Insights Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Reoffending With a New Programme That Aims to Turn Their Lives Around
09 November 2020

Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Reoffending With a New Programme That Aims to Turn Their Lives Around

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We're launching a programme that helps integrate ex-service personnel into civilian life and prevent further contact with the criminal justice system. The intervention programme starts this week in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

There needs to be an open and frank conversation about the reasons why some veterans become trapped in a cycle of criminality. Official Government statistics show that 3 per cent of those in prisons in England and Wales in 2019 were members of the Armed Forces.

While the majority of those leaving the Armed Forces transition successfully into civilian life, some face real challenges. These individuals experience higher levels of anxiety, social isolation, alcohol abuse, gambling addictions, physical and mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of their status as a veteran, many are less inclined to seek help for their problems as they see it as a sign of weakness, including when looking for work or a place to live.

Our Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company has designed a programme that gives veterans the tools and strategies to support their move back into society. The programme is designed to deliver targeted support during six sessions. Probation officers with specialist knowledge of the military career of each veteran on the programme will provide dedicated support so that they are given the best opportunity to find a job, a place to live and set longer-term life goals. Sessions also cover issues such as addiction, healthy relationships, building social skills and identifying who can help or support them.

Veterans could be referred to the new programme by the National Probation Service as part of their court ordered sentence or under conditions placed on them when they are released from prison.

The intervention is also backed by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, who formed a partnership with Seetec to support this effort to break down barriers and reduce reoffending rates amongst veterans.

Gary Williams, Head of Specialist Services at SSAFA, said: “The new programme designed by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company is an excellent initiative to help reduce the number of veterans reoffending and finding themselves back in the criminal justice system.

“For the majority, the transition period from the forces to civilian life is easy and they incur very few obstacles or issues. However, a small minority find themselves struggling to deal with life on civvy street and end up in difficult or harmful situations that may lead them into the criminal justice system.

“The programme will enable veterans to access the support they need, when they need it, to ensure that they do not end up in the criminal justice system again, and find stability in their civilian lives through a variety of ways, including employment.”

KSS CRC’s Assistant Chief Probation Officer Carl Hall said: “As a society, we have a moral obligation to support those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. When they leave their military career behind, it is important that specialist guidance is available to ensure any veteran struggling with the transition back into civilian life is provided a route to succeed.

“More needs to be done to understand the reasons why some veterans end up in the criminal justice system. The impact of addiction and mental health issues are key challenges, but there is a wider debate about the opportunities available to veterans when they leave the Armed Forces. Our programme, which has been created with input from veterans, will help enable participants take the necessary steps to change their lives, gain employment, re-establish family links and make a positive contribution to society once again.”

Former veteran and KSS CRC probation officer Paul Westbrook said: “After 27 years in probation, I’ve seen too many veterans who have unfortunately ended up serving time. There are often complex reasons why some veterans end up in prison, but it can sometimes come down to their pride and an overall reluctance to ask for help.

“Some will have left the Armed Forces 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 mental health issues that they need to address. The aim of this programme is to help veterans in the probation system to rebuild their lives and turn a corner on their criminal past.”