Research spotlight

Improving Access to Service Charities for Female Veterans

A new independent report from Robert Gordon University commissioned in 2022 by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) explores the potential of improving ex-Servicewomen's access to support services.

To date, efforts to improve access to and quality of care for Veterans have often emphasised male perspectives, failing to capture how the unique experiences and needs of ex-Servicewomen may impact their interaction with, and access to support. This study [1] aimed to address this by investigating the public and charitable sectors’ (Service and non-military) perspectives on barriers and enabling factors that ex-Servicewomen may face when accessing support. In turn, the findings could go on to inform and prioritise recommendations to improve ex-Servicewomen’s access to support from Service charities.

To address this aim, the study combined contextualisation of women’s roles in the military with existing literature and new empirical data. This entailed a scoping review of the literature and qualitative interviews with a sample of 38 representatives from Service and non-military charities, academics, and other experts, with interviews taking place between September 2022 to April 2023. This approach is pertinent because this is the first study to explore improving access to support services for ex-Servicewomen in the UK from the perspectives of a variety of parties working to fund, oversee, provide, and investigate support provision.

Findings from the research indicate that key barriers to ex-Servicewomen accessing support include a lack of self-identification as a Veteran and poor communication of support availability and entitlement. Another significant barrier was that some ex-Servicewomen perceive military charities to be replicating male-orientated military culture. Additionally, ex-Servicewomen who have experienced sexual trauma during their Service were less likely to access support.

The findings indicate that significant barriers to accessing support services are caused by a failure to accommodate and value different groups within the Veteran community and their unique needs and experiences, which have been shown to differ by gender and other dimensions of diversity.  This differentiation highlights the need to provide support based on equity of outcome rather than equality of provision as ‘one size does not fit all ’ Veterans.  Participants identified significant and sustained differences between men's and women’s experiences of the military leading to differing support needs. Furthermore, participants suggested that women’s experiences in the military require tailored support from statutory and charitable bodies following terms of Service which are incomparable to their male counterparts.

Enablers to accessing support include providers ensuring a supportive and trustworthy environment; supporting ex-Servicewomen’s psychological safety is vital. Additionally, tailoring approaches to service provision, such as highly individualised services, are a powerful enabler. It was also noted that charities evaluating their performance including the needs and experiences of ex-Servicewomen and female Serving personnel is a strong enabler, facilitating data-driven decision making. In addition, examples of charities that are demonstrating highly effective practice in enabling ex-Servicewomen’s access to support were gathered during the qualitative interviews. These were presented in the report as outstanding enablers, following the themes outlined in the UK Strategy Action Plan for Veterans.

The study authors offered 10 recommendations for improving access to Service charities for ex-Servicewomen which are presented within the themes of policy, further research, and specific issues for service providers. These recommendations are:


  • The provision of safeguarding and assurance of safe spaces for ex-Servicewomen accessing services provided to ex-Servicewomen should be emphasised in the Women Veterans’ Strategy.
  • The OVA should invest in the provision of learning and development resources to be made available to charities to increase awareness and confidence amongst service providers in dealing with the needs of ex-Servicewomen.

Further Research

  • Further evidence is required regarding the ways in which female reservist Veterans access Service charities as they may be affected in ways that are different to regular ex-Servicewomen due to the differentiation of experiences in military Service.

Service Providers

  • Service charities should consider service differentiation by sex to ensure equity of outcome for ex-Servicewomen by reviewing their equality, diversity and inclusion strategies relating to the services they offer ex-Servicewomen.
  • Service charities should conduct an internal review of intervention oversight, safeguarding provision, and governance of services to stimulate robust evaluation and accountability for equity, quality and efficacy of services for to ex-Servicewomen.
  • Service charities should consider implementing learning and development programmes to increase awareness of contemporary approaches to equality, diversity, and inclusion to increase their confidence in how they support ex-Servicewomen.
  • Charities should review their approaches to reporting of services provided to Veterans to differentiate by sex to stimulate inclusive and equitable service development and delivery for ex-Servicewomen.
  • Service charities should work together to share expertise in best practice in enabling service access for ex-Servicewomen.
  • Service and non-military charities should work to increase partnership working, communication and collaboration to plan, communicate and deliver appropriate service provision for ex-Servicewomen.
  • Service charities based in mainland UK should consider providing support for formal collaboration with charities based in Northern Ireland to facilitate appropriate service provision mitigating the specific issues experienced by ex-Servicewomen in Northern Ireland.

There are an additional 11 supplementary recommendations which arose from the conduct of the study that are relevant not only to policy and research considering ex-Servicewomen but also to other minority and under-represented groups within the Armed Forces Community. These alongside the full study details can be found in the full report.

Thank you to the authors Professor Zoe Morrison and Dr Moira Bailey for working with us to produce this summary of their research.



[1]. Bailey, M., Phillips, R. and Morrison, Z. 2023. Improving access to service charities for female veterans. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University [online]. Available from:

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