Every year thousands of Service personnel leave the Forces and return to civilian life. As a country we owe it to them to ensure that their transition is as smooth as possible and that they are in a position to make the most of their opportunities. I do not believe they want special treatment, but they must not be disadvantaged as a result of their service.
Most make the transition with few problems. They are, after all, skilled and resourceful individuals well equipped to make their way in the world. For some, though, the process is harder than it needs to be. Many doubt that their experience or qualifications will be useful in civilian jobs, or find that employers have an inaccurate or caricatured view of what Service leavers are like. Some struggle to find suitable housing, or get into difficulties because they are not used to managing their finances. We need to make sure that those leaving the Forces do not encounter problems getting the public services they need. A few fall through the cracks and experience serious problems.
Part of the purpose of the Armed Forces Covenant is to ensure we are meeting our obligations to those who have served, and a great deal of good work is already happening in this area. The purpose of my review is to find out what more needs to be done. In particular, I want to know whether there are gaps between the policies that are put in place centrally and what actually happens on the ground – whether people’s real experience matches the government’s good intentions. Where necessary, I will be making concrete recommendations to improve things.
I will be taking evidence from government departments, industry, charities, the Armed Forces and others – but most important of all, from veterans themselves. That is why I have launched a website –www.veteranstransition.co.uk – at which those who have been through the transition from the Services to civilian life can tell us about their experiences and any problems they have encountered. I also want to hear from their families and others with an interest in this area who may have something useful to tell us.
Anyone who contributes will be helping to ensure that those who leave the Forces and need help get what they require – and that nobody finds themselves penalised for having served.