Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share



A veteran is anybody who has served in the UK Armed Forces. Of the 20,000 servicemen and servicewomen who leave the Armed Forces each year in the UK, the majority make a successful transition to civilian life. However, a significant minority experience challenging problems. In better understanding their situation:

·          In 2009, Blake Stevenson estimated that there were 189,000 veterans of working age in Scotland and that approximately 28,000 or 15% were unemployed. 

·          They form a varied group consisting of males, females, different ages and different lengths of service in the Armed Forces.

·          Problems finding employment appear to particularly affect early service leavers - i.e. those who left before completion of four years service or were compulsorily discharged. 

Barriers Faced

Among the veterans who exhibit difficulties making the transition into civilian life, their barriers can include:

·          Limited awareness of supports available to them.

·          Lack of knowledge around how to explain their skills and qualities in way that civilian employers can understand.

·          Few transferable skills or qualifications.

·          Low income, financial insecurity and fear of losing benefits.

·          Limited financial management skills - e.g. paying bills and managing household finances, which can lead to debt problems.

·          Physical disabilities. 

·          Mental health conditions, which can remain undiagnosed for many years. Both mental and physical conditions can be exacerbated by veterans' own perception of their conditions - i.e. that they are unable to work and an active lifestyle might make their conditions worse.

·          Increased risks amongst some veterans of: substance abuse; social isolation; homelessness; and criminal activity.

In relation to employers, there appears to be a lack of knowledge among employers on how to locate and identify ex-servicemen seeking employment. Employers can also have little understanding of the attributes and approach to work that veterans can bring.

Policies and Interventions

The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge made by the government to ensure that the armed forces are not disadvantaged as a result of their service. Since the covenant was published in May 2011, the government, the devolved administrations and partner charities have worked together to deliver on the following types of actions:

·          Twice doubling Council Tax Relief.

·          Doubling the Families Welfare Grant.

·          Launching a financial awareness and training website - MoneyForce - for service personnel and their families. 

·          Launching the Corporate Covenant to foster stronger relationships between the armed forces community and businesses and charitable organisations.

At local authority area level, Community Covenants have been launched supported by a £30 million Community Covenant Grant Scheme. The aim of the community covenant is to encourage local communities to support the service community in their area and promote understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting the armed forces community. Community Covenants can and do differ from local area to local area - and details on Scotland's Community Covenants can be found here

On employability, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Career Transition Support is provided for service leavers who have served a minimum of 6 years. It is available for the two years before leaving and the two years after leaving. Support includes:

·          A resettlement grant

·          Resettlement time

·          Career transition workshop

·          Access to career consultant advice - includes employment advice, networking advice, sourcing vacancies and marketing of service leavers ot employers

·          Advice on resettlement training

·          Access to the CTP job search engine 'Right Job'

For early service leavers (less than four years), there is no MOD transition support but the Regular Forces Employment Association, Officers Association and Officers Association Scotland provide employment consultant service to all service leavers regardless of the length of time they have served and date of discharge. The white Ensign Association provides employment services for serving or former personnel.

Specialist services targeted at veterans are also available from a wide range of organisations that include Veterans Scotland, Poppy Scotland, Jobcentre Plus and SAMH. Many of these organisations support the Citizens Advice Scotland Armed Services Advice Project.

Interventions need to be tailored to the needs of each veteran but in broad terms good practice suggests the need for:

·          Early assessment of potential barriers.

·          Support with managing physical disability or mental health condition through: modifying beliefs about the degree to which their conditions affect their ability to be active; and helping them to learn how to better manage pain and discomfort.

·          Work in partnership with other support services - e.g. housing, health, social work, financial inclusion.

·          CV and interview training so that ex-servicemen can promote themselves in ways employers understand.

·          Supported employment services.


Useful Links