New fund to improve access to support for female veterans

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Women veterans who have suffered sexual trauma in the military will soon have access to improved clinical support within the UK healthcare and charity sector.

  • Government to fund development of support for women veterans who have suffered from sexual trauma in the military
  • Delivers on three reports that give recommendations to service providers on how quality of and access to support can be improved
  • Findings will feed into government’s first Women Veterans’ Strategy, due to be published in spring 2024

Women veterans who have suffered sexual trauma in the military will soon have access to improved clinical support within the UK healthcare and charity sector thanks to a new £200,000 government fund.

This funding will support the rollout of dedicated training and guidance for frontline staff to support women veteran survivors of sexual trauma across healthcare services, military and civilian charities.

The fund has been set up following recommendations in three independent reports commissioned by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA). The reports investigated how the government and charities can improve access to care for female veterans.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Rt Hon. Johnny Mercer MP said:

“Women veterans make up 13% of the veteran population in England and Wales and so it’s important that we better understand their health and welfare needs.

“The upcoming Women Veterans’ Strategy will make sure that women veterans have access to support which addresses their unique needs and experiences.”

The reports fulfil part of the government’s Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan to recognise and champion the contribution of women to the armed forces. 

Findings from reports by Anglia Ruskin University, veteran mental health charity Combat Stress and Robert Gordon University suggest that women’s experiences in the military require tailored support from statutory and charitable services.

Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, Andrew Murrison MP said:

“Our service women are an integral part of the Armed Forces community and the sacrifices they make to defend our nation are immense. These reports will give us further insight into the experiences of our female veterans and allow us to continue providing support during their service and beyond.”

The recommendations for policymakers, service providers and researchers include:

  • Providing staff training across statutory and charity services which focuses on female veterans’ needs, including mental health and sexual trauma
  • Increasing partnerships between service and non-military charities to share best practice and provide more appropriate care for female veterans
  • Improving signposting to support through marketing, newsletters, online directories or peer networks
  • Gathering gendered data across government and charities to ensure more equitable access to support and better outcomes
  • Further researching the experiences and needs of female veterans to improve access to support, including transitioning from service, personal finance, housing, employment and healthcare

Sarah Atherton MP, Chair of the Advisory Group to the Women Veterans’ Strategy said:

“These reports improve our evidence base and deepen our understanding of the unique experiences of women veterans. The upcoming Women Veterans’ Strategy is an exciting opportunity to recognise the experiences of women veterans and ensure that we have effective and tailored support to address their needs.” 

The OVA’s Women Veterans’ Strategy will take on a number of the recommendations and are collaborating with the researchers to ensure the key findings of the reports are reflected in the upcoming strategy. 

Anglia Ruskin University has reported on the experiences of tri-service UK female veterans in accessing support in civilian life. Researchers found that female veterans experienced a number of challenges in civilian life, many related to gendered experiences during their military service and these increased their need for support from statutory and charitable services.

Combat Stress has researched methods on improving access to best-evidenced treatment – such as cognitive processing therapy – for women veterans who had experienced sexual trauma. The report highlighted that women veterans often feel their experiences of sexual trauma are not widely understood by health care professionals or the wider veteran community.

Robert Gordon University investigated the barriers and opportunities for female veterans in accessing service charities. The universities concluded that as female veterans may not self-identify as veterans, and may have different support needs to male veterans due to different experiences of military service, they may be reluctant to access service charities.

The Ministry of Defence is clear that is no place for sexual assault or other sexual offences in the Armed Forces and we are committed to stamping it out and supporting anybody impacted by this terrible behaviour. 

As part of the department’s commitment to prevent and address unacceptable sexual behaviour, we have a number of measures in place to tackle this type of offending including zero tolerance policies and strengthen levers to discharge those who are found to have committed sexual offences or unacceptable sexual behaviour. 

We continue to use relevant information about sexual offending in the Armed Forces to consider and develop further interventions and measures to try and tackle this type of offending.

Notes to Editors

Further quotes

Dr Lauren Godier-McBard, Principal Investigator & Co-Director of the Centre for Military Women’s Research (CMWR) at ARU added:

“This report calls for improved signposting, and increased representation and awareness among service providers to enhance the well-being of female veterans.

“Whilst many female veterans reported a positive experience during service, many also experienced challenges related to discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault during service, which impacted their lives following discharge.”

Professor Dominic Murphy, Head of Research at Combat Stress & President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society, said

“Our previous research identified that around 1 in 4 women veterans experienced sexual traumas during their military service. Following on from this, the OVA funded us to develop evidence-based guidance on how to best support women veteran survivors of military sexual trauma. Crucially, these guidelines were co-produced with women veterans with lived experience, in order to learn from them how services should and can be adapted to best meet their needs, experiences and engage them in treatment.

“These findings are the first stage in ensuring that women veterans can receive the support they deserve.”

Zoe Morrison, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Change at Robert Gordon University, said:

“Our research included talking to a range of professionals working to support the veteran community to better understand the barriers and enablers to accessing service charities for female veterans.

“Not only are women a minority within our Armed Forces, their terms of service were different until very recently which raises the possibility of consequentially different support needs as veterans. Our findings demonstrate the importance of improving inclusive approaches to service provision, with high quality, accessible, and in some cases female-specific services needed in safe and accessible environments where women feel valued as veterans.

“We highlight examples of good practice and identify potential for increased communication and collaboration between service charities, as well as between service and non-military charities, to better support female veterans dealing with service-related issues.”

Original article can be found here New fund to improve access to support for female veterans – GOV.UK (