When many people think about veterans, they picture older men. However, there is an estimated 400,000 veterans in Scotland, with men and women of all ages and backgrounds having served. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re shining a spotlight on veteran Jane Duncan, who plays a key role in supporting Scotland’s ex-Forces community.
Jane Duncan is the Veterans Support Advisor for Renfrewshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council and Inverclyde Council. Having served 22 years in the British Army, Jane is a veteran herself and has a wealth of understanding about the resources that are crucial to ensuring Military personnel are provided with the right services when returning to Civvy street.
Commencing the role in 2014, Jane underpinned what services were already in place and what needed to be implemented to improve services and opportunites for Military personnel within these regions. It was quickly apparent that whilst there was information and services available, these were not readily accessible for veterans due to poor communication.
After reviewing what initiatives, services and tools were already available within these Councils and NHS boards, Jane initiated a veterans’ ‘Mini Champions’ programme. Jane organised training within Council teams such as employment, finance and housing so they were equipped to provide veteran specific advice.
Having the ‘Mini Champions’ programme ensures that someone within the local area is immediately aware of an issue faced by a veteran and can guide them to the support available; whether it is locally or nationally. Many veterans voice that it can be overwhelming to know what support is available.
The ‘Mini Champion’ programme extends to equipping veterans with the confidence to attend local groups which is a valuable network for veterans.
Jane commented: “There is no reason for any veteran to feel alone or isolated when leaving the Armed Forces and joining social clubs can be a crucial element to build confidence and give a sense of purpose.
“When you leave the Armed Forces, you leave a community, and that is difficult to step away from. Replicating that community sense via groups and organisations can, for some, help Military personnel feel part of a tight knit group and most importantly, valued.
“My role extends to liaising with local clubs and initiatives within the area to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge of how to help veterans in their community integrate. We need such clubs and groups to welcome veterans, and recognise the pool of talent and skills they hold.”
Through the implementation of Jane’s role, she has noted that there has been a shift in attitudes towards veterans within the three Councils she works with.
She said: “The appetite from Renfrewshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council and Inverclyde Council to help veterans integrate into the community has significantly increased since 2014 and they all want to play their part in ensuring that the region is viewed as a place to settle for veterans.”
Jane fundamentally believes that there would be great benefit for each Council in Scotland to implement a Veterans Support Advisor role.
“I would love it if every veteran in Scotland was able to contact their local authority directly and get the support they required. Whilst it’s great to promote national level services, it can be difficult for veterans to know who to turn to for advice.”