Military Veterans: Homelessness rising for former Royal Navy, Army and RAF personnel despite funding boost

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Rising numbers of veterans are becoming homeless despite millions of pounds being spent to tackle the problem.

Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) reveals that the number of former service personnel classed as homeless has increased by 14 per cent in a fiscal year. This equates to roughly 500 new veterans assessed as owed homeless duty by the local authority every three months. Several schemes - including Operation Fortitude - are being pushed to try and stop the increase; some vulnerable veterans have been rehoused, but others are less fortunate.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan was left incandescent by the statistics. The Labour politician said: "It should shame everyone in this Tory government that thousands more former Armed Forces personnel have been made homeless in the last year." Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage, Conservative, said she was worried about the rise in homelessness but more accurate data is due to be released and show a clearer picture.

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The number of veterans becoming homeless is increasing, with Labour politician Stephen Morgan branding it as shameful. The government is continuing to pour millions of pounds into schemes to tackle the problem. Veterans minister Johnny Mercer and Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage said enough support is being offered to former service personnel.The number of veterans becoming homeless is increasing, with Labour politician Stephen Morgan branding it as shameful. The government is continuing to pour millions of pounds into schemes to tackle the problem. Veterans minister Johnny Mercer and Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage said enough support is being offered to former service personnel.
The number of veterans becoming homeless is increasing, with Labour politician Stephen Morgan branding it as shameful. The government is continuing to pour millions of pounds into schemes to tackle the problem. Veterans minister Johnny Mercer and Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage said enough support is being offered to former service personnel. | X

"It’s absolutely vital that we support those who have served our country," she told The News. "Any rise in official statistics of veteran homelessness is of course concerning, but we will have to wait until April to find out the accurate data for 2023." During the 2022-2023 fiscal year, 2,110 households in England contained someone who had served in the armed forces was classed as homeless.

This has climbed from 1,850 households in 2021-2022, a rise of 14 per cent. Households were included in statistics following assessments by DLUHC officials. Of the 1,007 households which contained people with support needs in Portsmouth in 2022-2023, 22 cases involved armed forces veterans at risk of being ending up on the streets. This has risen from four veteran households out of 419 which contained someone with support needs.

From 2,308 initial household assessments in the same time period in the city, 725 were at risk of homelessness within 56 days. Mr Morgan said a Labour government would enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law and service personnel would have access to housing "fit for heroes". He added: "One of the reasons I got into politics was to fight for people like my grandfather who was a D-Day veteran and for today’s armed forces personnel serving in our city."

Gosport, which has the largest proportion of former service personnel compared to its population, has seen a similar rise. In 2022-2023, 21 households at risk of homelessness (out of 324) involved veterans, compared to 11 from 290 in the previous fiscal year. Ms Dinenage said the government is working hard to tackle the problem, and a visit from the veterans affairs minister Johnny Mercer last November highlighted that the government is taking the matter seriously. She added that vulnerable veterans have already been rehoused under the scheme.

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"The Government has invested £8.8m in the Operation Fortitude programme to fund thousands of supported housing places," she said. "This has housed 400 veterans so far and attempted to eliminate rough sleeping. I have been campaigning for a dedicated Hotline so that constituency MPs can discuss concerns about veterans in their area more quickly."

The MoD said more funding is being assigned to improving accommodation for existing personnel. Picture: Habibur RahmanThe MoD said more funding is being assigned to improving accommodation for existing personnel. Picture: Habibur Rahman
The MoD said more funding is being assigned to improving accommodation for existing personnel. Picture: Habibur Rahman

A trend of households containing ex-service personnel being assessed as homeless has continued despite increased funding. From July to September 2022 in England, 490 veterans' households were classed as homeless. This increased to 510 from October to December, to 560 between January and March 2023, and then fell to 530 from April to June of that year. Shadow veterans minister Steve McCade said former military personnel were being "let down by the government".

He added: "After 13 years of Conservative failure, Ministers have created a postcode lottery for veterans, halved employment support and more veterans are homelessness this year than last year." Former military personnel were often found to be living in lower quality housing compared to their peers. Government statistics shows 25,460 current service personnel, out of 79,470, were living in Grade Four service accommodation as of October 2023 - the lowest standard available.

Other measures have been implemented to improve the quality of life for former armed forces personnel, including the roll-out of the Veterans ID cards last year. The millions granted to Operation Fortitude aims create support services to help 1,300 veterans across more than 900 house units.

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A further £20m was granted to the Office for Veterans’ Affairs in the 2023 Spring Budget, as well as £10m in the Autumn statement. Funds will be put towards extra housing for veterans by creating new build homes and refurbishing social and charitable housing. So far, over 400 veterans have been supported into accommodation.

Mr Mercer, Conservative, said in Parliament that "some of the most desperate and most vulnerable" ex-service personnel were taken off the streets - something which he is proud of. He added: "We made a commitment that we would end rough sleeping for veterans in the UK this Christmas due to a lack of provision, and we met that promise. The charge towards ending all homelessness across the UK is something we are all engaged in. I look forward to the day where these services are no longer required.”

A government spokesperson added: "We are immensely grateful to all our veterans for their service in defence of our nation. No veterans should be sleeping rough due to a lack of provision. We would encourage any veterans who are sleeping rough to reach out to Op FORTITUDE to access support.”

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said the government is committed to spending over £4bn over the next decade to improve existing accommodation and build new living quarters for service personnel. "The Defence Secretary has made the provision of higher quality accommodation for Service Personnel a personal priority, reflecting the selfless dedication our Armed Forces provide for the nation," they added.

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"That’s why we are introducing minimum standards to ensure all service personnel have access to good quality accommodation, and additionally ensuring issues are rightly addressed much more quickly." The government provided Portsmouth City Council with £3.4m through the Homelessness Prevention Grant during the Autumn Statement for between 2023 and 2025 - with millions more subsidised nationally.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, which is why we are spending £2 billion to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. This includes the £1bn Homelessness Prevention Grant which local authorities can use to support people to find a new home and move out of temporary accommodation.”

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