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New study to investigate financial hardship and food poverty within the UK’s Armed Forces Community

31st July 2020

The UK’s oldest national tri-service charity, in partnership with Northumbria University has today announced the launch of a programme of research into financial hardship and food poverty within the Armed Forces Community.

Over a two-year period, the Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research and the Healthy Living Lab at Northumbria University will work closely with SSAFA and their volunteer network to collect and analyse a range of anonymised data from serving personnel, veterans and families from all three branches of the Armed Forces community.

The proposed data collection methods have been carefully designed to ensure minimal impact on beneficiaries during the initial steps they would normally go through to during SSAFA’s caseworking process. SSAFA supports the welfare needs of over 85,000 veterans, families and service personnel, with more than 41,000 cases and visits completed alone in 2019, in local communities up and down the UK.

The research is part-funded by a grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, which has identified a need for evidence in order to identify future need and develop funding models across the whole of the Armed Forces community. This is the next step in research and has come about as a direct result of the impact of the collaborative Map of Need project.

The Map of Need project analyses data from across the NHS and charities within the Armed Forces charity sector, which has provided government and the wider veterans’ sector with a health and social care overview of the veterans and military families community.

Dr Matt Kiernan, Associate Professor Mental Health and Veterans Studies, and Director of the Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research at Northumbria University said: “Through the Map of Need project the team at Northumbria have established data sharing agreements with the main charities within the veterans’ sector as well as the NHS. We analyse this anonymised data to provide government and the wider veterans’ sector with a health and social care observatory of the veterans and military families community.

“As a direct result of this collaborative effort, the Map of Need has identified that financial hardship is a significant, yet little considered, issue within the veterans’ community. This new study will look in greater depth at financial hardship and food poverty within this community across the whole of the UK. This next step in research and the funding to undertake it has come about as a direct result of the impact of the Map of Need project."

Professor Greta Defeyter is the Director of the Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab said: “Covid-19 has shone a light on deepening inequalities and food poverty in the UK. However, the issue of food poverty in the veteran population has often been overlooked and never properly studied on this scale. The Healthy Living Lab are delighted to join forces with our colleagues from the Veteran Hub and SSAFA to research this important issue.”

Lt General Sir Andrew Gregory, Chief Executive of SSAFA said: “Financial hardship and food poverty has always been an issue for some within the Armed Forces community, but the data has never previously been collected and analysed so comprehensively.

“The evidence-base of this research will enable us to ensure that we, and the various and organisations with whom we work closely, are able to plan and allocate future projects and resources even more effectively than before, something that is very timely given the difficulties many are likely to face as a result of the pandemic and its effect on global and national economies.”

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