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Thu, 24 September 2020

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What the Future Holds – how we support the Armed Forces community will help define our national identity

What the Future Holds – how we support the Armed Forces community will help define our national identity

Forces in Mind Trust's strategy is to support the Armed Forces Community, by making long-term systemic improvements, mainly through influencing policy changes, says Ray Lock | Credit: Forces in Mind Trust

Ray Lock, CBE Chief Executive | Forces in Mind Trust

3 min read Partner content

Our role over these last extraordinary few months has been to provide a forward look for the Armed Forces charities sector.

In a crisis, most organisations focus on the here and now, and few look too far beyond.

That makes sense.

If the boat is sinking, there’s little point in worrying about much else other than plugging the leak.

The impact of Coronavirus in March on Armed Forces charities, and the subsequent lockdown, was swift and painful. As with the rest of the sector, income fell, and demand rose.

Forces in Mind Trust, a Lottery-endowed spend-out Trust, is not a front-line charity. Our potential beneficiaries are the 6 million members of the Armed Forces Community, but our strategy is to support them by making long-term systemic improvements, mainly through influencing policy changes.

Political decisions made now and in the coming weeks will have an enormous long-term impact on what charities will be needed to provide.

We don’t deliver or fund services directly, and we don’t fund raise. Which means that our role over these last extraordinary few months has been to provide a forward look for the Armed Forces charities sector.

We’re well placed to do this – since our formation 8 years ago, we’ve invested in many projects that provide evidence across areas such as housing, health (both physical and mental) and employment. So while colleagues at the likes of SSAFA and the Royal British Legion are fighting the current battle, we’re able to look beyond.

This is quite some task. Retired members of the Armed Forces (veterans and their families) live first and foremost as citizens of the state.

Is it possible today to predict how public services will be affected over the coming years? Or what shape corporate Britain will be in?

Political decisions made now and in the coming weeks will have an enormous long-term impact on what charities will be needed to provide.

Working in concert with the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs presents a real opportunity to join public and voluntary sector policies.

Serendipitously, just as lockdown started we commissioned a one-year study entitled ‘Future Trends’,  which will look out to 2031 to identify possible scenarios, and so provide planning tools not just for charities, but for public policy makers at all levels across the UK.

Combined with a household survey that we’re co-funding with the Legion, the results of next year’s census, and the work of our Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin University, we hope to provide views of the future that will help the whole sector conduct its strategic planning.

With collaboration, rationalization and efficiency right at the top of the agenda of our representative organization, Cobseo (the Confederation of Service Charities), I can see a path through to a smaller but more effective charitable sector.

Working in concert with the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs presents a real opportunity to join public and voluntary sector policies.

How we support serving and ex-serving members of the Armed Forces over the next decade will help define our national identity, and FiMT’s futures work will inform policy makers on the decisions they should take now.

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE is Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, whose aim is to ensure that policy makers who affect the Armed Forces community are influenced to make decisions based on independent credible evidence.

To find out more about our work, please visit us here or contact us at enquiries@fim-trust.org

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