The Ministry of Defence (MOD) works closely with both the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Health and Social Care to ensure that veterans feel supported on these issues. However, the MOD does not have primary responsibility for housing veterans or treating their mental health.
The MOD strongly believes that no-one should be homeless, least of all someone who has served their country. As part of the Strategy for our Veterans and its consultation, the Government has made clear its commitment to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness and ensuring that all veterans have a secure place to live: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ strategy-for-our-veterans. There is, however, no substantive evidence to suggest that veterans are over-represented in the homeless population.
The MOD works with other service providers to ensure there is a coordinated and structured approach to homelessness amongst the small minority of veterans who are without homes. Our aim is both to prevent new Service leavers becoming homeless and to provide an effective safety net for existing homeless veterans. Former Service personnel with urgent housing needs are always given high priority for social housing.
Service personnel can also be provided with a certificate of cessation six months before they leave the Armed Forces. The certificate contains the date Service personnel stop being entitled to Service accommodation and can be considered by local authorities as evidence of impending homelessness, arising from cessation of entitlement to Service accommodation. If Service personnel think they will become homeless they can show the certificate to their Local Authority, which will then conduct an assessment of individual housing needs.
For those veterans who may be experiencing mental health difficulties, in addition to their mainstream mental health services NHS England has commissioned two bespoke services. The first is the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) which supports serving personnel who need additional support as they are leaving the Armed Forces and veterans who have mental health issues. The TILS is also the entry point to the Complex Treatment Service (CTS), the second service commissioned by NHS England. The CTS is able to provide a range of more intensive care and treatment for veterans with military-related complex mental health difficulties, many of whom will have experienced trauma.
Finally, the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) in the Cabinet Office has been created to ensure the full power of Government is harnessed to help veterans. The OVA will use the convening power of the Cabinet Office within Whitehall to ensure better coordination of support. This will include helping veterans access services, such as training, housing, healthcare and mental health services. The OVA will also be a champion for veterans. On 16 October 2019 the Cabinet Office announced the appointment of retired Colonel David Richmond CBE, a former Commanding Officer of 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and subsequently became the Recovery Director at Help for Heroes, to lead the OVA. One of the first tasks of the OVA will be to consider responses to the Strategy for our Veterans public consultation and announce a detailed work programme and implementation plan to take the Strategy forward across the various Government Departments with an interest in veterans’ issues.