Young people involved had the opportunity to showcase the charity’s new Tornado of Change Campaign and discuss their wider experience of making the change from military to civilian life with their families.
The Scottish Veterans Commissioner works to improve outcomes and opportunities for veterans and their families in Scotland. This involves championing the challenges they face and influencing policymakers to address any changes required in devolved public services so that their needs are met.
There are over 220,000 veterans presently living across Scotland; while 60% account for over 65’s, growing numbers of younger veteran families are emerging who are reaching out to charities, like Forces Children Scotland, with a wider, complex range of support needs in order to thrive in civilian life.
The current Scottish Veterans Commissioner, Lieutenant Commander (retired) Susie Hamilton, met with the young people, alongside the charity’s Policy and Influencing and Youth Participation teams, for a consultation session in Perth as part of her strategic priorities.
Many young people from armed forces and veteran families have told the charity that they feel many of their voice is seldom heard by policymakers, who fail to take their lived experience on board when making important decisions about their future.
Moreover, young people have also expressed strong feelings that educators and professionals who support them simply do not understand the lives they lead and how it can impact mental health, education, inclusion, and much more.
The young people began the session with a discussion about the loss of identity, community, and friendships experienced when making the change from military to civilian life with their families, how this affected them, and what had helped.
Working with the charity’s Youth Participation Team, the young people created special shoe boxes to help the Veterans Commissioner to take a walk in their shoes, which included audio clips that described their personal transition journeys.
The young people moved on to speak candidly about the importance of having friends to talk to and being actively involved in the transition with their parents and suggested further positive steps to support over 5,875 peers from veteran families across Scotland.
Having shared her personal journey as part of the session, Heather said:
“It’s been a really, really good day. I feel like we have been able to express our views and that they have been heard really well. I know a lot of notes were taken during the session and that positive action will follow.”
Young people voiced a willingness to work together with the Veterans Commissioner to bust the myth of harmful stereotypes and expressed strong feelings about how vital it is that the general public recognises veterans and their families as a diverse range of people who have much to contribute to wider society.
Susie Hamilton, Scottish Veterans Commissioner said:
“I place a great deal of importance on inclusion and hearing directly from veterans and their families and in particular, in finding ways to ensure I hear “the quieter voices” – of those that I am the least likely to hear from otherwise.
“It was very thought-provoking for me to hear the views of such an articulate and interesting group of young people. I was extremely impressed by the way they communicated their personal experiences of transition and what moving from a Service family to becoming a veteran family felt like for them.”
Forces Children Scotland will launch an Influencing and Policy Strategy later this year that it has co-produced with children and young people from the armed forces community.
One topic the publication will focus on is urging policymakers to do more to support them make the change from military to civilian life with their families.
Carly Elliot, Deputy CEO and Policy Lead for Forces Children Scotland said:
“We supported young people to meet with the Scottish Veterans Commissioner to talk about their experiences of transitioning to civilian life once their serving parent left the armed forces – a time often focused on the parent’s experience.
“They spoke about how we should uphold their right to participate in this significant life event and the role that friends and teachers can play in supporting them through it. We are grateful to the Commissioner for the time she gave to us, and we look forward to working together to improve this experience for future young people.”
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