Our Strategic Plan 2022-25 contains a commitment to increase our influencing activity to effect positive policy and practice change for children and young people in armed forces and veteran families.
To help deliver on this, in late 2022 a group of young people, staff and trustees began working together to design what our influencing behaviour and approach would look like.
A Force for Meaningful Change is the co-produced output of this work.
From the Scottish Government, Ministry of Defence, and local authorities to universities, colleges, schools, and many more.
Make Scotland a place for all children and young people from armed forces and veteran families to realise their potential and thrive.Download our Influencing Strategy
Children and young people from armed forces and veteran families across Scotland have the right to be heard, with too many reporting a feeling of being hidden, unheard or misunderstood in policymaking and practice.
We do not know enough about this group and how being part of the armed forces community shapes childhood. Research suggests we need to consider their experiences of education, mental health, relationships, trauma and transitional moments such as moving with their parents from military to civilian life.
The adults around children from armed forces and veteran families need to know more about their unique lives, which means educators and professionals, across military and civilian sectors, need to feel confident and equipped to support them at the right time.
Policy surrounding children and young people from armed forces and veteran families in Scotland falls to both the UK Government and Scottish Government, meaning it is possible for this community’s rights to fall through the gap.
We give power to lived experience. We work collaboratively with children and young people to explore their experiences, identify what needs to change and define what solutions could help them and others like them.
We balance data, research and lived experience. We understand the importance of a robust argument for change and that’s why we lean on various sources, however, we are always led by lived experience.
We look at the big picture. We appreciate that people might experience things a little differently and that meaningful change is complex.
We take a leap of faith. We aren’t afraid of taking risks but always make sure we work to understand if the change we seek is right and will lead to the world we want.
We test the water before we start to swim. We will embrace the challenge of trying new things by piloting ideas before we implement them, warmly welcoming and listening to feedback from all our stakeholders.
We don’t procrastinate on making change. While we need to ensure our goals are right, we always remember that children and young people from armed forces and veteran families are waiting for the change to happen.
We work with others, not against. We know that meaningful, sustainable change does not happen in a vacuum, so we will always ensure collaboration is present throughout the design and delivery of our influencing activity.
We balance our need for money with ideas and creativity. We strive to be driven by our mission, focusing on the evidence and what our young people feel is important, then finding the resource to help us turn these bright ideas into exciting new realities.
We will never be linear, we will always be squiggly. We know that the journey to meaningful change might require us to pause, reflect and evaluate before we continue our influencing journey, even if this means we have to change our approach sometimes.
We say it how we mean it. We create snappy, bold and vibrant communications that are clear and consistent to help push our influencing message as far as possible, to all stakeholders – from children to duty bearers.
We play to our strengths. We stay true to our organisational purpose and our unique position within the sectors in which we operate, making sure we embody our mandate fully, bringing in those with the expertise we do not have, whenever needed.
We use what works. We know what influencing tools are within our specialism, how to use them and at what time to do this, always learning from others as we go.
We are in it till the end. We don’t give up and we persevere until we see the change we want.
Our co-produced manifesto contains the outcome of our work with young people across five main themes of:
The Scottish Government should consider how national data collection, including the collation of administrative data, can help Scotland understand the outcomes of children and young people from armed forces families and how they interact with public services, especially across health, housing, and education. This should include consideration of how families can be supported to declare their armed forces identity.
The Scottish Government and UK-wide research councils should invest in research looking at the experiences of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families in Scotland, focusing on mental health, education, relationships, development and upholding their rights.
The Scottish Government should invest in the participation of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families, ensuring inclusion of their voices in policymaking, recognising their experience as an often lesser-heard community.
The Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Government must conduct Child Rights Impact Assessments on any policy which has the potential to affect children from armed forces and veteran families, and consider steps they will take to mitigate any impact on the child.
The Scottish Parliament to use its powers to understand the impact of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families being subject to both Ministry of Defence and Scottish Government direction, and to scrutinise if the Scottish Government is doing enough to ensure their rights are sufficiently protected.
The Scottish Government must publish a strategy detailing how it will protect the rights of children and young people from armed forces and veteran families and implement the Armed Forces Covenant Duty, co-produced with children and young people, parents/carers and professionals.
Further and higher education institutions must equip future education, health and housing professionals with knowledge about their legal duties under the Armed Forces Covenant Duty and the experiences of Armed Forces families, including focus on the rights and needs of children and young people.
Professionals should undergo Continuing Professional Development, co-produced with young people, giving them the knowledge and tools to support with the various experiences associated with military life, including transitions, deployment and parental death or injury. This is especially important for those in education, housing and health fields.
The Ministry of Defence must review existing parental support initiatives to help ensure whole families feel supported and equipped with their mental health and wellbeing, particularly during key military events such as deployments and transitions.
In realising their duties under the Armed Forces Covenant, Scottish health boards must commit to maintaining a child’s place on NHS waiting lists following a service-related move to or within Scotland.
The next Scottish Government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy should reflect the specific needs of children from armed forces and veteran families, acknowledging responsibilities under the Armed Forces Covenant and recognising the impact being in this community may have on children and young people, especially during key military events such as deployment and transitions.
The Ministry of Defence and Scottish Government must invest in the provision of early intervention mental health and wellbeing supports for children and young people located on military bases and available across the whole of Scotland, preventing the need for medical interventions and ensuring this early response understands the unique contexts in which this community live.
Alongside pupils from armed forces and veteran families, Scottish schools should co-produce their whole-school approach, detailing how education staff will support children during military-related events such as deployments and when transitioning between schools, developing local solutions that might include appointing Armed Forces Children’s Champions, ‘deployment passes’ that allow children to request support easily, optional weekly guidance meetings to discuss how they are coping, peer support groups, whole-school awareness raising, and using the Thriving Lives Toolkit (SCiP Alliance).
The Scottish Government should strengthen implementation of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 by supporting schools to assess and collect data on the additional support needs of learners from armed forces and veteran families, raise awareness of the ASL framework and its relevance for this community, and commit to investing in support for those pupils who have experienced education disruption.
The Ministry of Defence should invest in additional educational support for children and young people from armed forces and veteran families who have experienced a significant amount of disruption to their learning due to frequent moves linked to their serving parent’s postings.
The four UK nations should design and implement a robust information transfer system within education which ensures the right information moves with the child when they move schools and communities because of their serving parent’s posting. This information transfer must include the voice of the child, safeguarding concerns, and full information on any additional support needs.
The four UK nations must review the UK-wide policy which determines student funding for many armed forces families based on the location where the serving person originally signed up to the military, with a view to redesigning an inclusive but flexible policy which does not lead to disadvantage for children and young people from armed forces and veteran families.
The Ministry of Defence should ensure that planning and support for families leaving active service with the Armed Forces starts early and prior to decision to leave, allowing adequate time for the child to understand the change, have their voice heard within the planning process, ultimately feeling better prepared for what lies ahead. Special consideration of support for the families of Early Service Leavers, those experiencing medical or administrative discharge or in the situation of injury or death, must also consider the child’s needs specifically.
The Scottish Government’s next Veterans’ Strategy must be informed by young people, families and the workforce, including a section outlining a commitment to the experiences and needs of children from armed forces families, detailing what support should be expected as the family leaves active service and how they will raise awareness about this community.
The Scottish Government must invest in Scotland-wide service provision, such as mentoring, youth work and mental health and wellbeing support tailored to supporting children and young people when the serving parent leaves active service and the family moves to civilian life.
As part of their Armed Forces Covenant commitment, local authorities should create ‘welcome packs’ for children and young people entering civilian life, to ensure they know what opportunities still exist for them within the Armed Forces community, as well as introducing them to new opportunities within the civilian community.