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Veterans Policy Unit
Service Personnel and Veterans Agency
Ex-Service Action Group on Homelessness
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HOMELESS AND NEED HELP ?
The information contained in these pages is to inform of the work being undertaken regarding homelessness amongst veterans. These pages also contain a directory to those organisations who can give practical help and assistance to homeless people in general and organisations who specialise in helping veterans.
Homelessness means not having a home. It is not just rough sleeping. Even if you have a roof over your head you can still be homeless. This is because you may not have any rights to stay where you live or your home might be unsuitable for you. In law there are slight differences between the definitions for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In England and Wales the Housing Act 1996 states that people are homeless if any of the following apply:
• There is no accommodation anywhere in the world in which they have a right to live;
• They have accommodation but cannot gain entry to it;
• Their home is moveable, such as a houseboat or caravan, and they have nowhere to place it;
• They have accommodation, but it is not ‘reasonable’ to continue living there, for example, in cases of violence;
• There is nowhere for the whole household to live together.
In Scotland the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 amended by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, states that people are homeless if there is no accommodation they are entitled to occupy. Entitlement means having:
• either an interest in it (i.e. they are the owner or the tenant); or
• an express or implied license to occupy (in Scotland, a right or permission, or an implied right or permission to occupy); or
• some other enactment or rule of law giving the right to remain in occupation or restricting the right of another person to recover possession.
Further, in Scotland a person is also considered to be legally homeless if they have accommodation but: they cannot secure entry to it; or
• (in the case of, for example, a caravan) they have nowhere they are entitled both to place it and live in it; or
• it is probable that occupation will lead to violence, or threats of violence which are likely to be carried out; or
• it is overcrowded and may endanger the health of the occupants.
In Northern Ireland, the Housing (NI) Order 1988 updated by the Housing (NI) Order 2003 states that:
A person is homeless if he has no accommodation available for his occupation in the UK or elsewhere. A person shall be treated as having no accommodation if there is no accommodation which he, together with any other person who normally resides with him as a member of his family or in circumstances in which it is reasonable for that person to reside with him.
Across the UK, a person is also considered to be 'threatened with homelessness' if it is likely that they will become homeless within 28 days (eg because of eviction due to rent or mortgage arrears). In Scotland, this period was extended to 2 months in the 2001 Housing (Scotland) Act).
What to do if you are homeless:
First, seek advice from experts so you are aware of your rights and options as early as possible before you speak with your council or local authority or social housing landlord. In addition to the SPVA’s Veterans Welfare Service (VWS), the Joint Service Housing Advice Office (for Service personnel, Service Leavers and those still occupying Service Families Accommodation as Irregular Occupants) Tel: 01722 436575 or visit www.mod.uk/jshao and SSAFA - Forces Help Housing Advice Tel: 020 7463 9398 (for veterans) there are specialist ex-Service or specialist homelessness charities have important expertise in this field. (Ex-Service charities with specialist housing support roles are listed on the Help for Service Leavers & Veterans page.) Veterans could also get advice from Housing Aid Centres, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, Law Centres etc.
Second, when you have the necessary advice, go to your local council and tell them that you wish to apply under the provision of the Housing Act/Homeless Order for an assessment as a homeless person.
You must ensure that you have any important papers with you - Court Order, Notice to Vacate etc. Never give false information as it will not help and may be an offence.
If you are homeless or likely to become homeless within 28 days you can make an approach to your council.
If you are a Service leaver facing eviction from Service Family Accommodation and hoping to obtain social housing (council or housing association), ensure that you send a copy of the 'Certificate of cessation of entitlement to occupy a service family quarter and of impending homelessness' to the Homeless Persons Unit or council/local authority. The certificate is obtained from Defence Estates. Note 1 of the certificate states "This certificate provides evidence of cessation of entitlement to occupy Service Families Accommodation. Authorities should not insist on a Court Order or possession to establish a threat of homelessness."
What council should you approach?
Quite simply, the one with which you have a 'local connection' (see guidance below). If the council or local authority feels that you do not have a local connection, it can contact the local authority/council where you do have a connection and verify if they are prepared to help. If you (or your partner) do not have a connection to anywhere in Great Britain, you can approach any local authority/council.
What the council should do:
Local councils have legal duties to assist homeless people in some way, either through temporary re-housing or by giving advice and guidance. If the council believes that a person who applies to them for help may be homeless or threatened with homelessness, it should make enquiries to decide whether:
• the applicant is eligible for assistance;
• they have a 'priority need';
• they are homeless 'intentionally';
• the council owes any legal duty to the applicant.
In addition the councils may ask about an applicant's personal circumstances. If it wishes to, the council can look into whether the applicant has a local connection with any other council in Britain.
Are you in a 'Priority Need' category?
There are a variety of applicants that are recognised as having a priority need for accommodation. As a veteran, legislation identifies this category in the following ways:
Under the Housing Act 1996 in England and Wales, priority need includes:
• a person who is vulnerable as the result of having been a member of HM Regular Forces (England only);
• a person formerly serving in the Regular Armed Forces who has been homeless since leaving the Forces (Wales only).
Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, priority need in Scotland includes:
• a person having been discharged from any part of the Regular Armed Forces of the Crown.
A local council will determine the relative priority need of applicants. If it recognises you as having a priority need, it will help you find permanent accommodation. It may not necessarily be a council flat/house from the outset as temporary accommodation, (i.e bed and breakfast or hostels) may have to be utilised prior to allocation of more permanent accommodation.
Are you in 'Non-Priority Need'?
Single people, or couples under State retirement age without children and who are not considered vulnerable, do not normally fit the criteria of those in ‘priority need’ in England. This is the same in Wales except for those who have not been able to secure stable accommodation since leaving the services and have a local Welsh connection.
If the council recognise you as Non-Priority it will not have a legal obligation to house you, however you will be offered appropriate advice and assistance on other housing options.
How can the council decide that you are intentionally homeless?
It is up to the council to prove that you are intentionally homeless, not for you to prove that you are not. The council has to make enquiries into the reasons you became homeless and must be satisfied that all the following points apply:
• you deliberately did (or didn't do) anything that caused or is likely to cause you to leave/lose accommodation which you could otherwise have stayed in. (This could also include leavingService Family Accommodation before receiving a court order to vacate the premises.) Acts done in good faith eg when you have done something but were unaware of the consequences, should not be treated as deliberate;
• you arranged to lose accommodation solely in order to get help under homelessness legislation and there is no other good reason for your homelessness;
• you failed to secure 'suitable alternative accommodation', when it would have been reasonable to do so.
If the council recognises you as Intentionally Homeless it will only offer you appropriate advice and assistance.
Do you have a 'local connection'?
You have a local connection if you, either:
• Are normally resident in the area, at present or in the past (6 out of the last 12 months or 3 out of five years). Legislation is currently being changed in England and Wales, so Service personnel can establish a local connection with the district in which they are or have been serving. Service personnel will thus be treated the same as civilians. Guidance to social housing providers on this change will be provided in parallel with this law change. In Scotland, Ministers are consulting on changing legislation so that employment, residence connected to the Armed Forces constitutes a local connection for the purposes of legislation;
• Have regular employment or an offer of employment in the area;
• Have family connections (ie mother, father, brother, sister) who have resided in the area for at least 5 years and to whom you wish to be near;
• Are considered to have special circumstances (an authority is free to decide that you have a local connection with its own area for any reason it may decide).
If you are homeless, eligible for assistance, have a priority need and are not homeless intentionally, a local authority could look into whether you could be referred to another local authority, if:
• Nobody in your household has a connection with the first council, and
• Someone in the household has a connection with another council, and
• There is no risk of domestic violence in the other council's area.
When the council has decided that the conditions for referral are met, it must notify you in writing of the reasons for the decision, and your right to a review.
\If you are homeless, and not intentionally homeless are in a priority need and have no local connection with any area, the council to which you applied has a duty to find you accommodation.
Could the council refuse to help?
Yes - if it feels you do not fall into any of the categories or are homeless 'intentionally' eg you have rent/mortgage arrears or have given up accommodation voluntarily which it was reasonable for you to occupy.
Yes - if you turn down any accommodation which it offers you temporarily or which it finds for you with another landlord.
If the council says that they are not going to help you, or they are going to refer you to another council, they must tell you the reasons for doing so, in writing.
As an applicant, you have the right to request a review within 21 days of being notified. If it is decided that you are not in priority need, the council must still give you 'appropriate advice and assistance'.
Help for Service Leavers & Veterans
Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) provides Service Personnel, Service Leavers and ex Service Personnel still occupying Service Family Accommodation as Irregular Occupants with comprehensive advice on housing options including civilian housing information, advice and where possible placement into social housing. It educates and encourages Service personnel to make civilian housing provision throughout their Service career. It helps separated RN, Army and RAF families in the UK and those returning from overseas to find appropriate accommodation.
MOD Nomination Scheme provides a route into low-cost, social housing for Service leavers, married or single. It is administered by the JSHAO. Service leavers can apply through the JSHAO to go on the waiting list for social housing for when their entitlement to Service housing ends. The Scheme should be considered as an additional route into social housing, not as a replacement for other options such as direct applications to local authorities/councils. There is no guarantee that suitable housing will be available on discharge through this scheme.
Personnel from all three Services who are within six months of their discharge date, who are occupying Service accommodation or substitute Service accommodation) including irregular occupants, are eligible for the Scheme. Applications are also accepted from separated spouses of Service personnel who are resident in Service families’ accommodation or hostel accommodation provided by SSAFA-Forces Help or by the Service Cotswold Centre.
To apply to the Scheme you will be asked to fill in a MOD Nominations Application Form and you will need to provide evidence of when you will need to leave your Service accommodation (normally a Defence Estates certificate or MOD 1166).
For further information or an application form contact JSHAO:
tel: 01722 436572 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 01722 436577 website: www.mod.uk/jshao
SPACES, the Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex Services is designed to help single persons leaving the Service to find appropriate accommodation. It is an accommodation advice and placement service. The SPACES team will actively seek accommodation for Service personnel within the last six months of service and for ex-Service personnel who have recently been discharged. Through this service the project aims to reduce the likelihood of ex-service personnel becoming homeless or sleeping rough after discharge.
SPACES works with the JSHAO and helps to target the most vulnerable groups i.e single persons discharged with less than six years’ service. SPACES hold a waiting list for, and can refer you to two supported housing schemes.
The Galleries: Short term supported housing in Richmond, North Yorkshire providing 13 self-contained fully furnished flats. It is run by English Churches Housing Group (ECHG).
Mike Jackson House: On land gifted by MOD in Aldershot, this short term supported housing scheme consists of 25 fully furnished one bedroom flats. It is also run by ECHG.
Staff in the SPACES schemes will offer help in areas such as applying for benefits, cooking, nutrition, budgeting and paying bills. Some residents may have incurred debt and help will be available to address this, as well as for any resident with a drug/alcohol problem. The project will also provide a breathing space for residents with special needs eg those discharged on medical/psychiatric grounds. Staff will also assist residents with job applications, CVS and preparing for job interviews.
For more information or to make a referral, please contact:
tel: 01748 833797 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 01748 835774 website: www.spaces.org.uk
Ex-Service Charities Providing Accommodation Support & Advice
SSAFA-Forces Help is a national charity helping all veterans and their dependants on a range of welfare issues including housing. It offers impartial advice on a range of housing options including accommodation in care homes, bungalows for the severely disabled, semi-sheltered accommodation and ‘Stepping Stone’ homes as short term accommodation for separated families. It provides a homelessness guide with useful advice.
tel: 020 7403 8783 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 020 7403 8815 website: www.ssafa.org.uk
Veterans Aid is a charity caring for homeless veterans in the UK. It helps those who are homeless or are likely to become homeless. It will try to help veterans regardless of your length or type of service - Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, RAF or Merchant Service.
Veterans Aid is based at 40 Buckingham Palace Road, London (close to Victoria Station). For more information and help, please contact:
tel: 020 7828 2468 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 020 7630 6784 website: www.veterans-aid.net
Home Base is a service for people who are facing homelessness as they leave the armed forces. It is run by Community Housing and Therapy (CHT) and aims to help clients integrate successfully into civilian life. Most Home Base clients have come to CHT from Army Units and The Army Benevolent Fund together with the Royal British Legion have provided generous financial support for the scheme. For more information contact:
tel: 020 7381 5855 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 020 7610 0608 website: www.cht.org.uk
The Sir Oswald Stoll Foundation is a charity with a mission to ensure vulnerable and disabled ex-Servicemen and women live as independently as possible. It has focused its work on identifying and tackling the problems now facing homeless ex-Service personnel. For more information contact:
tel: 020 7385 2110 e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 020 7381 7484 webaite: www.oswaldstoll.or.uk
Scottish Veterans Residences (SVR) is Scotland's oldest ex-service charity, founded in 1910 to support independent living for ex-service men and women and their spouses of all ages. The charity operates in close association with Scottish Veterans' Housing Association Ltd which owns and manages the two main residences of Whitefoord House located on Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile and Rosendael situated in Broughty Ferry, Dundee. SVR provides the stability to help veterans cope with the changes that are happening in their lives and for them to live with dignity, privacy and understanding to cope with these changes. For more information contact:
tel: 0131 556 0091 e-mail: [email protected] fax: 0131 557 8734 website: www.svronline.org
Local Authority (Council) Housing
How to Apply
The system councils use to assess applications for housing is often referred to as the 'Allocations Scheme' or 'Housing Register'. You can apply to join a Councils Housing Register even if you do not live in that area, however some Councils give a higher priority who already live in the area. Procedures and allocation policies vary from one area to another, but all councils have to follow certain rules. They must consider every application individually based on the merits and as long as you have followed the application procedure correctly.
You need to apply to the council and get on the Housing Register as soon as possible, even if you have a number of years left to serve as time spent on the register may help you. Follow the links on our website to your chosen council. You are not however, eligible to apply for shared ownership if you are not a resident within the UK.
What happens next?
On receipt of your application, your council will acknowledge it and your needs will be assessed in accordance with the council's points scheme. These point schemes vary from district to district but details are readily available on request.
If you have special health or care needs, these will be assessed and taken into account in the priority given to your application. This may involve the council liaising with social services to ensure that your specific needs are catered for, if at all possible.
How long do you have to wait?
Different areas vary in popularity and in the availability of the type of housing you may be looking for. The council will evaluate your needs from your application form and you will be advised of the number of points your application has been given. You will then be told how long you can expect to wait before you are re-housed by the council if at all.
Once your application reaches the top of the list, you will be offered the next appropriate dwelling in your area of choice. You will have a set number of days to decide whether you want to accept the offer. If you refuse the offer, you may be offered further accommodation later, but policies vary from council to council so check before you refuse. Most councils have a limited number of properties and demand currently exceeds supply. Therefore, only those in the greatest need are likely to be assisted.
If you are a foreign and commonwealth solider you are not eligible to apply for Council housing until you have your Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Citizenship.