'Visionary' institute 'will strengthen our forces'

Published: 16 April 2014 at 11:12

Former Chief of General Staff Lord Dannatt launches research hub for veterans and their families

Decorated former members of the Armed Forces have thrown their weight behind Anglia Ruskin’s new Veterans and Families Institute (VFI), which will pool together academics doing individual research into the mental health and social care of ex-service personnel and their loved ones with the aim of lobbying for changes to policy.

At Anglia Ruskin’s Chelmsford campus last night, Lord Dannatt officially launched the institute, the first of its type in the country, and spoke about how vital it is for troops fighting on the front line to have the reassurance their families are being looked after.

Lord Dannatt, an honorary doctor of technology at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“This is extraordinarily important. If people know a lot of thought and effort has gone into what their life will be like when they retire, when they are injured, or if the worst should happen, that their families will be looked after, they will go harder, further and perhaps take that little bit more of a risk on the battlefield.
“It is so often the families who have to carry the burden. Linking together veterans and their families is critical and visionary.”

Founder of the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) Phil Packer MBE, ambassador for the VFI, and Surgeon Captain John Sharpley of the Ministry of Defence also spoke at the event. Falklands war hero Simon Weston OBE is to be patron of the VFI.

Mr Packer said:

“This institute is new, but the whole way it will work is through the network. It is something that excites me, but (partners) need to come to the table. The institute is something that really needs to be championed.”

The launch followed a conference during the day where keynote speakers included former members of the military as well as academics and families of service personnel.

Research work has already begun, with academics from several institutions across the country meeting today at Anglia Ruskin to pool their thinking within a network called VETERAN (Veterans Education Training Evaluation Research and Audit Network).