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Ex-servicemen: Homelessness

Volume 482: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of homeless veterans in the UK; and what steps he is taking to protect vulnerable servicemen and women who have left the armed forces. (230762)

Independent research on the problem was commissioned from the University of York by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and their Third Sector partners in the Ex-Service Action Group on homelessness among veterans. The results of this research were published earlier this year and found that the percentage of veterans among London’s homeless population was 6 per cent. in 2007 compared with 22 per cent. in separate research in 1997.

The MOD works closely with the DCLG and other Government Departments, veterans’ organisations and other service providers to ensure a co-ordinated and structured approach to this problem as it affects a small minority of our ex-service personnel. We aim to prevent new service leavers becoming homeless and to provide an effective safety net for those veterans who are homeless. Current measures, including new commitments in the July 2008 Service Personnel Command Paper, include:

Helping Service personnel with home ownership, including making available interest-free loans through the MOD’s Long Service Advance of Pay scheme, and providing access to shared equity mortgage schemes;

Enhancing housing advice which is available to service personnel and veterans and providing specific assistance including through The Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services (SPACES);

Mike Jackson House providing 25 units of secure short term supported accommodation built in Aldershot for young single ex-service leavers identified at risk of homelessness opened in March 2008 on land gifted by MOD;

Allowing service leavers to occupy ‘void’ MOD property as an interim measure after leaving;

Extending Key Worker status to enable service leavers to access the scheme 12 months after discharge;

Operating the MOD’s Nomination Scheme which facilitates service leavers’ access to housing with over 40 housing associations and local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales;

Changing legislation to enable service personnel to establish a ‘local connection’, so improving their access to social housing;

Issuing statutory guidance advising local authorities not to insist that veterans produce a possession order to demonstrate homelessness;

Publicising legislation that identifies ex-service personnel in certain circumstances as having a ‘priority need’ for local authority accommodation;

Providing MOD-gifted land as part of a joint venture with DCLG and the Housing Corporation to deliver supported housing projects for veterans;

Supporting initiatives from the voluntary sector, for example through the Ex-Services Action Group on Homelessness in London;

Working with the corporate, voluntary and government sectors to assist homeless ex-service personnel to return to sustained employment through schemes such as Project Compass.

We are working within the Department, across Government and with the Third Sector to deliver these policies and new commitments.