Armed Forces Champion Claire Watt talks about her role helping veterans transition to civilian life
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HELPING Armed Forces personnel transition to civilian life is all in a day's work for Claire Watt as she eases into her new role as an Armed Forces Champion lead.
As the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) bolsters its network of armed forces champions, fellow armed forces champion Alan Beresford talks to armed forces champion lead for north, north-east and east Scotland Claire Watt about her role
Just appointed to the role, Claire has a huge patch to cover helping a wide variety of former services personnel as they face the new challenges of life outside the military.
However, her own experiences have given her a large degree of insight to bring to bear to help veterans.
She said: "It’s a large geographical area, but each Jobcentre Plus district has its own dedicated Armed Forces Champion’
"In all there're two leads and six champions covering Scotland. In the north we not only have bases but it's a large settlement area for veterans as well.
"Due to Covid regulations I've been working from home at Kinloss Barracks but my actual base will be Buckie Jobcentre. It's been a case of lots of telephone calls and virtual meeting by we're taking it step by step to start opening up.
Having served in the Army and am also a military spouse I understand the difficulties which can arise when transitioning to civilian life.
"These can take years to appear, it depends on the individual.
"Within the Champions team we've a very diverse range of experience. One of the questions we get asked is 'Are you all ex-Armed Forces' but that's not the case. We need all these different types of experience and background together so we can offer the best help to those who've served their country."
Claire went on to highlight that military personnel are highly skilled in many ways and part of the challenge can be encouraging veterans to realise just how much they have to offer. It can also involve educating employers and colleagues as to the unique challenges veterans can face when transition.
She continued: "The team is able to give more personalised, one-to-one support to veterans on a whole range of things from employment issues to ensuring veterans and their families claim the benefits they are entitled to where appropriate.
"One of the most important things is to make a veteran realise the scale of the transferable skills, hard and soft, which they have accumulated during their service. This can be translating it from military jargon into something civilian employers can understand and appreciate.
"For example, saying that you were a GPMG [General Purpose Machine Gun] gunner in the Army probably won't mean a lot to many civilian employers.
"Many veterans don't realise what they have, they have a massive skills base and experience, not to mention disciple, which are all hugely desirable to civilian employers."
There's also the aspect of helping colleagues in the DWP understand the unique challenges veterans can face and tailoring support for them."
She stressed the very individual nature of her role.
"Transitioning is a very individual experience and it depends largely on the role a veteran played while they were in the Armed Forces and their reason for discharge or end of service
"Which service a veteran was in doesn't make that much difference; for instance, you could be away for six months on a ship in the Navy or you could be away for a six-month tour in the Army, you're still experience an extended time away.
"Tailoring support for the Armed For community also varies by area and the type of bases which are there.
"For the majority of veterans it's a smooth transition into civilian life, with an 84 per cent employment rate compared to 76 per cent average for civilians.
Claire added that the support Armed Forces Champions offer is available to veterans' partners and families as well.
"In the UK a veteran is defined as someone who has served for at least one day and covers both regulars and reserves.
"This opens up so many avenues for support."