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The biopsychosocial benefits and shortfalls for armed forces veterans engaged in archaeological activitiesBackground Organised outdoor activates are advocated as promoting multiple benefits for a veteran's wellbeing, of whom up to 50% have suffered either/both physical and mental health (MH) problems. This has resulted in significant investment in a growing number of outdoor events, one of which is the Defence Archaeology Group (DAG) which utilise the technical and social aspects of field archaeology in the recovery and skill development of injured veterans. Objective To advance knowledge within veterans MH and wellbeing through an understanding of the potential long term psychological benefits and shortfalls for veterans undertaking DAG activities. Design A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to enable identification of the issues from the participant veteran's perspective. Setting: DAG archaeological excavations in April and August 2015. Method Semi-structured interviews with 14 veterans. Results The qualitative coding resulted in the indication of 18 categories subsumed within four clusters: motivation and access; mental health; veteran and teamwork; therapeutic environment and leadership. Discussion The psychological benefits were improved self-esteem, confidence, a reduction in stigma and motivation to seek help. The reduction in situational stressors associated with difficult life conditions also appeared to improve mood, and there was a clear benefit in being in a caring environment where other people actively paid an interest. There were extended social benefits associated with being accepted as part of a team within a familiar military environment, which presented an opportunity to establish friendships and utilise military skill sets. Conclusion Organised outdoor activities offer multi-factorial hope for veterans searching for ways to ease the transition to civilian life and recover from military stress and trauma. The relaxing and reflective environment within a military setting appears to construct a sense of personal safety and thereby offers therapeutic value.
An evaluation and critical analysis of the impact of the Aged Veterans FundThere has been research on the numbers and needs of an ageing society yet, relatively little is known about the specific needs of older veterans, and the effectiveness of services specifically developed to meet these needs. In 2016 and 2017, the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust funded invested £30 million to the Aged Veterans Fund (AVF) programme. This consisted of 19 portfolio projects to support health, wellbeing, and social care needs for older veterans (born before 1st January 1950) and their families. This report explores the impact of the AVF, with the intent of informing service providers, stakeholders and policy makers, of the lessons learned and the next steps required for the support of older veterans. A retrospective evaluation focused on both the impact of the processes adopted by the programmes, and the outcomes achieved, was commissioned. Qualitative analysis was performed on 78 eligible source documents, from which 10 recurrent themes were identified. Themes focused on the methodology and evaluations adopted by the projects, the number of beneficiaries reached, challenges encountered, associated costs and savings. In addition, the study identified projects outreach and sustainability, including staff, volunteers and clients perceptions of the services. Finally, there are results regarding the related health and wellbeing benefits, behaviour change and influences on the UK National Health Service (NHS) practice. The findings indicated that project promotion, partnership and collaboration was strong, which provides a foundation for the sustainability and outreach of some of the programmes. The AVF programmes were successfully rolled out via referrals, but this was not without challenges such as capacity, uptake, staffing and timelines issues. Two primary approaches were adopted. The first being a person-centred care approach, that takes into consideration the complex needs of the individual. The second was a skill-exchange model consisting of peers passing on their skills to beneficiaries. The results provided compelling evidence that the AVF initiatives were successful and were positively perceived by beneficiaries, staff and volunteers. Evidence was found on the impact of the fund on boosting resilience in the beneficiaries, by reducing social isolation and improving their health and wellbeing. Additionally, awareness was raised in the wider community, via the delivery of specific educational training to staff. In addition, AVF programmes influenced current health-care practice such as re-admission and discharge rates, via effective signposting and cross-referrals. The lessons learnt lead to recommendations and indicators for the next steps required to support older veterans and their families.