The response from Keith Brown MSP, the Scottish Government Veterans Cabinet Secretary, to my recent report on employability, skills and learning for the veterans community was published on 7 March 2017: The Veterans Community - Employability, Skills and Learning - Scottish Government Response
If we are to succeed in making Scotland the destination of choice for those leaving the Armed Services, we need to ensure that both individuals and families have access to relevant, up-to-date information to help them decide where they want to settle and how to secure appropriate housing and employment as a result of a successful transition. Through my reports, I hope to make recommendations and observations that go some way to helping improve all aspects of support for our veterans.
As a part of this I am pleased to share with you my third report, The Veterans Community - Employability, Skills and Learning which was published on 3 November this year. Following an extensive study of the issues veterans face when seeking to secure civilian employment or enhance their skills and education, I here set out a list of 19 key recommendations which I hope will help to improve employment and learning opportunities for Scotland’s veterans community.
The report highlights a number of good examples and offers suggestions for how more employers across the public and private sectors can utilise the talents and skills of those who have served in the Armed Forces, to the benefit of their organisations, Scotland’s communities and the wider economy. The Commissioner also recommends that the Scottish Government provides the longer-term strategic leadership to ensure the veterans community, including spouses and partners, maximises its potential and plays its part in filling our skills gaps.
My first report on Transition in Scotland looked at the support provided to Service Leavers and their families in Scotland as they transition from the military to a civilian life. It described how this process is different for those settling in the rest of the UK, highlighted examples of good practice and made a number of recommendations that should help ensure transition is as easy and successful as possible for all.
My second report on the Provision of Information on Housing for Service Leavers and Veterans in Scotland, found that information for veterans on housing can be inconsistent, confusing and difficult to find. In this report I highlighted a number of examples of good practice and recommended some fairly straightforward changes which I believe would significantly improve the quality and accessibility of this information for the ex-Service community.
It is reassuring and very encouraging that the Scottish Government this year renewed its commitment to the Armed Forces community [Renewing Our Commitments] and highlighted its specific support for veterans in Scotland – both young and old.
Much has been done, and continues to be done, to support these individuals and their families but as we look ahead, I believe there are five emerging themes that we need to focus on if we are to create an environment where there is appropriate and effective support for those in need, and where all can flourish in a welcoming, inclusive society which respects the commitment and talents of the ex-Service community. These themes are:
- Understand that Scotland is different from the rest of the UK for veterans and this demands a distinctive approach. There are fundamental differences in demography, legislation, administration and culture, all of which impact on the wider community and will require policy and public services to match.
- Protect the extensive and impressive support that is currently provided in Scotland while seeking to make improvements where necessary. Lots of dynamic, innovative projects and services already offer support and advice for those in need but it is frustrating that this is not always widely known or fully exploited.
- Acknowledge that change will be required to ensure policy and service delivery reflect the emerging needs of veterans and their families. This is especially important in the provision of information which remains a significant challenge in all sectors.
Promote partnership as this is key to successful delivery for veterans, from all and in all circumstances. The most ground-breaking and effective initiatives are undoubtedly those in which people and organisations have stepped out of professional silos, combine efforts and work together towards a common goal.
Recognise the many benefits veterans and their families bring to our communities and workplaces. There is an urgent need to stop seeing these individuals through the prism of need and obligation and recognise them far more for their strengths, qualities and the contribution they make in so many ways in Scotland.
I look forward to continuing to working with the government and the many other organisations that support the ex-Service community in advancing these themes. In doing so, I will continue to champion the causes of veterans, of all ages and backgrounds, promote their many talents and do my part in making Scotland ‘a destination of choice’ for those leaving the Services.