Monday, September 21, 2009

How Do We Find Housing For Ex Service Personnel?

I am at the Royal British Legion fringe at the LibDem conference listening to a discussion about the treatment of our armed forces.

A LibDem councillor has just related a tale of someone from 3 Para who has recently left the armed services after serving in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 15 years. He joined up at seventeen and is now 42 32. And he is homeless. There has been no help for him to find accommodation. So he isn't exactly demob happy. Who can blame him, after giving the best years of his life to his country.

Nick Harvey suggests forming a specialist housing association. Anyone have any experience in this area? How widespread is this problem, and what are your ideas for doing something about it?


Anonymous said...

Ian if he has served from age 17 to age 42 then providing he has kept his nose clean he is leaving on a full pension with the option of a tax free commutation. What's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Look, I don't know all the details of this case, but the guy had a job for 25 years and didn;t manage to save any money for his future? Plus, if you do as long as he did in the Army, then he's gonna get a minimum of £50k termination of service payment (I know, I did 22 years in the Army and left in 1999)and a £9k per year pension, payable immediately.
As I say Iain, I don't know all the details, but 99% of soldiers manage to leave the Army and not land in this sort of pickle - isn't it overblown?

Anonymous said...

There used to be a British Legion Housing Association years ago in Scotland set up for that very reason but it was merged with another Association and the identity disappeared. It's probably needed again due to the number of wounded and psychologically damaged troops returning from stupid wars. Setting up a Housing Association isn't particularly difficult. There must be plenty of Housing Assoc management out there who can advise on the mechanics of this

Unknown said...

Further to the previous comment he has had 25 years of pay cheques. The pay is initially low I admit but as you get into the senior NCO ranks it is reasonable plus you have little or no living expenses.

Its not clear from your story whether he has dependants but in particular if he doesn't it would seem taht he has had ample opportunity to save and buy a place for himself.

Cynic said...

The first thing is for the MoD to accept that it has a duty to assist in outplacement, especially now they intend to sack wounded soldiers who are no longer fit and many of whom will have specialist housing needs. That will need a major culture change in the MoD.

Each case will be different depending upon the service person's circumstances, skills etc. Its not just about getting a house its about getting employment and being able to continue to afford housing.

Just look at what the US does for its veterans and be ashamed at what we do for ours

So we need a vehicle to deliver this but there is already a model in the UK - in Northern Ireland the RUC Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust (PRRT) helps former RUC officers adjust to life outside the service and does a huge amount of good work in training, employment and providing psychological and medical support for those wounded. The Royal Irish Regiment and Ulster Defence Regiment Aftercare Service does a similar job for military personnel (but gets its medical support from PRRT)

It would be hard to roll this out nationally but again the Government could form a partnership with a major charity like the British Legion

This will all cost money - quite a bit of it - but its a cost we should bare and we can recover it by changes in the benefits system to offer fewer rewards to the workshy and direct money to those who have done something for their country.

We also need to clearly mandate all Housing Associations to give priority for veterans and additional priority to those invalidated out through battle injuries

This Government should now do something for its veterans not just talk about them. Though with the current Veterans Minister dont hold your breath. Perhaps he'd like to donate some of his expensse money to the

bailey1409 said...

accommodation, accommodation, accommodation

Penfold said...

It would appear that he is a victim of PC councils who will claim he has no charge on them as he isn't a local resident and has no ties. His case is not unique.

An ex-services housing association is excellent but geography will be a problem.

Anonymous said...

It is very difficult to set up a Housing Association to deliver housing for a specific group of people as any property they develop is likely to form part of planning agreements with the local council to take people off the housing waiting list and be subject to the national housing allocation requirements.

Better to set up a charity to offer advice and, if necessary, financial assistance to ex-service personnel to help them secure housing if they cannot do so themselves.

However, most people can rent privately and, if their income is insufficient to meet the rent for the type of property they need, then Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance ought to be payable to meet the difference.

Anonymous said...

Sir Oswald Stolle Foundation and Veterans' Aid are charities and experts in this field. It would be a great underlining of conservative social policy, which supports voluntary groups where they have expertise, if we could expand the work of charities such as these

Victor, NW Kent said...

This is another story that I cannot understand. We do not have the essential facts. Why does he not have a full pension? Can he not find employment and so be able to pay rent? Is it a given that we must provide social housing for all ex-soldiers?

I am not unsympathetic, being an ex-Regular myself, but this particular topic begs too many questions. On the information we have I would have to say that we should not establish a special housing association for this purpose. Would this operate country-wide? Or will all ex-servicemen be herded into one area?

TomDexter said...

There are plenty of empty RAF houses at various defunct Norfolk bases, why cant they be given over to our troops.

Unknown said...

He could always pretend he is an Asylum seeker and be put up in 5star luxury quicker than he can chuck up a salute. This is a good web site for homeless servicemen

cornishgiant said...

How about him taking responsibility and plan for this eventuality throughout his career?

If he were sensible, he could have saved a deposit, bought a place and rented it out, thus likely leaving him with a near mortgage free abode.

Any para should know the 7 P's. Prior Preparation and Precaution.....

Anonymous said...

What did he do with his 25 years of pay?

Seems we skipped right to "how to" and missed "do we need to".

Old BE said...

Can't he pop down to his local letting agent like everyone else?

Anonymous said...

I have been an A&E staff nurse ( male )for 25 years . Maybe just as important a job as a soldier ?
Soldiers earn far more than I do, not just in salary but all the other benefits such as the early pension etc .......I fund my own housing costs while paying for subsidised military accommodation for the armed forces through my taxes.
If this chap didn`t look to his future by buying a house 25 years ago and renting it out , then tough .

Roger Thornhill said...

How about altering the rules, eg one that currently favours people who get themselves overcrowded (bringing in family members, popping out new ones at a rate of knots, enduring crowded accom) and other distortions in the system.

Only self-loathers would send squaddies to the back of the queue.

Oh I forgot, we have a government and Local Authority apparatus chock full of self-loathing Fabians.

Karma said...

So who is responsible for ensuring that the individual serviceman uses the facilities available? After fifteen years one has access to seven weeks of resettlement training, a training budget, more housing, jobhunting and financial advice than one can shake the proverbial at.

There is an issue around entitlement to social housing, but there is no shortage of advice and support for the service leaver. Maximum provision is at the 16 year point, but the difference between 15 and 16 year entitlement is marginal.

And yes, I have been through it and made full use of the opportunities available.

The Urban Tory said...

You can see how widespread this problem any night in London, I like to walk to Liverpool st Station after work which is sometimes quite late. I always see ex service men sitting in doorways. The covenant has well and truely been broken. The first thing Laim Fox must do (and I will say as much when I see him next month) is restore the forces faith in government, the sure as hell don't have any faith in the MoD

Martin said...

This is someone who has been in continuous employment for 25 years. Why should the state have any responsibility for housing this person?

I want a Conservative government that is about a small state sector, not one that thinks my wallet should take responsibility for everyone who hasn't made appropriate provision for their own future.

EmmaB said...

The clue is in the title to your post.. 'How do we find housing' Is it harsh to say that working people can reasonably be expected to find their own accommodation? That someone who has received the excellent training offered by the Armed Services should have the essential skills needed to, for example, register with a lettings agency or phone up the small ads in the paper? And surely, at 42, quite a few of his best years still lie in front of him? So.. is this a 'widespread problem' that we have to 'do something about'? Or a case of an individual who has,sadly, lost his way?

So, if there is a 'widespread problem' (and I have no idea if this is the case) what could be done... I recall that after long overseas posting, my employer worked out that a 'decompression' period was needed to get staff used to both working AND living in their home culture again. We used the term decompression because, like deep-sea diving, if you come back up to the surface too quickly, you can get a nasty case of the bends. We thought a week was sufficient. Similarly, I imagine that if armed services personnel come from an environment where accommodation is provided to one where you need to find a place to live AND manage your own wages to stay on top of rent and bills, plenty can go wrong. I am picturing a 'final posting' before leaving the armed services that requires personnel to live off-site (i.e find their own accommodation) and manage from their army salary for a short period to adjust back to civilian life.

I expect that the armed service have a pretty good idea of which of their personnel are likely to prove vulnerable when adjusting to civilian life. They probably already offer help and support in many different forms. So does it work for the many but not for the few?

Anonymous said...

We need to spend money looking after our wounded and not on hi tech useless procurement designed only to prop up shares in BAe.

The dead of course catch the headlines but because of the literally explosive nature of the war in Afghanistan we have very many very seriously shockingly wounded servicemen who will require a lifetime of help.

Whats the effing problem says Mr bastard Anonymous. Tw@ts like you are the problem Mr A.

Will said...

Studies in the past have found that large numbers of homeless people are ex-forces.

It might be a very difficult problem to solve - lots of people end up in the armed forces because they've had a difficult home life (i.e they might not know much about how to find/keep a home), and then umpteen years of having every domestic decision made for you might not help much either.

Good luck to the LibDems in fixing it - fortunately for them, they won't actually have to.

Martin said...

Agreed: I served for 12 years and lived in rented accomodation once I left the forces until I purchased my own home.

Far too many people in the forces (especially the army it appears) seem to think that someone will provide for them. It's called the real world peeps, live with it.

You know for ages if you are leaving the forces and you get lots of time to do resettlement etc.

Ex forces personnel are highly employable as they are seen to be well presented, reliable and hard working.

Mike Law said...

If there is any group in society that deserves to be made a "special case" and put at the top of local authority housing lists, it is the men and women who have taken part in combat in the service of this country and in the name of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure he didn't serve for 25 years, if he is now 42 and joined up at 17? As another poster has already said, he should have plenty of money from a combination of recent income and his future pension contributions. Are we saying that ex-soldiers don't have the common sense to find a newspaper and book flat or house viewings for themselves...?

JMT said...

Anonymous - At one stage after a full military career a serviceman's gratuity would certainly have been enough to either buy a house outright, or part-payment and his wee pension for the balance (mortgage). Also remember that not everyone leaves the forces on a WO1 or full Colonel (or RN/RAF equivalents) pension.

However thanks to Gordo's property bubble this is no longer the case - prices outstripping the value/return on savings.

Soldiers are constantly posted/moved around so few had the opportunity to buy before prices went stupid.

At one stage a proportion of council housing was reserved for ex-servicemen, but obviously that is no longer the case.

strapworld said...

Anonymous..what a nice person you are.

Of course during those years from 17 to 42, he would never have had to pay for anything! Equipment, boots you name it. When our son joined the Army it cost us over £500 for essential equipment he needed FOR TRAINING!! which should have been, but was not provided by the MOD!

All have to pay from their meagre wages for their Mess Bill, and attend Mess events (NO EXCUSE ACCEPTED!).

Whilst in Iraq we had to send gear he needed- as I am sure almost all familes did. But had he been here he would have bought them himself.

So, anonymous could be right, if he did not spend a penny, did not have to get the proper kit which the MOD do not provide etc.
He should be loaded!

But, Iain, bear in mind that the majority of people sleeping rough without jobs etc are former military personnel.A Fact!

Nick Harvey has some good idea's but surely this is one that the MOD/Bank of England should be providing.

But, of course, they have served their purpose and too many civil servants and politicians hold a similar view to 'anonymous' thinking their pension is akin to Sir Freds!!!!

Nick Drew said...

There's a real problem here (& I write as a former soldier) - Service life promotes all manner of sterling virtues but, perhaps surprisingly, self-sufficiency isn't always one of them: food & accommodation etc is always laid on and for some there can be a big dislocation when entering civvy street for the first time

Oop Norf said...

I would guess (and it clearly is only a guess) that the problem is not about paying for a home, it's that after that much time in the forces he's hopelessly institutionalised and has no idea how to go about finding one, or how to live independently in general.

Johnny Norfolk said...

He should become a Muslim, The council would help him them, or a gipsy would do.

macroderma said...

That councillor is having the wool pulled over his yes

There is loads of assistance with resettlement in the forces, plus there is a resettlement grant and his commutated pension as already mentioned

I also find it difficult to believe that after 42 years this soldier is still living in service accommodaion and has made no plans for where he is to live after leaving - the Army would have been hassling him from 21/2 years to go

There are loads of issues with ex-servicemen - eg council house and NHS waiting lists, but this story does not seem to stack up

Oop Norf said...

Of course, the straight and simple answer to Iain's question "what are your ideas for doing sonething about it?" is that what you do about it depends entirely on what's actually making him homeless, and without knowing that it's impossible to offer anything substantial by way of possible solutions.

Anonymous said...

Why not create a Quango? Surely no one can object to that ... Fill it with ex-servicemen. Any help from counselling to accommodation to getting employment ...

Jess The Dog said...

Talk to the Armed Forces - Ministry of Defence, Royal British Legion, SSAFA etc. Also the evolving British Armed Forces Federation. Check out the Army Rumour Service as well.

Service personnel should be given some sort of push up the ladder for social housing...possibly priority in their last tour location or chosen place of resettlement. They would drive up the standards of local authority housing....more likely to involve the police, complain or take *ahem* more direct measures regarding anti-social behaviour etc!

Large garrison towns could work with the MoD...sometimes soldiers (etc) want to settle somewhere they know. Sharing "behind the wire" facilities and offering jobs to locals can work....some units share policing resources near unit locations between Armed Forces police (RMP, RAFP etc) and local civilian police, to free up resources elsewhere.

It's not just housing - it's healthcare, dentistry, schooling...anything that has a waiting list or residency requirement. Which is most things nowadays in our "land fit for heroes"!

Meanwhile....Service Postal Voting (or lack of) in the next general election and the demise of the BFPO system...

neil craig said...

Government regulation generally & the way it prevents mass produced modular housing in particular is responsible for 75% or probabkly more, of the cost of housing. House costs have gone up 4 times compared to the RPI since the early 20thC.

The only way to ensure everybody has housing is to build enough of it. Everything elses is just government playing pass the parcel with deckchairs on the Titanic.

Unsworth said...

It's more widespread than you might suppose. There are many ex-military who have found it profoundly difficult to adjust back to civilian life. If you take a look at ARRSE you'll see many mentions of this - and get a feel for how grim things are for the armed services generally.

The RBL does tremendous work in looking after these folks, but there's nowhere near enough resource. I'm not convinced that the simple provision of housing is the whole answer. It's a combination of support which is needed - and some of that is to do with emotional (all right, psychological) support. These ex-soldiers often feel alienated from civilians - often justifiably. They have lost their families (their Regiments and fellow soldiers - their support groups) and are having to start over. It's almost the same as for anyone emigrating to another country.

A housing association is a good idea, but of course it would need to be as geographically spread as the recruitment areas of the forces - i.e. UK wide. However it might also be sensible for anyone thinking of starting such a venture to contact the British Armed Forces Federation (BAFF), too.

Frankly I doubt that the Ministry of Defence would take an interest - unless it was embarrassed into doing so. We have a moral duty to helping these problem cases, but MoD doesn't really understand that concept - or chooses not to. True, there are various courses which retiring personnel can access, but once they are out of the barrack gates they are on their own. In any event, courses do little to provide practical support.

Finally, those who fall out of the armed services and then fail to re-integrate into society become a net cost to us all. Sometimes they end up homeless, on the streets or turn to crime and end up in jail. Clearly it would be of benefit to them and to society as a whole if their passage into civilian life is rendered more easy and effectively.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I think this is an excellent idea and one that should certianly get off the ground. The proportion of homeless that are ex-services is worryingly disproportionate.

I advise Housing Associations on various forms of asset management and would glady give any help that I could for such a worthy cause.

In terms of setting up the correct vehicle to achieve the aims I would suggest contacting the National Housing Federation ( who represent housing associations, for further advice.

Anonymous said...

How about prioritising UK citizens ahead of non-nationals when offering social housing?

The Purpleline said...

Iain- why don't you start a campaign to lower our subscription to the EU by one billion pounds per year, a fee for the EU using our soldiers like mercenaries or better still cut the stupid development budgets, where we give China, India aid.

Charity begins at home and giving our service personnel the best is the only charity I believe in.

starfish said...

2nd attempt!

I doubt the facts as stated

The Army will have been hassling him for at least 21/2 years to get his resettlement sorted and I doubt that after 42 years this is not so

While there can be issues with council housing waiting lists, schools etc he will be leaving with a commutated pension, and a resttlement grant plus over 2 years resettlement advice

The King of Wrong said...

So he's got money in the bank, maybe. And? Are huge numbers of people falling over themselves to let property to unemployed ex-squaddies? Particularly one of No Fixed Abode who can't provide a landlord reference? No matter if they can afford it or not?

The number of "no DSS" ads for flats is quite shocking... but I do suspect this isn't a typical case.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ian, but you should have used a better example to make your point. He's had 25 years to sort his housing out. He also has a pension - regular income unlike his civilian counterparts. He also has 3x his annual pension as a tax-free lump sum which he can increase through the commutation process.

There are more deserving cases leaving the Armed Forces - those who have to leave before the immediate pension point and get very little in comparison until they are 65.

Before you go off at at a tangent and accuse me of not supporting the Armed Forces, I retired from the Army a couple of years ago after 30 years service.

gongdonkey said...

I joined up in the early sixties - there never has been any assistance in this regard. You were expected to stand on your own two feet in these matters. And there are thousands of us out there.
I did ten and a half years and those sort of payments (referred to by Anonymous 1:51 p.m) were not on the contract then for anything under 22 years - indeed the "termination of service" element didn't exist even for the 5th 5, never mind the 22.
The local council where I was stationed wouldn't put us on the waiting list until I left as I was in quarters. Our home town council would not as we lived elsewhere even though we were returning home. Thanks to very loving,caring in-laws we moved in with them and, due to having obtained a good job, managed to climb on the bottom rung.
Be difficult now, I suspect, given the circumstances.
However, with his length of service, this guy will have a pension, a wage if he is employed and jobseeker's plus perhaps other benefits available if he isn't. His problem is what, exactly ? He can rent, can't he ?
Other service charities/organisations are there which can help should he have any other reasons for being in such a position.
Sorry, Iain. I fail to see a need for another association in these matters just for assistance in what is an everyday occurrence.

Anonymous said...

There is no institutional problem here Ian, it must be personal.

I can vouch from my own experience that the armed forces resettlement scheme is second to none. So is the pension.

I can also vouch that coming back to civvy street is a massive shock to the system, especially educational courses which seem to take an age stating the bleeding obvious and delivering over 9 months what the services would do in less than 6 weeks.

Seems to me your soldier needs a simple and caring helping hand, far better than just throwing dosh at him in the belief that money is the answer.

On the wider scale, why do politicians think that money solves ALL?

True Belle said...

The Royal British Legion does have housing available for ex service personnel scattered through out the UK.

Houdini said...

Ask the council of wherever to treat him as though he was an Afghan/Iraqi/Pakistani, migrant/illegal immigrant or whatever, and bingo! A house and full amenities included!

Seems to work for everyone else, why not ex-squaddies? I had the same problem many years ago but a house was quickly found by the council...mind you that was just pre-Labour 1997.

Houdini said...

Just add there are lots and lots and LOTS of anonymongs with a a lot to say in how he wasted 25 years isn't there?

Cynic said...

I have been an A&E staff nurse ( male )for 25 years

...and I am sure you did a brilliant job but how often did people try to kill you because of the job you did?

Cynic said...

In my experience the problems are often psychological. Historically the Army hasn't deal well with post-traumatic stress as it didn't really want to admit it existed

Interested too in the 'he should pull himself together' lines frmm several posters. Yes, he should...if he can

Houdini said...

Interested too in the 'he should pull himself together' lines frmm several posters. Yes, he should...if he can

Very good point and well made.

A soldier leaves the forces after spending many years insulated, because of their job, from the normal routine of society, then is thrust into that society unprepared, yes, even with what is laughably called resettlement.

Until you've been there it is difficult to appreciate, especially for someone insulated against what it is like to be pushed from pillar to post every few years at best and having never put down any real roots.

Martin S said...

The whining noises from several posters drowned out anything useful they were trying to say.

Yes. Life's so easy when you are perfect.

Doubting Richard said...

3 Para? He'll know my brother. Any chance I can find out who he is and where he is?

Mark M Heenan said...

when the Borough Council I sit on drew up its homelessness strategy we had a list of nine priority groups when assessing housing need. I quote:

"A household is considered to be in priority need under the following circumstances:...
9. People who are vulnerable as a result of spending time in the Armed Forces or having been in prison or remanded in custody."

I of course pointed out in a Group Meeting that it was simply obscene that members of the armed forces were not only ninth out of nine, but also on a par with convicted criminals, but was told that this priority list was set out in national legislation and it was not within the council's power to modify it.

Harry H said...


Maybe Veterans Aid can help? VA is the leading charity for homelessness among veterans in the UK


Anna said...

Haig Homes is the specialist housing association you are looking for. It is a charitable housing association providing housing assistance for ex-Service people in housing need (whether recently having left the Services or any time afterwards. With over 1,300 homes spread throughout the UK with access to some university type accomodation specifically for single ex-Service leavers who are also looking for employment Applicants' length of Service is taken into account. You can find all details at Tel 020 8685 5777