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Homelessness: Former Armed Services Personnel

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

16. What steps the Government are taking to reduce the number of former armed services personnel who are homeless. (910277)

This Government are committed to ensuring that armed services personnel do not become homeless or end up rough sleeping. We have recently allocated an additional £1 million to support ex-members of the armed forces who are, or are at risk of becoming, homeless. That additional funding goes hand in hand with the £1.2 billion that has been set aside to tackle all forms of homelessness.

The Minister will be aware that too many of our brave veterans, who have served this country, have been failed in post-service life. What discussions has the Department had with the Ministry of Defence, so that clear pathways are set out to prevent homelessness in the first place? Will she give a cast-iron guarantee that the military covenant will be upheld?

My hon. Friend is quite right. A joined-up response is essential to ensuring that veterans can access the prevention and relief services available to them. I am pleased to say that the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which was introduced by our hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State for Defence to refer members of the armed forces to local authority services for tailored support, including a personalised housing plan, to prevent them from becoming homeless. Where veterans are homeless and vulnerable as a result of having served in the armed forces, local authorities have a duty to house them. I sit on the Veterans Board, and it is my pleasure to do so.

In the United States, many former armed services personnel are housed in dedicated veterans communities run as housing co-operatives, giving them control over the cost of the housing provided to them and enabling them to live their lives in the way they want to. Will the Minister undertake to look at the potential for using housing co-operatives to house armed forces personnel here in the UK?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that innovative idea. We have already agreed some money for ports down on the south coast, where there is a predominance of naval people, who have come together to build a number of units as one group. I think this idea has legs—if not sea legs, then Army legs.