Early Service Leavers

The team is currently conducting a scoping exercise to explore future research priorities with regard to a group of veterans classified as “early service leavers” (ESLs). Around 20,000 personnel leave the Armed Forces each year with varying lengths of service careers behind them, and many leave before completing basic training. ESLs are defined as personnel who are discharged from the military: 

  • Compulsorily from the trained strength or untrained strength
  • At their own request from the trained strength or untrained strength, having completed less than four years’ service

While early service leavers have been identified as a potentially vulnerable group of service leavers, very little research has been done to understand the reasons behind their early separation from the military, or issues they might face upon transition to civilian life. The scoping study being carried out by the VFI is consulting with key stakeholders in government, public service and the third sector to ascertain what needs to be known about ESLs and what the research priorities in this area should be. It is anticipated that the results of this scoping exercise will shape the direction of future research with early service leavers, and lead to future funding applications.

Our work on early service leavers also involves collaboration with colleagues at Kings Centre for Military Health Research, with whom we are exploring a dataset of over 5,000 service personnel discharged early from the Armed Forces. A key aim of this project is to examine the characteristics associated with being an early service leaver.