As a former Minister for Defence, I am proud of the commitment and dedication demonstrated by members of our Armed Forces. So, it is crucial to ensure that veterans receive the best possible care and support, particularly those in need of extra help. While most veterans have a positive experience serving their country, there are real concerns about the welfare of those have left the Armed Forces
One challenge has been closure of the Veterans Mobility Fund, with fewer veterans receiving support. This is worrying since many veteran’s face challenges adapting to civilian life, which all too often can lead to mental health problems and homelessness.
It is unacceptable that an estimated 100 to 400 veterans sleep rough each year, with a further 3,000 to 4,000 facing homelessness. In response, the government recently announced £8.5 million of funding to ensure no veteran should sleep rough, and veteran homelessness is ended in 2023. This funding will provide specialist support for veterans in over 900 housing units in England, including health, education, and employment needs.
To address veteran homelessness, a new referral scheme called, Op Fortitude will be established, helping veterans at risk of homelessness access supported housing and specialist care. Organisations can bid for up to £1.5 million, over two years, to fund wraparound support mental health and employment.
The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has also launched the Reducing Veteran Homelessness to award major grants to help veterans experiencing homelessness. The Trust will award grants on behalf of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs to projects that provide specialist care in veterans’ accommodation.
There is of course considerable charitable and local authority provision already for veterans' care the challenge has always been organising and collaborating to ensure that all veterans can access the care they need, regardless of their location or circumstances. The government has made significant since launching the Veterans' Strategy Action Plan in January 2022. This aims to make Britain the best place in the world to be a veteran by 2028, underpinned by over £70 million to support veterans and their families by the end of the year.
The Ministry of Defence works closely with the NHS and service charities to ensure veterans who have been physically injured have access to appropriate care. The Veterans Trauma Network offers a safety net for trauma-recovering veterans and transitioning Service personnel, ensuring their lifelong healthcare needs are met. Furthermore, the Veterans’ Gateway provides 24/7 support and advice to veterans and their families, including help with health concerns, housing, employment, and finance - issues that disproportionately affect disabled veterans.
I am strongly supporting the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer determination this week, that no one who has served our country should be homeless. It is the right thing to get right.