ARMED forces veterans battling post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues will be given priority for social housing under new plans.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced the proposal last night and said the new measures would ensure former troops would get the same treatment as those with physical problems when they apply for homes.
Consultation on the revamped system – which would see traumatised veterans jumping to the front of the housing queue – began today.
The news has been welcomed by the head of a military charity Forgotten Veterans UK, which is based in Portsmouth and helps retired troops cope with PTSD.
Gary Weaving, the charity’s founder, was among the first 30 soldiers on the ground during the war in Afghanistan in 2006, and was badly injured during his time with the army – which left him with crippling PTSD.
The former corporal, of Hobby Close, Waterlooville, said: ‘Anything that benefits the veteran community is always a bonus.
‘PTSD is a crippling illness. Mix that with homelessness and it’s a recipe for disaster.
‘It has been the trigger for many that have taken their lives in the past year.’
Applicants for social housing will be asked if they have ever served in the military to ensure veterans get what they are entitled to.
The rule change will also make it easier for partners of armed forces personnel to find social housing if they divorce or separate.
Mr Brokenshire said: ‘I want our military heroes and their families to get the priority they deserve when applying for social housing so we are looking to bring in new rules for councils.
‘It’s right that troops suffering from PTSD and other mental health conditions should get the same priority as those who have suffered physical injuries.’
However, dad-of-two Mr Weaving warned traumatised veterans would need to have a support network in place before being put in social housing.
He said: ‘Plucking veterans off the streets and putting them straight in a flat is not the best option.
‘I would like to see veterans from military halfway houses given this housing, to free up spaces in these homes for homeless veterans to get the support they need first.’
He added: ‘If you just put the people in a nice shiny flat, without dealing with the problems first, it won’t stay a nice shiny flat for very long.’
The new proposals are expected to be rolled out across the country.
Portsmouth North MP and former armed forces minister, Penny Mordaunt, welcomed the announcement on Twitter.