Research calls for permanent DWP Armed Forces Champion roles

Categories: School of Health and Society

New research carried out by the University of Salford recommends that the Government should fund a permanent network of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Armed Forces Champions to support ex service personnel as they make their transition to civilian life.

A team from the University of Salford, led by Professor Lisa Scullion have been funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) since 2017. Their work is the UK’s only substantive research into the experiences of veterans within the social security benefits system.

Called ‘Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers’ the research has already led to significant improvements, including enhancements to the DWP Armed Forces Champions (AFCs) role dedicated to helping former Armed Forces personnel and their families access mainstream benefits.

But Champions roles are only funded year to year, and this latest research proposes that AFCs must be permanently embedded within the service to provide consistency and security for the veterans they support.

In a new briefing paper the project team outline how DWP AFCs have become central to the DWP’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant providing specialist, personalised and advanced support.

Project director Professor Lisa Scullion said: “There were numerous examples in our research where DWP Armed Forces Champions were providing tailored support in a way that would have been difficult for ordinary Work Coaches who face significant time constraints. We saw several examples where DWP Armed Forces Champions had established a reputation for trustworthiness and specialist knowledge. This had led to a particular Jobcentre or area being seen by veterans as a place to approach for support.

“However, there was inconsistency in the support offered across different geographical areas. A key challenge related to the year-on-year decision making around whether the role would be funded. We therefore recommend that the role should be permanently embedded within the DWP with sustainable resourcing. The role is an essential element of the Armed Forces Covenant offer. But it is also an example of how provision of personalised support, provided by staff who have a greater understanding of the needs of specific claimants, can significantly improve experiences and outcomes for benefit claimants.”

Michelle Alston Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust said: “Armed Forces Champions have been central to the DWP’s programme to help veterans and veteran families navigate the benefits system. This latest research by the University of Salford has outlined how they help, what makes them effective, and how their success can be widened to provide better support for the Armed Forces Community. If the DWP have consistent support provided by permanent Armed Forces Champions, then they will help those Service personnel and families that most need support during their transition to civilian life.”

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