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Ex-RAF sergeant backs university project to help Forces staff back to civilian life

22 January 2016

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A former sergeant in the RAF now studying to become a social worker has backed a university project to help ex-Servicemen and women make a successful transition back to civilian life.

Andrew Matthews, a third year social work student at Glyndŵr University Wrexham, supports the Welsh institution’s two-year initiative – together with the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) – to produce research to guide future strategic policies.

Having served with the Royal Air Force from 1999-2013 as a Flight Operations Manager, and as the UK Diplomacy Officer for military over flights and landings at the British Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, Andrew knows how tough the transition back to “normal” life is and says “more needs to be done” to support men and women leaving the Armed Forces.

“This is a great project because it will shine a light on what is a real problem for thousands of people and their families,” said Andrew, who lives with wife Gail and their two children in Penyffordd.

“You are expected to go back to being normal but life is very different as a civilian. I definitely feel more needs to be done to make that change as smooth as possible because so many ex-Servicemen and women turn to alcohol or drugs or crime to survive when they leave.

“I applaud Glyndŵr University Wrexham and the FiMT for taking on this subject and would certainly urge those eligible to get in touch.”

Dr Nikki Lloyd-Jones, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Life Sciences, said the idea came about after the North Wales Armed Forces Forum identified a need to fill the gap in the cultural differences between military and civilian life.

She and research assistant Darel Cookson are looking to interview people who have left the Forces in the last five years, in partnership with members of the Forum, including representatives from the Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board and local authorities in the region.

“This is an exciting opportunity to undertake research intended to inform future public service deliverers,” said Dr Lloyd-Jones.

”From anecdotal accounts we know about service leavers’ experiences of navigating cultural differences when leaving the Armed Forces, we also know that those in the wider community who regularly interact with ex-Service personnel could improve how they respond to everyday needs.”

“The research will explore this further, mapping out some of the significant decision-making issues experienced when becoming a civilian.

Dr Peter Higson, Chair of the North Wales Armed Forces Forum, added: “This work will make a huge and important difference to the support that we give the Armed Forces Community both in North Wales and across Wales generally.”

The initiative will enable the university and FiMT to gain a better understanding of current perceptions of public sector provision and any potential contrast with reality, through the development of an engagement model.

The aim is to enhance cultural understanding and integration which will help inform and influence policy makers and service deliverers who regularly interact with ex-Service personnel and their families.    

The project will develop a tool to evaluate integration, exploring the experiences of ex-Service men and women when going through the transition process, whilst also aiming to help generate a programme that will eradicate the sense of exclusion felt by some ex-Service personnel.

The study will be conducted in North Wales, but the findings should be applicable more widely by providing empirical evidence to develop strategic policies about facilitating and evaluating successful integration into civilian life for ex-Service personnel.

To take part in the study or for more information, email veterans@glyndwr.ac.uk or call 07540148513.

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