Report calls for trauma informed benefits assessments for veterans

Categories: Research, School of Health and Society

New research with veterans has called for a ‘trauma informed’ approach towards assessments for benefits.  This is just one of the recommendations set out by experts at the University of Salford who have today published a new report Benefits assessments and veterans.

The new research highlights the key challenges of the benefits assessments process, as well as reporting on good practice and how this can be built upon to address inconsistent veteran experiences.

Since 2017, Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has funded the University of Salford to carry out the only substantive research in the UK to focus on the experiences of former Service personnel within the social security benefits system.

Led by Professor Lisa Scullion, the University team has interviewed 108 military veterans over six years about their experiences of social security, including benefits assessments for today’s report; as well as consulting with stakeholders, holding ongoing discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and speaking to healthcare professionals (HCPs) at the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments.

Commenting on the Report Mims Davies MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work said: “As a firm supporter of and campaigner for the Armed Forces Covenant, I welcome the chance to have an open and meaningful dialogue with the research team to help improve the experience of veterans when they access our services.

“This long-running research provides good insight which allows us to learn from the expertise of those with lived experience of our services and we are very pleased to work alongside Professor Scullion, her team and the Forces in Mind Trust to inform the ongoing delivery of our work to support veterans and how we can be more trauma informed.”

The Report recommends that trauma informed approaches by HCPs should be integrated within assessment processes. Secondly, it calls for improvements in benefit assessment staff’s understanding of veteran experiences and challenges. Thirdly it calls for improvements in veteran understanding of the benefit assessments through closer working between DWP, assessment providers and veteran support organisations.  Finally, it calls for greater engagement of assessment providers in future research to improve understanding of different perspectives.

The report lead author Dr David Young said: “Benefit assessments are a very important part of claiming benefits for those with long-term health conditions and disabilities. During our research, we heard about the significant challenges military veterans have faced navigating assessment processes.

“Being able to consult with HCPs from the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments has also given us unique insights from the perspective of those undertaking benefits assessments. Our report sets out some very specific and practical ways that benefits assessments processes can be improved.”

Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, Michelle Alston added: “Most Ex-Service personnel make a successful transition to civilian life. However, those with long-term health conditions or disabilities can face barriers leading to disadvantage when claiming benefits. This research articulates how a “trauma-informed” approach can improve their lives and ensure that our benefits system is committed to the Armed Forces Covenant.

“The DWP has made progress with supporting ex-Service personnel through the embedding of Armed Forces Champions within the benefits system and we look forward to seeing continued work on transition within the DWP as the recommendations are developed further.”

Emma-Jane Banister, Customer Director at the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, said:  "We were pleased to contribute to this important research, which makes a number of helpful recommendations on delivering an improved experience for veterans throughout the assessment process. This is an issue that many of our HCPs care passionately about, and we'll continue to work with DWP to build on some of the successful initiatives outlined in the report".

A roundtable of the report with research participants and stakeholders took place in May 2024. The report can be read in full here: Benefits assessments and veterans


For further information: Susie Mackean at University of Salford: S.Mackean@Salford.ac.uk

Wilf Wheatley at Forces in Mind Trust: wilf@fim-trust.org

Notes to Editors:

The UK government defines trauma-informed practice as:

Trauma-informed practice aims to increase practitioners’ awareness of how trauma can negatively impact on individuals and communities, and their ability to feel safe or develop trusting relationships with health and care services and their staff.

It aims to improve the accessibility and quality of services by creating culturally sensitive, safe services that people trust and want to use. It seeks to prepare practitioners to work in collaboration and partnership with people and empower them to make choices about their health and wellbeing.

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