Ill-health retirement can be a difficult, traumatic, and emotionally challenging process to come to terms with.
Police Care UK have a team of peer supporters to provide emotional support and guidance to help you through the process and transition to a life outside of policing.
We know from responses to the Injury on Duty research published by Police Care UK that police veterans who go through ill-health retirement have found getting the support they need difficult or non-existent.
Respondents talked extensively about not getting the chance to fulfill their vocation whilst others talked about the lengthy assessment and decision-making process that had left them feeling isolated, vulnerable, and staring into the unknown.
Police Care UK cannot directly affect the process, but what we can do is better support those undergoing the ill-health retirement process, and use these lessons to influence future guidance on the process as a whole. Police Care UK believes that more attention should be given to those who are about to become police veterans, so that the same opportunities exist for all those leaving the service irrespective of circumstance or situation. That is one of the reasons why we have created the Police veterans peer-support programme.
Who are our Volunteers?
Our peer supporters have a range of policing experiences. They have worked within policing in various ranks across several forces /policing organisations in the North West of England. They are all retired, typically having left due to ill health and/or injury and were already providing informal peer support to ex-colleagues prior to volunteering with Police Care UK.
Their experiences allow them to empathise with those accessing the injured veteran peer support programme as they all have similar experiences themselves in terms of exit pathways and understand the impact on professional and private life. Our peer supporters are independent from any force and can refer to any Police Care UK service as well as signposting where appropriate to other key partners. This service is confidential, unless there are safeguarding risks involved.
All peer support volunteers are specifically trained to provide the 4 pillars of peer support:
Currently peer support is being offered via telephone or online e.g. Microsoft Teams. Post Covid19 restrictions, and when safe for our volunteers and beneficiaries, we will seek to reinstate face to face support.
After you have received one to one support with your individual peer supporter, you are then invited to attend our group meeting. Here you will receive informal support, help, advice and comradery from others who have themselves been through ill-health retirement.
If you are an injured police officer, either veteran or undergoing the retirement process, and would like some peer support then please register in confidence with Police Care UK via the below referral form, requesting ‘injured veteran peer support’ and we will be in contact.
If you, or someone you know, would benefit from the veteran peer-support programme, please complete this referral form.
Currently veteran peer support is being offered via telephone or online e.g. Microsoft Teams. Post Covid19 restrictions, we will seek to re-provide face to face support when safe for our volunteers and beneficiaries
After you have received one to one support with your individual peer supporter, you are then invited to attend our group meeting. Here, you can receive informal support, help, advice and comradery from others who have been through IHR – in a safe and understanding environment.
We want to enable people to obtain practical information on how to cope, through the experience of others.
We aim to reduce the feeling of isolation, through the provision of emotional support from peers and professionals.
We will enable people to recover and rebuild their lives having transitioned from the service.
47% of respondents who left the police service because of an injury said it was a work-related psychological or mental health issue, and 35% said they were still experiencing PTSD. Veterans also cited issues relating to the support from line management whilst still employed, but many also felt that support was lacking once they had left the Police Service.
Our peer support programme has had such a positive impact for those we have supported, and for our peer supporters that we are looking to grow our UK coverage. If you feel that your experience and journey through ill health retirement could help support others, we would be keen to hear from you!
The following statement is from one of our peer support volunteers:
When I left the police by way of ill health retirement, I lost a sense of purpose and lost the feelings of fulfilment I got from helping people as a police officer.
Since leaving the police I have been involved in a number of volunteering roles, so I am able to compare the training and support that I have experienced with Police Care UK with other organisations. For me, the training and support offered by Police Care UK is extremely professional and of a quality that exceeded my expectations.
Engaging with a beneficiary is a very powerful and fulfilling experience. It's an experience that I don't have the vocabulary to explain properly but here goes: When a beneficiary tells you that you've helped them to rationalize their feelings; that they better understand their pain and thoughts; that they've learnt a lot from you, it's fantastic.
I've personally developed and benefited in a number of ways from being a peer supporter. The role is helping me to manage my chronic pain better. I feel fulfilled. I feel a renewed sense of pride and confidence in myself. I've been able to use the skills I've learnt as a peer supporter to better help people in both my private life and those I come across in other volunteering roles who are struggling and who are in need of help and support.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer peer supporter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your details and we will be in touch. Recruitment is periodic throughout the year and dependant on the region you reside in/worked in supporting the scheme.
We launched this service in 2018 with a pilot region covering the North-West, that includes the Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, and Lancashire area. At the time it was an entirely new concept in the UK and the first time that Police Care UK had run a peer-support initiative like this.
We took the learning from other successful peer-support initiatives, both here and abroad, that operated in policing and other areas, such as the military. But we also wanted to understand the experiences of our volunteer peer-supporters, and those using this new service so that we could better understand what would work best, and how we could make this more relevant to UK police veterans.
Having delivered the service across the North-West, that includes the Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, and Lancashire area we also tested the service across Thames Valley – Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire.
We took the learning from the NW trial and listened to the experiences of our volunteer peer-supporters, and those using this new service so that we knew what would work best, and how we could make this service more relevant to UK police veterans. This meant we were able to further enhance the beneficiary experience of the service.
We are currently working on expansion on this service so, in time, there will be UK coverage of our veterans peer-support programme.