which the learning is based and the e-learning product. We are also grateful to the National Probation Service, Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, Sodexo, PACT, Ostling Training, Project Nova and Tom Harrison House in Merseyside, for the staff and services users both in the steering group and featuring in the e-learning programme.”

Glyn Owen, ex-Service person, said: “In my opinion the e-learning tool provides vital insight into the benefits of, firstly identifying veterans in the criminal justice system, and then hooking them up with support networks aimed specifically at ex-military personnel. I believe if veterans are signposted to the assistance available this would not only improve the quality of their lives and their family’s lives, but also considerably reduce the risk of re-offending.”

FiMT provided funds of £41,500 to enable the development of the e-learning programme.