Campus close-up: Anglia Ruskin University

A new database at the Veterans and Families Institute will improve access to the research done on soldiers adjusting to life after service

November 6, 2014

Source: Reuters

On their feet: a new institute hopes to make the work of those supporting veterans and their families more effective

“When it comes to research about military veterans, we often rely on work that is coming out of the US, where the system of care delivery is very different. Translating those findings into the UK setting can sometimes be a mistake.”

Matt Fossey is a director of the Veterans and Families Institute (VFI) at Anglia Ruskin University, which was set up in April of this year. Among its projects is a Veterans Research Hub, an online database that will bring together UK and international literature and research resources on military veterans and their families.

“One of the big challenges we face is that very few places have research units looking at veterans and their families,” Mr Fossey said. “King’s [College London] does some, as do we at Anglia Ruskin, but we are conscious that there are lots of people in universities interested in this area doing bits of research. To get the best outcomes, collaboration with these institutions is the way forward.”

The hub has received £160,000 funding from the Forces in Mind Trust, which seeks to promote the successful transition of forces personnel into civilian life, and Lord Ashcroft, the prime minister’s special adviser on veterans’ transition and chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University.

The money, spread over an initial two-year period, will be used to recruit a director to be charged with making the hub operational. When the hub is completed, it will enable users to locate research and evidence by subject area, to identify funding and to build links in areas of common interest. It is hoped that the database will be used not only by academics but by anyone who has an interest in the subject.

Lord Ashcroft, whose Veterans’ Transition Review report, published in February, called on the government to do more to support those returning from service to civilian life, said there was “a lot of poor information” about those who had served in the forces.

“We are determined to confront this problem,” he said. “This new capability will enable policymakers, the forces, the media, the charity sector and the public to have ready access to high-quality research and information.

“It will result in far better provision and outcomes for armed forces leavers and veterans.”

Last week, experts – including orthopaedic surgeon Tim Briggs and Neil Greenberg of the Royal College of Psychiatrists – criticised the UK government for failing to meet the expected standards of veteran healthcare.

They said that ex-servicemen and women were not receiving the priority NHS treatment that was promised in the military covenant, which became law in 2011.

Professor Greenberg told the BBC that the government needed to be “a bit more honest about what it is delivering and…what it says it’s delivering, because the two are definitely not the same”.

Professor Briggs added that the care system “is not currently able to guarantee timely high-quality care” for ex-service personnel.

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, chief executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said that establishing the research hub would “make significant advances in providing an evidence base from which to influence policymakers and service deliverers”.

In addition to the online database, it is hoped that the VFI will conduct research into the effect that serving in the forces has on not only the veterans themselves but also their families and the wider community.

“Not much is being done to look at the wider effects,” Mr Fossey said. “In some research there has been a traditionalist view of the family too – perhaps looking at next of kin, but not the broader constituents of a family.”

He said that the institute was also establishing links with universities in the US, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe in a bid to promote further international research. “We don’t just want to replicate research that is already being done in the UK,” he said. “We are interested in what can be achieved through international collaboration.”

Anglia Ruskin offers a master’s degree in military veterans and families studies, which is designed to provide professionals who are working in the military, allied healthcare, the NHS and charities with the knowledge necessary to work effectively with the military and veteran client population.

In numbers

57% - Percentage rise in the number of ex-military personnel needing help for mental health issues between 2012 and 2013 (Source: Combat Stress).

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