Local Authorities must ask the question!
Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive of Veterans’ housing charity, Stoll, highlights the importance of the new MHCLG consultation on housing for Veterans.
Most people transition from the Armed Forces very successfully, but for others a range of issues can make the return to civvy street a real struggle. Housing is often a problem, not least because many Servicemen and women receive military accommodation while they are in the Armed Forces and do not have a civilian home of their own. That is precisely why the social housing sector becomes so vital for many Veterans when they leave the Armed Forces.
It is currently too easy for ex-Service personnel – especially younger people and Early Service Leavers – to end up homeless. Having Served in the Armed Forces and, despite the commitments given in the Armed Forces Covenant, too many Veterans live in inappropriate accommodation, sofa surf, reside in hostels or end up homeless on the streets. Evidence suggests that as many as 3% of those accessing homelessness services in England are Veterans which means that each year, well over a thousand ex-Service personnel end up homeless with between 3,000 and 4,000 Veterans needing urgent housing every year.
In 2018 we began a campaign to end homelessness as close to zero as possible. We launched a Call to Action with partners urging the government to ensure that vulnerable Veterans who approach Local Authorities for social housing get the advice and support they need. I am really pleased therefore that the MHCLG has issued a consultation to ensure Local Authorities play their full part to eradicate homelessness among Veterans.
I’ve seen first-hand how homelessness has had a significant impact on Veterans’ ability to engage with civilian life. Very often we find homelessness is connected to other health and social issues including post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues such as depression, drug and alcohol addiction, substance misuse and relationship breakdown. Sometimes it is simply a case of lack of money and being out of work.
We all know that prevention is better than cure and that is why we must continue to look at ways in which the transition process can be improved. In the same way that Brigades offer advice on post-Service careers via the Career Transition Partnership, we also need a similar housing-focused service to ensure everyone transitioning from the Forces has appropriate advice on housing. Progress to make this happen is underway and I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues from across the Veterans’ and housing sectors, as well as the Ministry of Defence, to make this a reality.
There are practical solutions out there – and people ready to help and support those in need. Across the UK there are around 6,000 units of accommodation available for Veterans, some of which offer support services on site. The Veterans’ Nomination Scheme alone has matched 475 Veterans with a flat at an affordable rent.
With the right support from Local Authorities and housing charities, we can avoid the struggle that so many Veterans experience when they transition out of the Armed Forces. By asking the question, recording the information and acting on it, we can go a long way to eradicate homelessness among people who have served our country.