The Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) identified this commitment as a priority area during the term of office. This was in recognition of the significant number of veterans in Dorset and their vulnerability due to their disproportionality in the criminal justice system. Other significant issues that they experience in transitioning to civilian life also include mental health, addiction, homelessness, training and lack of employment opportunities.
Ideas generated from the Homelessness Problem Solving Forum were also identified as suitable for exploring with the homeless veterans cohort in mind.
A number of strands have been pursued under this commitment and particularly highlight the effectiveness and ability of the Police & Crime Commissioner/Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner (OPCC) to act as a facilitator and instigator in pulling together a number of partners with shared aims to work together more effectively and efficiently.
The OPCC has worked across several areas that directly affect veterans, including accommodation, training and funding.
Initial ideas around the provision of accommodation were centred on containerised living units/pods. This option was researched but not considered viable due to costs and other practicalities. Instead, the OPCC has worked with accommodation providers, the YMCA and Pivotal Housing to establish a pathway for initial and move-on accommodation, with support, for homeless veterans in the Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council area. It also includes support and training from a wide range of agencies, including Above and Beyond. The pathway went live in June 2019 and will run for an initial 12 months and all aspects of the scheme will be reviewed in October 2019.
The PCC, through the Armed Forces’ Covenant, supported a very successful Armed Forces Career and Lifestyle event which led to the identification of a training company called Best Training who are able to deliver specific training for veterans, including IT skills and CV writing.
The PCC has lobbied hard for a Veterans Prison Wing (the Collingwood Wing) at Portland Prison to enable veterans to be placed together and allow for peer mentoring and specific support to be delivered whilst in prison. The Ministry of Justice have endorsed a Veterans’ Community approach, work continues with partners to deliver this scheme.
Following a recent relaxation in the rules regarding Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL), the OPCC is also working with local prison governors and employers to identify opportunities to assist with the reintegration of offenders into the community to enhance their skills and broaden their experience and ultimately increase their chances of securing and maintaining employment after release. An exciting ROTL opportunity has been developed with HeliOperations at Portland for veterans.
The OPCC has issued a number of community grants to local veterans support services, including funding for gym equipment at the Weymouth Hub, a garden renovation at Alabare veterans housing project, and contributing towards the relaunch of the Jailhouse Café initiative. The OPCC has also funded Above and Beyond to help them support the BCP homeless project.
The OPCC continues be to an active contributor to the Dorset Armed Forces Covenant Board, which provides oversight and direction to a number of key priority areas concerning veterans locally.
At the request of the Commissioner, veterans have also been included as one of the four key priorities for the newly convened South West Regional Reducing Reoffending Board. This will provide us with the opportunity to share learning and good practice from our work within Dorset, and also to work with regional colleagues to find longer term solutions to shared challenges presented by our veterans communities.