Evaluating a programme to support ex-Service personnel in the criminal justice system

Two men greeting outdoors, photo by Viacheslav Peretiatko/Adobe Stock

Viacheslav Peretiatko/Adobe Stock

Improved identification efforts and staff awareness and training may help to support ex-Service personnel who have come into contact with the criminal justice system.

What is the issue?

Most ex-Service personnel transition effectively into civilian life, but some face challenges, including poor mental or physical health, unemployment, financial hardship and homelessness. This can lead to some individuals committing crimes and finding themselves within the criminal justice system.

In order to support this group, the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust set up a programme to provide funding to projects aimed at reducing reoffending and providing help and support to ex-Service personnel who have come into contact with the criminal justice system.

How did we help?

RAND Europe was asked by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to conduct an evaluation of this programme, providing an overview and analysis of the projects that have been funded. The evaluation team looked at how support is provided through the various projects, the extent to which positive changes relating to ex-Service personnel have occurred, the sustainability of the projects, the use of data and the referral pathways used, as well as lessons learnt and areas of good practice that are applicable at the programme-level.

What did we find?

  • The projects appear to help address the known needs of ex-Service personnel in the criminal justice system. Based on the evidence gathered, the projects provide wide-ranging support, aiming both to address immediate needs and to enact systemwide changes within the criminal justice system.
  • Challenges faced by projects include difficulties in identifying ex-Service personnel within the system. This in turn makes it difficult to be aware of the full extent of their needs, meaning that the specific needs of ex-Service personnel are not considered as part of core organisational resource allocations.
  • Projects that focus on enacting system-wide changes within the criminal justice system are the most promising in terms of impact sustainability. Such projects are less dependent on funding in the long-term, whereas projects that provide immediate, on-the-ground support will continue to be dependent on the renewal of funding.
  • Funding needs to be awarded on a longer term basis in order to ensure that the projects can create a positive impact. This is especially so when it comes to addressing recurring on-the-ground needs.
  • Ex-Service personnel should be encouraged to work with those in the criminal justice system. This has been shown to help increase the engagement of this cohort with the support that is available.
  • The projects and beneficiaries highlighted the importance of providing increasingly holistic support. The most helpful support includes the family as well as ex-Service personnel.

What do we recommend?

  1. Improve the identification of ex-Service personnel within the entirety of the criminal justice system.
  2. Conduct further research on ex-Service personnel in the system, to reduce the gap in knowledge around this cohort and their needs.
  3. Expand the Veterans in Custody Support Officer role by making it permanent as well as ensuring that there is an equivalent role in police forces, courts and tribunals.
  4. Encourage criminal justice system agencies to be signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant.
  5. Increase communication among projects and organisations that provide support to ex-Service personnel in the criminal justice system.
  6. Provide more flexible funding options, including longer term funding, to enhance sustainability of projects.