Veterans Legal Link (VLL) Project and Service

Overview

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    Impact summary

    The Cumulative Stress Model (CSM): a stress and life course framework for predicting post-deployment mental health problems (Olusanya, O. 2012), posits that social support may serve as a protective factor against stress for veterans during the transition to civilian life and has informed the University supported VLL project. The VLL service is the first of its kind in the UK, currently generating £40,000 funding per year and forecasted to generate £700,000 over the next five years as detailed in the 2016 Business Plan. 
    The effect of legal aid cuts has not been evenly distributed within and across England and Wales. Research (Forces Report 2012, Forces in Mind 2016) has demonstrated that individuals in rural areas are particularly vulnerable. Legal aid cuts have a particularly negative impact on clients located in rural areas, who now have to travel further using expensive public transport to access legal advice. The VLL has developed a free legal advice and specialist support service with veterans and their families as part of an integrated and tailored multidisciplinary partnership. The project uses web-based communication tools and phone to enable the provision of these services. The case studies that VLL has collected from the pilot work over 12 months show that the service has been able to support a diverse range of Veterans and their families of all ages and background. VLL has received referrals from veterans organisations such as Change Step, Royal British Legion, Alabare and Links (Llanelli) Veterans buddies; the VLL in turn referring/signposting their clients to legal (e.g. via the Law Works pro bono network) and other specialist services. 
    The VLL project is ensuring that individual Veterans and their families have their rights met, which includes ensuring they are well connected, and that the services they access are also well connected. It is also helping with community cohesion, resilience and integration by ensuring Veterans and their families have access to legal help and advice. VLL has been very pro-active within the West Wales Communities and recently voted onto Ceredigion Armed Forces Community Covenant Strategic Board. VLL has engaged with various Veterans organisations and has received letters of support from MP’s Mark Williams and Elfyn Llwyd as well as SSAFA and the Veterans NHS Wales and British Legion, demonstrating that they value that VLL’s service is available for 250,000 Veterans in Wales. The need for this work based on research and government policy has been highlighted in these letters. 
    Overall, the resources generated by the VLL—around £40,000 per year (gifts in kind and other resources)—have enabled and improved access to justice in an area where public funding is notoriously limited and difficult to access. VLL has worked with veterans and their families on a one to one basis who took part in the Ceredigion pilot to gather their views to develop this project about the help and support needed. The VLL service has had a demonstrable beneficial impact on access to justice. As of April 2015, 31 cases have been referred either to specialist legal advice or to a specialist advisor to assist with their legal issues. VLL has worked with all the partners involved to date to help design the project and look at the outcomes for this project. Via the Law and Social Justice in Practice Module, VLL aims to ensure that a team of veterans law specialists will be created, and this will be sustained beyond the life of the project. These specialists will then train other students to help cascade the learning, and ensure the service is embedded into local legal and community advice services.The VLL has facilitated the development of the groundbreaking Law and Social Justice in Practice module LA36620 (https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/modules/deptfuture/?m=LA36620) and the on-campus Veteran-focused Family Legal Advice Clinic.

    Beneficiaries

    Military veterans and their families

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