Probation Trust praised for veterans skills project

THE Northumbria Probation Trust has achieved a European Social Fund (ESF) accolade for its veterans’ employment skills project which is working with ex-forces offenders.

It was announced as the winner of the equal opportunities specialist project leader award at last week’s UK skills show.

Former service men and women can often experience difficulties in adjusting to a new life as a civilian. This can include mental health problems such as post traumatic stress disorder, social exclusion, housing problems and substance misuse.

There is no clear figure to indicate how many of them are engaged in the criminal justice system as a whole, however the Ministry of Justice estimates that 3.5 percent of the prison population are veterans.

The veterans employment skills project (VESP), funded by ESF and the National Offender Management Service, works with ex-military offenders on community orders, helping them to understand and adjust to civilian employment, address their issues and overcome behavioural and attitudinal difficulties which affect employment.

With the support of VESP advisers, who have a military background, the holistic approach allows both men and women to address their obstacles to gaining employment. They also receive support in improving their literacy and numeracy skills and gaining access to work and maintaining employment.

Richard Taylor, Northumbria Probation Trust VESP co-ordinator, said: “We are thrilled to have won this award and it’s a great honour to be recognised in this way. We are extremely proud of this project. It is rewarding to see that VESP has helped veterans increase their motivation and self esteem. Since the start of this year, 35 participants have taken part in the programme, 27 have received training awards and eight have found employment.”

The judges said they were impressed by the research undertaken into veterans’ needs, the strong one-to-one engagement and the excellent results.