A stepping stone to improved future prospects has come in the form of a partnership between The Prince’s Trust and Help for Heroes. Over 116 wounded, injured and sick (WIS) personnel and 1,500 young people have been inspired by the partnership to date, and seen a mutual respect for each other emerge.

Philippa Clare, National Help for Heroes Partnership Manager, says: “Civilian life is a daunting prospect to many personnel leaving the military, and this is compounded if they’re leaving because of a physical or mental health injury, not out of choice. Another common feature of this transition is that service personnel aren’t fully identifying how their transferrable skills can bring value to the civilian sector.

“Our serving personnel and veterans have the chance to volunteer on Prince’s Trust programmes or apply for a paid work placement, fully funded by Help for Heroes, on the Team programme. What’s brilliant about this opportunity is that our military personnel are challenged to use their soft skills; they need to influence those around them, as command structures or rank are rarely impressive or meaningful to the young people on Team.

“And this often helps bring WIS personnel out of themselves as they focus on someone else’s issues. They also gain experience in the civilian sector, and learn how to apply their military skills in this new context. For The Trust, there’s a great mutual benefit because the young people look up to the soldiers and are motivated and inspired to push themselves through adversity as a result. It works really well.”

Team’s structure is designed to build confidence and repair damaged self-esteem by challenging young people to try to new things and helping them to succeed.

Piran Stark, a former member of the forces who took part in Team, believes the pairing works well:

I understood where a lot of these young people were coming from because I'd been through tough times like they had too so I felt like I could help them. It helped me too, and I’m now more confident and feeling positive about the future.

But a voluntary placement or secondment to Team isn’t right for every WIS soldier, which is why a Help for Heroes partnership manager has been placed at The Prince’s Trust to select and support candidates and ascertain whether Team is the best point of recovery for them.  

If they are selected, personnel begin their voluntary placement or secondment by being trained to support young people. They then have the opportunity to progress to become an Assistant Team Leader or a Team Leader.

Jay Goucher, a corporal in the Grenadier Guards who was left physically injured following three tours of Afghanistan, did just that. He became a Team Leader, keen to use his life experience to help disadvantaged young people get on the right track, and was boosted by the experience.

The young people respected me for what I’d been through, but I also respected them. When they looked up to me, it made me even more determined not to let them down.

To date, the Team programme has helped build the confidence and prospects of more than 187,000 young people. Military secondees to the programme also cite a confidence boost having learned skills that include leadership, problem-solving and communication. But for Help for Heroes it’s the reactions and journeys of their WIS personnel that is testament to the partnership’s success.

Philippa continues: “Every single placement I make stands out as a brilliant reason why Help for Heroes has committed to investing in this Partnership with The Trust. They all have their own success stories.

“We had a lad come out early from the army due to injury and he had a very combative attitude because he was resentful of the fact he had to leave the military. He came onto the Team programme wanting to help young people but with the attitude of ‘what could they have wrong in their lives compared to mine?’ Acknowledging the legitimacy of the young peoples’ challenges was a key part of his own recovery journey.

“Within a fortnight, his language and attitude was changing and softening. He had more self awareness, more confidence in his softer skills, and was less angry about his military experience. Learning what young people are going through helped him. He is now a fully trained Team Leader, which as an excellent result.”

When Team placements are over, WIS secondees ideally progress into employment within the youth sector, or they can use what they’ve learned on Team as a stepping stone into civilian life.

A testament to the success of the Partnership has been that in November 2015, a grant for a new three-year partnership worth £500,000 has been awarded by Help for Heroes. This will allow for a further 135 WIS personnel to be supported, helping them make that transition of the military and develop the skills and confidence they need to build their new life in the civilian world, whilst also positively impacting the lives of around another 1,600 disadvantaged young people around the UK.

A young person on our Team programme this summer, said:

Our Help for Heroes Assistant Team Leader taught us to take responsibility for our actions. Once you take responsibility, you realise you have choices. I want to make good choices in my life.           
View the latest findings about the challenges faced by young people today in the UK in our Youth Index 2015 report