The Ministry of Defence offers a good range of resettlement support for those leaving the Armed Forces, and most people adapt back into civilian life easily and comfortably. There are a minority of people who have a more difficult time finding employment, housing or making the social transition.
A National Audit Office survey of those who have left the Services in the last two years revealed that three quarters found the return to civilian life was as expected or easier; and two thirds said the support offered by the Armed Forces helped them to find work. 94 per cent of leavers who were seeking employment through the Career Transition Partnership programme found employment within six months.
In 2006-07, some 25,000 personnel left the Armed Forces and all leavers have access to some assistance to help them when returning to civilian life. The level of resettlement support is determined by the length of military service and is not dependent on the rank of the leaver. Personnel discharged for medical reasons are entitled to the highest level of support regardless of how long they have served.
The majority of leavers get coaching in CV writing and job interview techniques; a contribution of £534 towards the cost of training plus associated travel and accommodation costs; up to 35 working days to prepare for their return to civilian life; briefings on housing and personal finance issues; and access to a career consultant.
Most Service leavers find suitable accommodation on leaving the Forces, and the MoD offers a reasonable amount of support to help people when doing so. However, a small number of leavers have difficulties in finding suitable accommodation.
The MoD has improved the provision of resettlement support for Early Service Leavers because this group includes individuals more vulnerable to unemployment and homelessness. However, inconsistencies in the quality of support offered at unit level undermines the overall provisions made.
The Army has to contend with particular challenges in supporting those leaving, compared to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The Army draws a large number of recruits from educationally and socially disadvantaged backgrounds who, in many cases, also join with weak basic skills. Access to resettlement provision to meet the challenges of the transition to civilian life has been affected by the recent high level of operations which has increased the demand on soldiers’ time as they come to the end of their service.
An NAO survey showed that around one in ten leavers who were eligible for the full resettlement package did not attend any Career Transition Partnership course. A small proportion said they were not aware of the services which were available to them. For those leaving the Army, the proportion of those who were unaware of what support was available to them was higher, especially from the junior ranks. The MoD must continue to improve awareness of the support that is available.