Minister unveils help for armed forces veterans to find homes, announced defence minister Tobias Ellwood
- Defence minister introduces scheme to get homeless veterans off the streets
- Tobias Ellwood says Army bosses must refer soldiers to councils for housing
- Up to 6,000 British soldiers are homeless and 10,000 veterans are either in prison or on probation
A bid to protect forces veterans from homelessness and mental illness was announced by defence minister Tobias Ellwood yesterday.
He revealed the initiative as he opened a debate on the Armed Forces Covenant, which is intended to protect servicemen after they have left the forces.
Around 50,000 veterans have mental health issues, often sparked by combat stress. Another 6,000 are homeless and 10,000 are in prison or on probation.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood focused on suicide prevention, unveiling a working group to investigate the problem. The minister warned against military service being blamed as the sole cause of suicide [File photo]
But Mr Ellwood yesterday told MPs the Ministry of Defence and Ministry for Housing had signed up to a statutory duty for commanding officers to refer vulnerable individuals to councils for housing.
‘This is so important,’ he said. ‘It means we should not see people who might become homeless leaving the Armed Forces with nowhere to go because their plight will be flagged up.’
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He also focused on suicide prevention, unveiling a working group to investigate the problem.
The minister warned against military service being blamed as the sole cause of suicide, saying there were usually complex underlying issues.
He said: ‘Suicide is the most tragic symptom usually of many other issues such as mental health or family breakdown, debt, unemployment or a myriad of other problems.
Around 50,000 veterans have mental health issues, often sparked by combat stress. Another 6,000 are homeless and 10,000 are in prison or on probation [File photo]
‘It’s inaccurate, disrespectful and trivialising to link suicide solely to military service.
‘But I do say that in some cases military service plays a role and we need to better understand the causes.’
He also confirmed a Veterans Board had been introduced to enable ministers to ‘hold to account those other departments that need to upgrade their support’.
Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the defence committee, later highlighted ‘bonkers’ provisions in the widows’ pension scheme which have penalised women for remarrying.
A first-hand testimony from a child affected said: ‘When I inquired at the MoD about the pension being reinstated I was told no, but if my mum divorced her husband and then remarried him again she would get it back.’
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