Ex-military personnel with service-related physical or mental health injuries should not have benefit sanctions imposed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), say researchers of a Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded report…
The report – titled ‘Sanctions, support and Service leavers: welfare conditionality and transitions from military to civilian life’ – conducted by the University of Salford and the University of York, is the first major study investigating the experiences of ex-Service personnel and the benefits system.
A common experience was the perception that staff carrying out assessments for benefits sometimes had little understanding or, regard for, the mental health issues facing military veterans.
Evidence was generated largely from face-to-face interviews with 68 ex-Service personnel, a number of who were struggling financially, with many living with debts, rent arrears, court fines and some having to use food banks.
These interim findings present nine recommendations, including:
- That DWP urgently review the assessment process applied to those claiming working-age incapacity benefits to make sure assessors are qualified to assess the mental and physical health issues of people leaving the Armed Forces
- Each Jobcentre should have one designated individual who takes a lead role in supporting Armed Forces Service leavers and their families interacting with the social security system
- Guidance on the UK social security system setting out an individual’s rights should be included as part of the transitional support for those leaving the Armed Forces
- DWP should ensure that all Jobcentre Plus staff are provided with training on the adjustments and easements applicable to Armed Forces Service leavers and their families, and more broadly around the mental and physical health impairments that may impact on some Service leavers’ fitness to undertake paid work and/or ability to engage in compulsory work focused activities
Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said: “This is the first study to look qualitatively at the experiences of ex-Service personnel who need to use the benefits system, and it is worth emphasizing that most transition successfully without such recourse.
“The recommendations included in the report will help provide the DWP with the information that will help increase the awareness of their staff to the needs of the Armed Forces community and hence improve the outcomes for those ex-Service personnel that do require welfare support.”
Dr Lisa Scullion, Associate Director of the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit at the University of Salford, who is leading the project, said: “We found people who desperately did not want to claim benefits and only did so as a last resort, but who found the system baffling and had been given little preparation for dealing with it.
“Allowances are made to veterans who claim benefits as part of the Armed Forces Covenant but until now very little has been known about their experiences within the benefits system. This research has suggested that there is a gap between some of the Covenant commitments and what is actually experienced on the ground, and we would urge the policy makers to look carefully at our findings and recommendations.”