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Tackling the challenges of moving to Civvy Street

Monday 09 October 2017

Each year, roughly 15,000 people leave the British armed forces. While the vast majority embrace the fresh start and make a successful transition into civilian society, a small but increasing number of ex-forces personnel face difficulties adjusting to their new life on Civvy Street.

They can often struggle alone with problems such as substance misuse, poor mental health, homelessness and crime. It was estimated that the effects of poor transition from the military cost the UK £98 million in 2015 alone.

New research from Sheffield Hallam University has highlighted how one project is making a real difference to those struggling to make that transition.

The Right Turn initiative was designed for military veterans with alcohol and drug addictions and is run by the charity Addaction in 20 locations across the UK.

The project, which was the first of its kind in the UK when launched, operates on the premise that the comradeship underpinning military life can be re-directed to support recovery from addiction and desistance from crime.

For those taking part, it involves weekly peer support meetings with fellow veterans, alongside social activities and mentor training. The main point of the project was to foster friendships so group members would support each other out-side of formal meetings.

The research, which was carried out by Sheffield Hallam University's Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, looked at the impact of Right Turn. The results established a number of positive outcomes for the veterans, with the stand-out findings showing that ex-military service personnel are most likely to engage positively to treatment and support services offered by others with experience of military life. Furthermore, of those veterans with a history of contact with the criminal justice system, all reported no further criminal justice contact since joining the project. And, of the 39% of veterans who were in active addiction when joining the project, all gained addiction recovery status by the end.

Dr Katherine Albertson, who led the research for Sheffield Hallam’s HKC, said: "Without exception, all of the veteran participants reported enjoying their time in the military. They talked of a sense of achievement, unique experiences, learning to embrace different structures and expectations of the military identity."

The independent evaluation of Addaction's Right Turn programme is just one example of the kind of research being conducted at Sheffield Hallam which has the potential to transform people's lives. Find out more about the Hallam Fund is supporting applied research here.

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