Essex County Council and partners, including Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), conducted the 2023 Essex Armed Forces Needs Assessment (AFNA) research to provide an overview of the key issues across Essex.
Several of the people involved in the project are members of East Anglia RFCA, including Cllr Derrick Louis, the Armed Forces Champion for the County of Essex and sponsor for this project, and Professor Mike Almond at the Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research at ARU.
This research will help public and voluntary sector community leaders in Essex, Southend and Thurrock, to develop their policies and decide where and how to allocate public resources, particularly for healthcare, education, and housing. Essex County Council recently received a Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award by the Ministry of Defence for its commitment to reducing disadvantage for Armed Forces communities.
Education needs of the Armed Forces community in Essex
The report highlights that there are 25% more children eligible to receive the Services Pupil Premium funding this year in Essex than in 2013. Essex grants an additional half a million pounds to schools to support and integrate service children each year. Service Children represent 0.8% of children educated in Essex and they are able to be allocated a school place at any time in the school year to help ensure they can continue their education with as little disruption as possible upon being re-located. The SPP pupils are spread across 232 different Essex schools.
Benefits needs of the Armed Forces community in Essex
The research team looked at the number of military pension recipients with a registered Essex address. In 2021, they found about 5,500 veterans receiving pension in Essex, of which about 1,100 were receiving disablement pension. The latter could have additional health and social care needs, so additional information will be needed to understand if this group has been able to access the same level of county and community support as their non-veteran counterparts.
Health needs of the Armed Forces community in Essex
The needs assessment found that securing care and support for dependent children in serving military families with SEND/MH needs was the most complex, with waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) of up to two years, exceeding the duration of families’ postings.
By looking at the reported health concerns of veterans, the researchers recommended that healthcare professionals in Essex required additional training on treating chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders, which are more common in veterans.
Research by King’s Centre for Military Health Research suggest that common mental health issues faced by UK armed forces are depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse, although many do not seek support for their mental health. The report states that research participants felt they were treated differently and not taken seriously when reaching out for support with their mental health. Some are overcoming these cultural barriers faster than others; females and males under 20 are now twice as likely to access services for their mental health compared with males over the age of 20.
In Essex, Colchester, Brentwood and Basildon areas see a higher rate of veterans being referred to the NHS IAPT (Psychological Therapies) service to treat mental health conditions.
Housing needs of the Armed Forces community in Essex
About ninety-eight percent of veterans live in private households in Essex. There were 35 households requesting homelessness support in 2021/22 in Essex resulting from having served in the Armed Forces. The “No Homeless Veterans” website offers resources to Local Authorities and Housing Associations so that veterans in need can be signposted to Stoll. The “No Homeless Veterans” campaign has been funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) with a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by The National Lottery Community Fund.
Other insights about the Armed Forces community in Essex
The report is brimming with interesting facts and figures.
- Currently there are 4,330 serving Armed Forces personnel in Essex, 79% of these reside in Colchester. In short, Essex is home to 2% of UK serving personnel worldwide.
- There are about 400 reservists who live and/or train in Essex, again mainly in Colchester, and the report didn’t highlight particular needs from this group.
- A similar needs assessment was published in 2022.
- The research showed there was no significant difference in attainment or special educational needs between service children and the general population.
- The report did not contain civilian employment insights for Essex.
- The report did not contain criminal justice insights for Essex on the needs of veterans.
- Basildon and Colchester were identified as areas of particular hardship for military communities.
The Essex Armed Forces Needs Assessment (AFNA) research builds up useful insights each year to provide an overview of the key issues facing the Armed Forces communities across Essex, and offers pertinent recommendations to eliminate the disadvantage military communities might experience due to their Service. As part of our community engagement, East Anglia RFCA members sit on the Essex Civilian Military Partnership Steering Group which convokes, public services and charity leaders to drive progress towards this goal.