A new programme that helps integrate ex-service personnel into civilian life and prevent them from further contact with the criminal justice system has started this month in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
The Ministry of Justice estimates that between five and ten percent of the prison population consists of ex-service personnel.
While the majority of those leaving the armed forces in the UK transition successfully into civilian life, some face real challenges. These individuals experience higher levels of anxiety, social isolation, harmful drinking, gambling addictions, physical and mental health problems. Because of their ex-service personnel status, many are less inclined to seek help for their problems, including finding work or a place to live.
We have designed a programme that gives veterans the tools and strategies to support their transition. Over six sessions, probation officers who have a specialist understanding of the person’s military background, provide support so the individual can find a job, a place to live and set longer-term goals. Sessions also cover issues such as addiction, healthy relationships, building social skills and identifying who can help or support them.
KSS CRC will deliver the programme as a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, which judges and magistrates can give as part of a person’s sentence, or it can be part of the licence conditions the probation service recommends.
KSS CRC’s Assistant Chief Probation Officer Carl Hall says: “Society owes a huge debt of gratitude to those who have served their country. But sadly, for some, the impact of leaving the armed forces and issues of stigma and barriers to seeking help, contribute to ex-servicemen and women ending up in the criminal justice system. Our programme, which we’ve created with input from veterans, will help enable participants to take the necessary steps to change their lives, gain employment, re-establish family links and again become the proud and worthy citizens they once were.”
Former veteran and KSS CRC probation officer Paul Westbrook says: “After 27 years in probation, I’ve seen many veterans who have unfortunately ended up serving time and often that comes down to their pride and an overall reluctance of those individuals to ask for help.
“Some will have left the service with physical injuries or suffering post-traumatic stress disorder that leaves them feeling like they failed. That may well spiral into gambling or drug addictions and other relationship issues that they need to address. The programme aims to help them rebuild their lives and prevent them from any further offending.”
The programme will start in Kent, Surrey and Sussex first before we roll it out more widely to our other probation services later in the year.