Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), together with the Officers’ Association has released a new report, which provides a definitive demographic profile of the serving and ex-officer community…

The Report states that there are over 26,820 serving UK officers, and an estimated 371,600 veteran officers in Great Britain, including 19,200 over ninety years of age.

The Report projects that the number of veteran officers will fall by 55% in the next 20 years, because of the decreasing number of World War Two veterans. It is estimated that there are over 116,000 officers with long-term illnesses which significantly limit their ability to undertake day-to-day activities and over 27,000 with dementia. It also identified the likely changes to the population: a higher predicted turnover of officers, leaving the Services at a younger age; and more women as well as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) officers are expected to serve in the future.

Another challenge is the mind set of officers, who self-identified as ‘a proud community’ and tend to apply for help only when their problems are acute. Some interviewees acknowledged that officers (and their spouses) were more reluctant to ask for help than others, due to the culture and expectation of self-resilience. This could mean that when they did finally ask for help, their needs were greater and more complex.

The Report was commissioned to help understand the size, nature and needs of present and future officer communities. The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) awarded £43,149 to the Officers’ Association, the charity supporting the welfare of those who have held a commission in HM Armed Services and their dependants. The six month study was conducted by the Institute of Public Care at Oxford-Brookes University, and project-managed by Mazia Yassim, Research Associate at the Officers’ Association.

The project used a number of techniques to build a picture of the officer community, including interviews, focus groups and including using data from the Ministry of Defence and other sources, holding focus groups with current and ex-serving officers, as well as interviews with Service charities.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, says: “Improving our understanding of the profile of the current and ex-serving officer community is an important piece of work. Without a proper knowledge of the size and needs of the officers’ community, and a forecast of how that might change, the sector cannot understand how best to support them and their families in leading successful and fulfilled civilian lives.

"We welcome the findings of this report, which concludes that serving and ex-serving officers can suffer increased barriers to help-seeking, but overall their needs are really no different to those of the general ex-serving population. What this report challenges us to identify, as the sector plans for the years ahead, is the optimum way in which we can deliver the necessary support, whether it be welfare or other types.”

Lee Holloway, CEO of the Officers’ Association, said: “The findings of this report are important as they give us a clear insight into the future demographics and needs of our officer community and their families. We believe the report will be a valuable tool to other charities, the MOD and health and social services in providing help.

"For the OA, the report gives the empirical data to help us plan for the future, to ensure the officer community is not disadvantaged as demographic and institutional changes take place. It challenges us to reach out to all serving and former officers, to make them aware of how we can support them, now and in the years ahead.”