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Former Service Personnel (Support)

Volume 518: debated on Monday 8 November 2010

10. What support his Department provides to those who have served in or are about to leave the armed forces. (22171)

Regardless of where, or for how long, a member of the armed forces has served, all are entitled to receive some form of resettlement support. That ranges from housing advice through to vocational training. In addition, employment consultancy support is available through the career transition partnership for up to two years after leaving, as well as lifetime job-finding support. Those who are medically discharged will receive the full resettlement package.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. My local authority, Crawley borough council, is interested in investigating ways in which people who have left the services and are returning to their home town will not be disadvantaged by going on to the social housing list. Can he assure me that the Defence Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will work together to ensure that military personnel leaving the forces are not disadvantaged on the housing list?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s local authority is taking that action. All service personnel are entitled to briefings on their housing options, and some 50 briefings a year take place nationwide and, indeed, abroad. Advice includes obtaining property through a local authority, private renting or owning, and service leavers retain their key worker status for up to one year after having left. My hon. Friend will know that at the moment we are in very close discussions about the military covenant and how we can ensure that no one who leaves the services is disadvantaged when they return to their home area.

I pay tribute to the Royal Engineers, who have two regiments serving in Afghanistan. What steps are being taken to ensure that veterans are given support in the transition back to civilian life?

I echo my hon. Friend’s tribute to the Royal Engineers. Veterans receive a great deal of support in resettlement. Everybody trying to return to civilian life from the services now receives support, and—[Interruption.] I wish the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) would not interrupt me. I was just going to say that a lot of that was put in place under the previous Administration. I accept that absolutely and pay tribute to them.

However, there are resettlement courses. Everybody now receives them, and as they move on to seek employment, organisations such as the Regular Forces Employment Association help those who have left.

Will the Minister update the House on what progress he has made in working with the national health service to ensure that those who have left the armed forces continue to receive priority treatment?

We are looking at how the Ministry of Defence and the service charities, and everybody else, interrelate in the military covenant. The local authorities to which I referred interrelate, and certainly the NHS does. There have been frankly regrettable incidents in which people have been unable, for instance, to get dental services or to get on to an NHS doctors list. We are looking at improving that situation. Again, I hate to say this, but the previous Administration did some good work on this as well.