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Ex-servicemen: Sleeping Rough

Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 1 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress his Department's Taskforce established to tackle rough sleeping among forces veterans has made; and what his most recent estimate is of the number of veterans sleeping rough at the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. (288610)

Service men and women should be provided with the best possible support as they move back to civilian life, and this is recognised in the Service Personnel Command Paper, The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans, published in July 2008.

Measures proposed in the Command Paper to improve access of ex-Service personnel to housing include: a change in legislation to enable Service personnel to establish a local connection with the area in which they are serving; an investigation to see what steps are required to ensure that local authorities follow good practice in respect of ‘cessation to occupy' certificates when service-leavers are threatened with homelessness; the consideration of how ‘void' military accommodation can be used to temporarily accommodate injured ex-service personnel; and an extension to the Key Worker Living programme to ex-service personnel for up to 12 months after discharge.

The Department does not hold figures on the number of veterans sleeping rough. However, independent research carried out, specifically in London, last year by the University of York shows that the proportion of veterans among the homeless population has fallen dramatically over the last 10 years. Veterans are now some 6 per cent. of the homeless population in London.

The MOD works closely with the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Devolved Administrations, 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, provide a comprehensive package of support. Mike Jackson House provides 25 units of secure short-term supported accommodation built in Aldershot for young single ex-service leavers identified at risk of homelessness. Mike Jackson House opened in March 2008 on land gifted by MOD.

There are service charities who are able to offer assistance with housing matters. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Families Association (SSAFA Forces Help) for example offer assistance and advice relating to housing needs