According to the Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones MP, theanswer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Veterans World has been looking at what has been keeping the Minister busy. It’s nearly a year since the Service Personnel Command Paper was published and improvements are already having an impact on the Veterans Community. From healthcare to housing, benefits to career-building, the MOD, other Government Departments, Devolved Administrations and Local Authorities are all working together to deliver on the document’s promises.
Not everyone makes the smooth transition back to civilian life, so initiatives have been developed or expanded to provide those who are struggling with more support, advice and, most importantly, time to help them move forward into a new life. Getting on the property ladder For many, leaving the Services and buying a home may be a daunting prospect. The MOD is working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to support personnel when they are making this significant financial commitment. Service Personnel (with six years service or more) have priority status with all ‘key worker’ schemes in England – a parallel scheme is run in Scotland. Wales are committed to introducing provision within their new affordable home scheme to be launched soon. Since July 2008, personnel are now able to carry ‘priority status’ into civilian life for up to twelve months after leaving the Services. Further, Armed Forces personnel injured in Service now have their lump sum compensation payments disregarded from the English scheme’s ‘capital means test’. Discussions are ongoing with the Devolved Administrations about a similar disregard. Following the commitment of £20m by the Prime Minister in 2008 to support home ownership for Service personnel, the MOD is working with the Department for Communities and Local Government/Homes and Communities Agency to explore opportunities for a bespoke home ownership scheme tailored to reflect the particular needs of the Service community. It is planned to launch the scheme in 2009.
Giving a choice
Many Service Leavers choose to remain in the area where they have served. Changes to housing legislation in December 2008 now mean they will no be longer penalised for ‘not having a local connection’ when applying for social housing. The legislation applies to England and Wales, with guidance issued to Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords. It is hoped that Scotland will follow suit in the future.
"It is right that our servicemen and women who are seriously injured fighting for their country are given the housing support they deserve. These new rules mean Service Personnel must be treated as priority for
specially adapted homes." - Iain Wright MP, Housing Minister
Bridging the gap
The MOD is working with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Devolved Administrations to agree arrangements where empty MOD houses can be used for ex-Service personnel for an interim period. If agreed, the arrangement will not jeopardise their place on the social housing waiting lists.
In April, new guidance was issued to Local Authorities (England and Wales) advising that seriously injured personnel must be treated as priority when allocating modified housing. The decision is designed to help ensure better availability of specially adapted housing with features such as walk in bathrooms, wider door frames, lowered light switches, and entry slopes rather than steps