A UNIQUE group has been set-up to devise ways to help and support soldiers, and their families, after they have left the army.

The Veterans and Families Institute was launched at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford. It will carry out research into mental health and social care of soliders and their families.

The work will be carried out by academics, ex-servicemen and military experts - and could lead to changes in policy.

Former head of the army Lord Dannatt carried out the official launch saying the research will be “extraordinarily important” as it could lead to the Britain’s forces being strengthened.

Lord Dannatt said: “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.”

Also at the launch of the institute was Phil Packer, founder of the British Inspiration Trust charity, who is an ambassador for group.

The ex-British Army major who has completed a number of challenges including the London Marathon despite suffering severe spinal injuries in Iraq said he hopes the institute is championed.

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.”