Veterans: Homelessness

Defence written question – answered at on 11 December 2013.

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Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to tackle homelessness among military veterans; what estimate he has made of the number of homeless former members of the armed forces; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The 2012-13 figures reported by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network indicate that 3% of those found sleeping rough in London say that they have served in our armed forces. This represents a 1% decrease against the previous year. We would like to bring the numbers down further.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has responsibility for homelessness issues. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has introduced a number of initiatives in order to minimise the risk of service personnel becoming homeless on leaving the armed forces. Most recently, we announced the new £200 million Forces Help to Buy scheme which will commence on 1 April 2014. It will mean that servicemen and women can borrow up to 50% of their salary, up to a maximum of £25,000, interest-free, providing a boost to those needing to find a deposit to buy their own home. This will replace the current advance of salary and the Armed Forces Home Ownership Scheme, which enable service personnel to purchase their own homes. These initiatives will continue to 2014 and 2015.

To assist the transition of serving personnel to civilian life, the MOD offers a wide-ranging resettlement programme which includes a briefing by the Joint Services Housing Advice Office. This offers advice and information about a range of topics that armed forces personnel may find useful relating to an individual's housing needs before they leave the armed forces.

In addition, the MOD has supported the establishment of two supported housing schemes for ex-service personnel-Mike Jackson House in Aldershot, which opened in 2008, and The Beacon at Catterick, which opened to residents in September 2011. The focus is on helping individuals to develop independent living skills and with finding suitable ‘move on’ permanent accommodation, training and employment. Both schemes are managed by Riverside English Churches Housing Group.

Once a person leaves service, any need for social housing becomes a local authority matter. The MOD is working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure the fair treatment of service families in need of social housing and ensure they are given proper priority on housing waiting lists.

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