Cobseo Housing Cluster’s response to MoD consultation on Veterans’ strategy
By Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive at Stoll
In November the UK government set out its strategy to continue to empower and support Veterans, accompanied by a consultation paper to gather information on how the strategy could be implemented across the UK.
The consultation closed last month and I am very pleased to have submitted a response on behalf of Cobseo Housing Cluster, a confederation of charities that provide Veteran-specific accommodation.
Our response focuses on three main areas:
- The need for the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate the process of transitioning from the Armed Forces more effectively, so that all those needing support to access accommodation are identified and supported to do so.
- The need for agencies operating in the civilian sphere, such as Local Authorities and homelessness charities, to identify Veterans asking for support around housing and know how they can be helped once identified.
- The need for Local Authorities, central Government and housing providers to provide adequate houses and funding to ensure that no Veterans need to remain homeless once identified.
The work of the Cobseo Housing Cluster has already achieved significantly increased awareness of the needs of homeless Veterans, as well as a more joined-up response from charities and Housing Associations. On the ground we are finding that the number of homeless Veterans is falling despite homelessness figures generally being on the rise nationwide.
But with hundreds of Veterans still sleeping rough every year, and 3,000-4,000 Veterans in urgent need of housing every year, there is more work to do. Therefore we very much welcomed the Government’s consultation with its focus on housing issues, as well as the recent decision by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to change the H-CLIC form (which records homelessness data from Local Authorities annually) to ensure it asks for data on Veterans, following advocacy from the Cluster.
While many Serving personnel transition smoothly to civilian life, for those who don’t there are currently too many points of entry to seek support – through Local Authorities, homelessness charities, Veterans’ charities and advice services. We must ensure greater awareness amongst all these stakeholders of the variety of services available to Veterans, and a co-ordinated approach to get the best possible support to homeless Veterans at their point of need – for instance through the Veterans’ Gateway.
We are also calling for clearer housing pathways for Veterans leaving the Forces, and we urge Local Authorities and other agencies to ask those seeking housing support whether they have served in the Armed Forces – and if they have, to have a clear plan to signpost them effectively. This follows on from our 2018 Call to Action which we launched at the House of Lords to try and bring homelessness amongst the Veterans community down as close to zero as possible.
We would like to work with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and MHCLG to carry out a campaign to raise awareness with charities and advice agencies within the sector, to ensure Veterans are quickly identified and given the right support to access accommodation quickly
Our response also identified the following issues that need to be addressed:
- The availability of tenancies to enable charities such as Stoll to rehouse Veterans from Housing Associations, Councils and other landlords.
- Slowness of payment of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) – service leavers entitled to AFCS payments are not paid the bulk of it until shortly after discharge, which prevents many of them from acquiring a suitable property whilst they are still serving.
- Selective licensing – a selective licence is introduced by Local Authorities who ask private landlords (i.e. non-Housing Association landlords) to pay for a licence to support the Local Authority in dealing with anti-social behaviour and other local housing issues. There are few exemptions, and we do not believe it is in the spirit of Selective Licensing to ask Veterans’ charities who are not Housing Associations, to pay these fees.
The Veterans Strategy represents a golden opportunity to make essential changes to reduce homelessness among Veterans close to zero, and we hope it will continue to address the significant issues which vulnerable Veterans face when leaving the Forces.
To find out how Stoll helps vulnerable Veterans, visit www.stoll.org.uk
By Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive at Stoll