Si is one of the UK’s most experienced research organisations in exploring the experience of the  armed forces community in their interactions with local public services and in the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Armed Forces Covenant was launched in 2012 following the Armed Forces Act 2011 with responsibility sitting across Government. It is “a promise by the nation that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly.” It ensures that members of the Armed Forces Community “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services. Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given the most such as the injured and the bereaved.”

The Armed Forces Community comprises:

  • Serving members of the Armed Forces, including Reservists;
  • Former serving members of the Armed Forces;
  • The spouses, partners and families of serving and former serving personnel.

There are two broad areas in which members of the Armed Forces Community are at risk of suffering disadvantage:

  • In the provision of a wide range of private and public services (including education, housing and health). This disadvantage is most likely to occur at points of deployment and transition out of the Armed Forces;
  • In finding employment or being ‘under-employed’ in low-skilled jobs.

In 2016, we were commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust and the Local Government Association to research the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant by councils in England, Scotland and Wales. Our Community – Our Covenant was published in August 2016, with a second edition published in 2017.  These report can be downloaded here from the Forces in Mind Trust website.

In October 2018, Si were awarded with the Lord Ashcroft Research Award at the inaugural FiMT and Veterans and Families Research Hub Research Awards. This was awarded in recognition of the impact that Our Community – Our Covenant has had and is continuing to have in improving the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant in local government.

At the start of the research, there were three clear outcomes that we wanted the project to achieve:

  1. To find out if local government were taking their Covenant pledges seriously;
  2. To give recommendations to councils which would help them to deliver the Covenant; and
  3. To develop a set of tools to help those councils that wanted to do better.

Our research was able to address each of the above aims. We found that:

  1. Local government were taking the Covenant seriously, some more than others (which various factors influenced), and we recommended ways to capitalise on this appetite.
  2. We developed what we called the core infrastructure, which highlighted a number of key activities that councils could implement to help them deliver the Covenant, such as having a member and officer Armed Forces Champion and an action planning process.
  3. We developed some tools which were designed to help councils to think constructively about the implementation of their Covenant.

Alongside the above, we identified areas that could be improved upon at a national level which have been taken forward by central government’s Covenant Reference Group. This includes: clearer and more proactive communications on the Covenant and the expectations that flow from it; the encouragement of local partnerships; and the exploration into ways to improve the transition process.

In developing the recommendations, we worked collaboratively with local and national organisations to ensure that our evidence gathered led to recommendations that were implementable. This process enabled our recommendations to be addressed more effectively and has led to the research having the impact that it has been recognised for.

We have undertaken a number of other Armed Forces related projects at Si since Our Community – Our Covenant. These include:

  • Benefit not Burden for Forces in Mind Trust;
  • An action research set to understand the makeup and needs of the Armed Forces Community in the south west;
  • An evaluation of Forces Connect South East;
  • Research to understand the makeup and needs of the Armed Forces Community in North Yorkshire and York.

If you have any questions or comments on any of our Armed Forces related work, please contact Charlotte Boulton at charlotte.boulton@sharedintelligence.net

(Si is a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant).