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Current Projects

Developing a Network to Reduce Isolation in the LGBT+ Veterans Community

Little is known of the LGBT+ Veterans community.  It is believed by those closest to this community that many may live in the poverty, poor health and have endured trauma.  However, there is no evidence base to support this hypothesis.  Outreach, community building and research of support needs were not attempted during the years of the ban or since. 

Connections between LGBT+ Veteran community members are fragmented.  Fighting With Pride is the only organisation with an expert lived experience LGBT+ Veterans team of professionals capable of building this network on any scale and with impact that can change lives.  Because little is known of the needs of this community or the extent to which needs are met, navigation between pathways to access support will also be considered.

This project aims to:

  • Establish a network of support for Veterans from LGBT+ community.
  • incorporate an evidence-based approach to future development
  • Focus on needs-led responses to supporting members by identifying effective methods of engaging Veterans who feel socially isolated and look to provide solutions where barriers exist.

Developing a holistic intervention to reduce loneliness in veterans who have been treated for PTSD

The aim of this project is to develop and design a post-clinical treatment intervention for PTSD diagnosed veterans who are experiencing ongoing loneliness and social isolation.

This project will be in two main phases;

Phase 1 (scheduled to run between January 2021- March 2022) Creates an evidence base for the model of intervention by exploring experiences of loneliness. The project will undertake semi-structured interviews with 20 veterans who have been treated for PTSD and are experiencing loneliness.

Phase 2 (scheduled to run between April 2022 – March 2023) consists of a one-day workshop involving service users and commissioners within the wider sector (NHS, Charities etc) alongside expertise from the wider field, and placing those most affected at the heart of designing a self-benefiting intervention.

These two phases will be followed by a legacy phase, which seeks to facilitate an effective and sustainable roll out of the designed intervention into military, veteran and non-military communities.


The Map of Need platform sits at the heart of the UK governments veteran single point of contact initiative, Veterans’ Gateway. The web platform and its complimentary apple and android mobile apps enable veterans; their families, health and social care professionals, as well as those working in military charities, to access a directory of all quality assured services available to veterans across the UK. There are currently over 16,000 veteran and military family specific services mapped including employment, families and communities, finances, housing, legal support, local government support, and mental wellbeing. The platform empowers users to determine the most appropriate service or advice for their situation, and therefore empowers them to self-manage their situation. Built into the platform is an anonymised passive data capture capability that enables the observation of what service user are looking for and from which region in the UK.

The Map of Need has been successful in identifying significant problems within the UK veteran population through the geospatial analysis from existing service usage data. So far, we have signed data sharing agreements with 14 stakeholders across the UK. Future service usage can then be assessed through trend analysis. This method of passive data collection allows a continual stream of reports into government, and the wider sector (through open access reporting), ensuring that a macro level observatory function is delivered. In addition, using passive data collection techniques reduces the instance of research fatigue on what is generally a small but vitally important population.

Suicide Among the Armed Forces Veteran Population: Understand-Identify-Prevent

This project will be undertaken in four phases and aims to reduce suicide among the Armed Forces veteran population.  The research team will co-produce a veteran-specific model of safety and intervention for those identified as at highest risk of suicide.  The project has been designed in collaboration with military families who have been bereaved by suicide through a series of pre-study focus groups (facilitated and managed by For the Fallen, Community Interest Company).

The project team intends to work with 30 families, recruited by For the Fallen, to understand the complex life events which lead to suicide. 

Aim and objectives include:

  • Establishing whether suicidal ideation in the serving Armed Forces and veteran population is any different to that of the general population and, if so, identify why and explain how.
  • Co-production of an integrated model of safety which uses a multi-agency approach to identify, manage and reduce the risk of suicide.
  • Co-production of an intervention model to inform and assist existing mental health services across the UK to manage those at the highest risk of suicide.
  • Developing and providing access to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with a nationally recognised expert reference group of families who have experienced the loss of a serving or veteran family member through suicide.

The Baton Charity and For the Fallen CIC have worked alongside the research team in every aspect of the research design thus far and a key role of both the charities will be to provide support as an integral part of the project team for each member of every family taking part. Using a resilience-based framework.


Supporting the Emotional Health of Military Children and Young People: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Psychosocial Intervention Provided By SSOP

Research Team: Paul Watson (PI), Alison Osborne (SRA)
Støt Soldater & Pårørende

Military life can affect families in different ways, some negatively, with the majority of families having positive experiences. The effect of military life, the subsequent transition from the armed forces, and parental poor mental health may cause emotional turbulence to children and young people. With a reported national increase of poor mental health of children and young people, this research will explore the impact a veteran parent with mental health issues or PTSD has on a children and young people’s emotional health, their activities of daily living and their relationship with the parent. We are acutely aware of the potential life limiting effects living with a parent with mental health issues or PTSD has on children and young people’s health, well-being, and academic attainment. Therefore, it is vital to understand how SSOP’s psychosocial interventions and individual support initiatives have impacted on the young person’s overall health and well-being, in promoting emotional growth and positive outcomes.

Research Aims: To critically investigate over a four-year period, the impact of participation within SSOP service provision, and any additional, individually adapted support children and young people receive through SSOP. Moreover, this service evaluation will measure service delivery from SSOP staff (input) and measure the overall emotional health and well-being of the young people (output) in veterans’ families who are supported by SSOP. 


  • To critically explore if parental mental health issues impact upon the emotional health of young people of veterans within families.
  • To identify and critically investigate if the psychosocial intervention, measured against the success pyramid provided by SSOP staff, has positively impacted on the mental health, decision making and abilities to build confidence, resilience, and self-esteem in the young person.
  • To privilege the voice of these young people in relation to their overall experience of individual support provided by SSOP.

In consultation with Durham/Dales Clinical Commissioning Group, The Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research Hub at Northumbria University engaged in a pilot project in 2019 to implement a social prescribing model for veterans and military families across the Durham Dales area (Tees, Esk and Wear Valley).

In parallel the NHS South West Integrated Personalised Care Team (SWIPC) have been developing a collaborative approach to supporting the armed forces community, based on the strength of what already exists, both within the NHS and through the many organisations and charities that support this group of people

Both areas found that whilst there is much opportunity within social prescribing for the armed forces community, there are also some key issues that need some development work to ensure it is ready to ‘spread and scale’. Among the social prescribing workforce, the understanding of both the Armed Forces Community and military charity sector resources available was very poor.

This two-year project has been funded to enhance and develop social prescribing for the Armed Forces and veteran community. This will include the development of a bespoke software application, developing Armed Forces social prescribing link worker roles and an educational package on social prescribing in the Armed Forces community for all social prescribers.

This work builds on the work already underway in Durham Dales CCG and the South West Integrated Personalised Care Programme and will focus on three areas:

  • Durham Dales
  • Cornwall
  • Dorset

The overall aim is to ‘test out’ a new approach to supporting the Armed Forces community through social prescribing, linking people in with support in their community based on what matters to them. If the project is successful, we will look at opportunities to ‘spread and scale’ the model across the UK

Exploring Military Widows’ Experiences of Social Isolation and Loneliness

Research Team: Dr Gemma Wilson-Menzfeld (PI), Dr Matthew Kiernan (Co-investigator), Dr Tracy Collins (Co-investigator), Mary Moreland (Co-investigator; RA), Amy Johnson (RA)
Start date: September 2020
End date: August 2022

This two-year study purposively aims to capture experiences of military widows irrespective of the circumstances surrounding their partner’s death.  Therefore, in this study, military widow(er)s are recognised as the partner of personnel who died whilst in service, or of a veteran who died following their military service. 

The project, developed by Northumbria University in collaboration with the War Widows Association, is funded by Forces in Mind Trust. The research team is working closely with the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Widows’ Association, Army Widows’ Association, and Royal Air Force Widows’ Association.

The study aims to map and understand war widows’ experiences, identify the social participation services available to them and examine their unmet needs, and will inform national debate and lead to the development of policy recommendations and guidance for service provision.

The study consists of three phases: a survey, individual interviews and a stakeholder workshop. The survey will aim to determine levels and experiences of loneliness and social isolation experienced by military widows. The individual interviews will provide a more in-depth understanding of experiences of social isolation and loneliness experienced by military widows, including available services and unmet needs of military widows. The findings from these two phases will be synthesised and will inform the stakeholder workshop with stakeholders from relevant organisations. The workshop will provide the opportunity to develop policy recommendations and guidance for service provision.

Conducting a programme of research with SSAFA into financial hardship and food insecurity within the Armed Forces Community.

Research conducted by Map of Need identified that financial hardship is a significant issue within the veterans’ community. The aim of this study is to investigate in greater depth financial hardship and food insecurity within this community.

Exploring and evaluating the War Widows in Touch ( programme

Research Team: Dr Gemma Wilson (PI), Jessica Gates (RA), Mary Moreland (RA)

Start date: 2020

End date: 2021

Loneliness and social isolation are both national areas of concern, with disappearing social networks and geographical dispersal being related to this. Members of the War Widows' Association (WWA) are spread throughout the UK and are at risk of loneliness. Widowhood, particularly in later life, is detrimental to health and well-being, and although social relationships are thought to assist in the management of widowhood, this is dependent on the quality and flexibility of ties as well as access to social support and participation. However, enabling individuals to use technology to connect with one another will enable improved social connections between members, and also improve connections with family and friends.

The project aims to connect war widow/ers at both a national and local level and build an online community. The project will provide some WWA members with iPads and/or iPad training. This will help to empower individuals to use iPads and to learn new skills to connect with others online. This project builds on the success of the award winning 'Project Semaphore', a project ran by the Royal Naval Association.

The project is being ran and handled by the War Widows Association. Northumbria University are involved in the evaluation of the project only. Specifically, this evaluation aims:

  • To reflect on the perceived facilitators and barriers to implementation of the intervention(s) from the perspective of participants and facilitators.
  • To examine the perceived impact of the intervention(s) from the perspective of participants and facilitators.
  • To map perceived changes to social isolation, loneliness, and well-being

The aim of this study is to understand and ascertain the impact that death, as a result of service, has on the surviving family. Specifically, it will focus on how casualty notification is undertaken, and the impact the current process used has on the long-term wellbeing of the family. In particular, the evaluation will examine:

  • What currently happens when there is a death of a service person which has been caused by their service?
  • What is the ‘deliverers’ role and what should their first step be?
  • What forms of interaction supports rather than constrains individuals from moving forward through their bereavement journey? How does the ‘deliverer’ gain a good understanding of individuals’ needs and recognise what is appropriate?
  • Does the form of interaction appear to change in relation to the recipients’ age, gender or their relationship to the deceased? Is the form of interaction influenced by set ideas about males and females?
  • How does environment impact on the delivery of the news? (For example, time, place.)
  • What is the impact of the ‘deliverers’ own experience and knowledge?

Who is carrying out this study?

Researchers at Northumbria University are carrying out this study, in partnership with the War Widows’ Association. This study was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.

PhD Projects

Intermittent Separation: Exploring the psycho-social impact on dispersed military families

Name: Alison Osborne
Supervisors: Dr Gemma Wilson, Dr Matt Kiernan, Dr Michael Rodrigues
Funding: Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (through Map of Need Project)
Date: 2017-2020 (PT)

The perceived role and identity of the military family is shifting alongside new MOD and Government initiatives, increasing flexibility, and encouraging stability of family life.  Research has predominantly explored the psychological effects of operational deployments on military families; however, a gap remains in research pertaining to the impact of non-deployment related separations such as dispersal.  To explore the psycho-social impact of intermittent separation on geographically dispersed military families, research was carried out over two phases.  The purpose of the first phase was to provide an understanding on what is already known about dispersed military families and separation through a systematic narrative review and exploratory geospatial analysis of publicly available data.  Phase 2 provided primary research findings through semi-structured interviews with dispersed military families to understand their experiences of separation.

Upon the integration of these findings from Phase 1 and Phase 2, it was proposed that dispersed military families have a fluid identity that can change over the separation period, dependent upon the social situation (i.e., military vs. civilian community).  A disconnection with the military community and the separation from the military family member, caused dispersed military families to experience social and emotional loneliness.  It was reasoned that a fluctuation in emotional loneliness existed across separation.  Stability was consistently reported as a reason for dispersal, particularly as a result of the implementation of UK initiatives that encouraged stability and flexibility for military family life.  
Separation had an impact on the psychological well-being of dispersed military families.  Internal and external resources were found to be integral in determining good well-being and stressors associated with separation posed a challenge to this.  Resilience was highlighted as a buffer for the challenges experienced.  Specifically, resilient protective factors such as social support networks, a positive outlook and normalisation helped dispersed military families to cope with separation.

Women in the Military: A Narrative Study of the lives of women who have served in the British Military.

As a woman veteran, Christina is exploring the experiences of women veterans, who served in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.  The women interviewed have served in the British military from World War Two to Afghanistan. Narrative interviews have enabled Christina to explore the experiences of women veterans, focusing on their lives before, during and after military service.

To explore the experiences of the intimate partner whose significant other has received treatment for a common mental health issue whilst still serving in the British Armed Forces

Name: Emma Senior
Supervisors: Professor Amanda Clarke, Dr Gemma Wilson, Dr Keith Ford
Date: 2016 -2021

Aims: The thesis will seek to explore the narratives of intimate partners when they have found themselves living alongside their UK serving partner during a common mental health illness and where treatment has been received.  A biographical approach using the life history narratives of the significant other has been implemented to understand their lives prior to, during and after referral and treatment for a mental health issue and understand its impact the relationship.   Moreover, the study aims to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and enablers which help partners /significant others in their relationship with their UK serving military partner in the present circumstance.

Methodology: A qualitative methodology - Narrative Inquiry was used to understand the lived experience of being an intimate partner living alongside a serving partner.  Two in-depth interviews were conducted with each pf the nine participants’.

Data analysis:  It is important to me that the participant is not lost and broken down in the analysis. Lieblich et al’s (1998) work offered me a framework for analysis which encompasses both whole story analysis and thematic analysis. The framework categorises narrative analysis along two independent dimensions; “holistic versus categorical approaches” and “content versus form”. I have chosen to analyse the data using two of the approaches holistic and categorical/ This has enabled each individual story to be considered as a whole and with a further analysis which is primarily focused on abstracting phenomenon or themes from the individual stories but that are also shared across the group of participants.

Improving Access to Health and Social Care for Vulnerable Veterans

Name: Gill McGill
Supervisors: Dr Gemma Wilson, Professor Amanda Clarke
Date: 2021 (PhD by Published Papers)

The work submitted for this PhD by published work comprises seven papers published between 2018 and 2020.  The research that informed the published papers has identified key issues as well as the development and implementation of solutions to improve access for military veterans following transition from UK Armed Forces to civilian life.  This submission provides academic and policy relevant contributions to the field of military veteran studies and the papers make specific contributions to discrete areas involving access to health and social care.  The central premise and the overarching theme of this collection of research is that it is essential that health providers understand the characteristics of the veteran population and strives to enhance veteran-specific knowledge for clinicians will serve to improve care for diverse veteran populations.

Central to the research is the inclusion of experts by experience who support investigation of a community defined as ‘hard to reach’, from conceptualisation to dissemination.  In addition, narrative inquiry and applied social policy methodology provide insight via life histories and lived experiences shared by participants.  This has helped to place their struggles to transition and integrate into civilian life into context, allowing identification of key factors for further research.

The proposed ‘collection’ of research aims to validate a valuable contribution to knowledge in the field, presented as a coherent area of work that has undergone rigour, is original and significant. It champions change and benefits to policy, practice and, ultimately, service users and seeks to impact on improving access to health and social care services and identifying pathways to provision.   Furthermore, by focusing on applied policy research, it aims to strengthen recommendations for health and social care policy, inform future service design and shape the interface between serving in the armed forces to transition into civilian life.

Care of the ageing veteran population: Developing an evidence base for the Royal Hospital Chelsea model of care

Name: Helen Cullen
Supervisors: Dr Gemma Wilson, Dr Matt Kiernan, Professor Deborah Sturdy OBE
Funding: Collaborative PhD studentship (Royal Hospital Chelsea/Northumbria University).
Date: 2020-2023 (FT)

The Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC) has provided a sheltered housing environment alongside integrated health and social care and comradeship for British Army veterans since 1692. Today approximately 300 In-Pensioners, known globally as ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ live at the Royal Hospital in London.

This research presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the Royal Hospital’s current service provision, inform future direction and address the gap in evidence-based research to quantify the impact its model of care has on In-Pensioners and will seek to address two main aims: to gain an understanding of the current RHC model of care and to inform future RHC care provision.
A mixed-method approach will facilitate the collection of quantitative and qualitative data to support the research question.

The research will follow a phased approach with Phase 1 being a systematic narrative review to identify, evaluate and amalgamate evidence of existing care provision both empirically and from grey literature data.

Phase 2 will review RHC documentation with findings evidencing In-Pensioner outcomes, model of care contribution to longevity and Quality of Life (QoL) and identify the value of service provision, enabling comparisons with similar models of care.

Phases 3 and 4 will see semi-structured interviews of key staff and In-Pensioners to reflect on the interpretation of RHC policy against actual care delivery and capture generic and rich lived-experience data.

The findings will inform RHC strategic direction as it continues to deliver care provision to current and future generations of veteran, identify the value of its interventions, and explore the sustainability and development of service provision. The findings will also look to inform wider social care provision which may contribute to national health and social care policy.

Primary Care Networks: From Opportunity to Reality

Name: Jessica Gates
Supervisors: Dr Gemma Wilson, Prof Alison Steven, Dr Lesley Young-Murphy (North Tyneside CCG), Dr Lynn Craig (North Tyneside CCG)
Funding: North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group
Date: 2019-2023

The NHS Long Term Plan (2019) set out a new service model, aiming to improve options for patients by providing joined-up care in the appropriate setting. Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a key part of this plan and will aim to move away from reactive care and towards proactive and preventative care. PCNs are groups of GP practices within a local area with responsibility for 30-50,000 patients. PCNs encourage collaboration and resource sharing between practices, and are required to deliver a set of national service specifications. PCNs are a new initiative as of 2019 therefore there is a lack of research in this area. This PhD project will develop an evidence base and will be fundamental to understanding PCNs and advancing this field of knowledge.

This study will take a mixed methods approach, primarily utilising data from a series of semi-structured interviews which will be conducted with a range of staff members working in general practice and based in North Tyneside PCNs. This research will also analyse routinely collected metric data from each PCN, to understand whether the intended contract outcomes are being delivered. Detailed case studies will be created for each of these PCNs, pulling together this data, in addition to data from a systematic narrative review and documentary evidence (NHS documents, policy documents). These case studies will illuminate both the perceptions and realities of how the PCNs are evolving. By working closely with North Tyneside CCG, this project aims to inform primary care policy in North Tyneside and shape the development of future services.

'In Search of the Self' - Examining the role of the self-concept of former members of the British Army within a Transitions Environment

Name: Nicholas Harrison
Supervisors: Dr Matthew Kiernan, Dr Gemma Wilson
Funding: Self-funded
Date: 2018-2023

The UK veteran population is estimated to number between 2.9 and 3.1 million ( 2019).  Working age veterans are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed than their equivalents in the UK general population (Royal British Legion 2014) and a review of veterans' transition into the civilian world found that a mere 35% said they had a clear idea about what area of work they would go into when they left the forces (Ashcroft 2012).  Whilst ensuring veterans experience a positive cultural adaption from resettlement to retirement is a priority for social science research and public policy (Williams et al. 2018), there exists a relatively small amount of exploration into the personal experiences of transitioning soldiers from the British armed forces (Binks 2017, Flint 2013, Walker 2010).  An apparent lack of direction amongst serving individuals, coupled with high numbers of unemployed veterans, forms the premise on which this study is based.   It argues the need to explore in more considerable depth the individual experiences of service personnel through the transitionary period from military to civilian life as it is today.  The author believes there is a particular need to investigate what role the self plays at this time.

Qualitative, social applied research, using framework analysis is being used. The objective is to allow each personal journey, from the army to the civilian world, to illuminate the authentic and individual experiences.

A Narrative Inquiry: Understanding the emotional response of being a young carer of a combat veteran with PTSD from the perspective of the young carer and their mother

Name: Paul Watson
Supervisor: Dr Matt Kiernan, Dr Sharon Vincent
Date: 2016-2021

Aims: The aim of this research is to explore how parental combat related PTSD affects the internal and external emotional responses of their child – the young care. Moreover, this research will investigate the impact the role of a young carer has on the relationship to their parent with PTSD, from the perspective of the young carer and the mothers of the young carers.
Methodology: A qualitative methodology - Narrative Inquiry was used to understand the lived experience of being a young carer of a veteran with PTSD, through the art of ‘story telling’ and bringing the young carers and their mothers narrative alive.

Findings: The focus of the lived experience according to Denzin (1989), are called ‘epiphanies’, which radically alter and shape the meanings in which people assign themselves and their life projects. These epiphanic moments leave a mark on a person’s life. There are four forms of epiphany: a Major upheaval, which changes a life for ever (for example, a parent is diagnosed with combat related PTSD); the cumulative, referring to the final build-up of a crisis in a young carer’s life (for example, witnessing a parent’s mental breakdown); the illuminative, where the underlying existential structures of a relationship or situation are revealed (for example, a parent is emotionally unavailable) and the relived moment, where the person after the event comes to define it in consequential terms (for example a young carer gradually understands the presentation of the parent) (Denzin, 2008).

A symbolic interactional study attempts to capture these moments, to give meaning to the narratives. Such a strategy presents three levels of cultural analysis: the contextual text, its meaning, and its connections to lived experience. Therefore, in the context of young carers of veterans with a mental health issue, their narrative and that of their mothers; with the use of symbolic interactionism, have provided a useful method of exploring how they make sense of their everyday lives, making sense of the trauma of a parental mental health issue and therein the effect on their own emotional health and wellbeing in their activities of daily living.

Past projects

Improving access for veterans: Understanding why veterans are reluctant to access help for alcohol problems

Executive Summary


The aim of this project was to explore why veterans are reluctant to access help for alcohol problems and the extent to which they may be different from other substance misuse service users within the general population. Research was conducted through a sequential process over four phases. The initial three phases consisted of interviews and focus groups with service planners, commissioners, providers, substance misuse service users and veterans from the wider community. The fourth phase was a planned symposium where findings from the first three phases were presented to substance misuse service planners, commissioners and service providers with input from veterans and service users.

Findings from this project suggest that veterans with alcohol problems have unique difficulties that set them apart from other substance misuse service users within the general population. From both Phase Two and Phase Three, it was clear that there is a normalisation of excessive alcohol consumption during military service that often remains on discharge. Veterans in Phase Three provided further insight into the difficulties experienced on discharge through the transition to civilian life. It was noted that looking in from the outside, a successful transition appeared the norm, however the focus group participants suggested that transition experiences provided a further warrant for alcohol consumption and continuation of alcohol based coping mechanisms established during military service.

This normalisation of alcohol consumption was found to contribute to a delay in engagement with substance misuse service. A delayed engagement in accessing care lead to complex presentations where all aspects of the veterans’ lives (physical, psychological and social) were impacted. Consequently, when veterans did engage in substance misuse services, they were often referred for alcohol treatment through other services such as social housing, unemployment and mental health.

Service providers’ lack of understanding of the unique needs and experiences of veterans, was consistently identified as a main barrier to care in the first three phases. Focus Group participants expressed a certain degree of antipathy towards civilian life and civilian culture, further reinforcing this barrier. Complex care pathways and the lack of integrated health and social care was cited as contributing to a disengagement with care. Support for this was found in Phase Four where a diagram showed that the current care pathway for veterans with alcohol misuse was extensive and convoluted. This was in contrast to service commissioners, planners and providers limited and over-simplified view of the current provision. Successful engagement in care was associated with service providers who had veteran workers within their provision.

Phase Four facilitated the development of a model from which to evolve current services. Utilising findings from the first three phases, it was proposed that a ‘hub and spoke’ approach would be potentially the most cost effective and beneficial means of engaging veterans in healthcare services. Veterans will be assigned a multi-agency worker who will assist in accessing and engaging in relevant services. An initial assessment will ascertain the veteran’s status on physical health, mental health, social situation and substance misuse. Essentially, the hub and spoke model has the potential to reduce the number of veterans who disengage/disappear from services due to difficulties in navigating complex services.


Veterans Substance Misuse: Integration of Health and Social Care

The four phases have culminated in a conference as an opportunity to present our findings along with other academics and workers in the field.

Conference Programme


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The Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion help members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Reservists, veterans and their families all year round. They also campaign to improve their lives, organise the Poppy Appeal and remember the fallen. The Royal British Legion provided funding for this project.


Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest mental health and disability Trusts in England, working across Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland. NTW helped with initial participant recruitment.


Changing Lives

Changing Lives is a national charity, providing specialist support services for vulnerable people and their families. Changing lives works with veterans who are experiencing homelessness, addiction and a range of other problems, offering specialist support services and employment opportunities. Changing Lives supported peer participant recruitment.


Northern Learning Trust

Northern Learning Trust is a North East of England based charity that works with vulnerable young people and adults. They have dedicated support workers in their Veteran Support Service, working with veterans who are ex-offenders. Northern Learning Trust aided participant recruitment for this project.


AF&V Launchpad

AF&V Launchpad is a charity with houses in Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool, providing homeless veterans with accommodation, aiming to get them into employment and permanent housing. Launchpad helped to facilitate peer participant recruitment for this project.

Maintaining independence: A Study into the Health and Social Wellbeing of Older Limbless Veterans

Final Project Report

Key Findings Booklet

This project is funded by The Aged Veterans Fund using LIBOR funding. The Aged Veterans Fund was established in 2015 to assist organisations across the UK to address the health, wellbeing, and social care needs of older veterans.

Project Aims

The main aims of this study were: 

  1. To explore the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of older, limbless veterans across the life-course;
  2. To ascertain the factors that contribute to the ability of limbless veterans to maintain their independence at various stages in their lives.

Ultimately, this research aimed to produce recommendations for health and social care policy around the requirements of an ageing veteran population, inform future service design, and shape the interface between NHS and third sector organisations with responsibility to care for limbless veterans.



The research used a peer-led approach to successfully identify and engage older limbless veterans. The research team conducted detailed life history interviews. The life histories of 32 limbless veterans, aged between 43 and 95 formed the data for the study. Each of the participants were involved in semistructured life history interviews.



A multiple method convergent design was adopted for the study, encompassing Narrative Inquiry and Framework Analysis (Social Applied Policy Research). This enabled dual attention to 1) the narratives that shape how veterans reconstruct their lives and identities after limb-loss; and 2) policy and practice implications drawn from observations that some veterans may be more able to adjust and maintain independence than others.


The Aged Veterans Fund

This project is funded by The Aged Veterans Fund using LIBOR funding. The Aged Veterans Fund was established in 2015 to assist organisations across the UK to address the health, wellbeing, and social care needs of older veterans.

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The Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion help members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Reservists, veterans and their families all year round. They also campaign to improve their lives, organise the Poppy Appeal and remember the fallen.


Recruitment to the study will be via contacts in BLESMA and the Veteran & Families Institute. BLESMA was founded in 1932 and is a national Armed Forces Charity that directly supports all Service men and women who have lost limbs and the use of limbs or the loss of eyesight in service of the country. They are a chief support agency for limbless veterans in the UK.

Evaluation of the Branch Community Support Programme – The Royal British Legion

This research project was designed in two parts:

Part one included an evaluation of the Branch Community Support Programme (BCS) Findings from the evaluation demonstrated that both customers and branch workers recognised social connection and social activities as being vital for physical and psychological health and well-being, and valued the services offered by Royal British Legion (RBL). A comprehensive project report was published in 2019 for funders and the RBL: Maintaining Independence: An Evaluation of The Royal British Legion’s Branch Community Support Programme for Aged Veterans, published October 2019 submitted as part of the Aged Veterans Fund reporting procedure.

In order to support RBL branches to deliver and develop BCS interventions effectively, the project was extended. Part Two of this research aimed to:

· Evaluate the successful implementation of the BCS programme from the perspective of RBL branch workers and RBL customers and develop case studies.

· Produce a ‘Good Practice’ guide to support the long-term organisation, reach and running of the BCS programme through the lens of tackling loneliness and social isolation.

A Summary Final Report and Good Practice Guide was published in 2002

Understanding Unique Factors of Social Isolation and Loneliness of Military Veterans: A Delphi Study

This Delphi Study set out to gather expert consensus relating to the cause, impact and ways to tackle social isolation and loneliness of military veterans. The study was based on evidence gathered by third-sector military organisations and highlights that military veterans can experience social isolation and loneliness in a ‘unique’ way. These unique factors are due to military-related intrinsic and extrinsic factors including number of transitions, military-related trauma such as limb loss, physical health and mobility, and losing touch with comrades.

SSOP Annual Camp: Narrative Evaluation

This project captures the voice of the military childed to understand the lived experience of what growing up in a military family is like; and to understand why they attend SSOP summer camp. Moreover, this project evaluates the psychosocial interventions provided by SSOP, a Danish charity which supports children and young people from military families whose parents have a service attributed mental health issue.

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