New research published today [8th December] highlights the challenges Service leavers face in relation to accessing and sustaining housing after leaving the Armed Forces, despite improvements made in recent years.
The research, carried out by the University of Stirling and funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), found that steps taken over the last decade to improve housing outcomes for ex-Service personnel have had a positive impact, but some people still face challenges and action is needed to ensure that progress continues.
Although ex-Service personnel are no more likely to be homeless than the wider population, some still face significant housing difficulties and can struggle to access the right support through the systems in place. Aside from supply and demand problems affecting the UK housing sector more widely, barriers facing ex-Service personnel include the complexity of the housing and benefits systems, which Service leavers with little experience of civilian life can struggle with, and debt causing issues with financial assessments for rental housing for those who have not saved for post-service life.
Some groups were identified as being likely to face additional persistent barriers, such as early Service leavers. Particular challenges were also highlighted for non-UK service leavers, who must wait for immigration status to be settled before housing applications can be submitted.
The Armed Forces Covenant was found to have had a positive impact, with organisations working more effectively at a local level due to the implementation of Armed Forces Champions, Covenant Groups and dedicated posts. This was commended as particularly impressive given local authority budget cuts during the same period.
Recommendations in the report focus on continuing improvements to support transition to civilian life which have been seen in recent years, tackling the persistent barriers identified for groups such as early Service leavers and non-UK Service leavers, and maintaining progress in collaboration between local, national and charitable organisations which support ex-Service personnel. These recommendations complement those set out in FiMT’s Policy Statement on Housing, based on evidence from previous research FiMT has published and funded in this area.
The researchers also noted that the benefits from increased collaborative working could be lost as public attention moves away from the Armed Forces Covenant, and continual attention is required at a local and national level to ensure the innovations of the past decade continue.
The report, Working together to meet the housing needs of ex-Service personnel: Examining the challenges of transition and collaboration, was based on case studies and interviews with organisations and ex-Service personnel in England, Scotland and Wales.
Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of FiMT, said:
“Housing is one of the most important factors for a Service leaver and their family, yet over half leave without their housing needs being ‘sorted’. This report is encouraging, demonstrating that the Armed Forces Covenant is having an impact and improvements are being seen. However, persistent issues still exist, particularly for the more vulnerable groups identified by the researchers, and these must now be addressed. Collaboration between organisations supporting Service leavers must continue to improve, along with better education of Service leavers about civilian life. And now we know who those most likely to face challenges are, we can identify them early, and take preventative action.”
Dr Steve Rolfe, of the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Social Sciences, led the study.
He said: “Our research illustrates that significant improvements have been made over the last decade – with organisations working better together, despite the impact of austerity, and delivering positive housing outcomes for ex-Service personnel.
“This is a reflection of the commitment and efforts of the public and third sector bodies to meet the needs of veterans. We must ensure that this good work continues and delivering on the recommendations from our report will reduce the number of vulnerable Service leavers who struggle to navigate the civilian housing system.”
You can read the full report here.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
About the Armed Forces Covenant:
The Armed Forces Covenant was codified by the government in 2011. It aims to ensure that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are not disadvantaged as a result of their service. Find out more: https://www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk/
About Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT):
Forces in Mind Trust was founded in November 2011 by a £35 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund (now The National Lottery Community Fund). As a member of Cobseo – the Confederation of Service Charities and a permanent member of its Executive Committee, the Trust works within the Armed Forces charities sector, and much more widely, to support the UK’s Armed Forces Community.
The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life. FiMT delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery, and by strengthening the Armed Forces charities sector through collaboration and leadership, and by building its capacity.
FiMT’s grants and commissions are designed to generate sustained change that improves the lives of ex-Service personnel and their families. FiMT awards grants to support its Change Model based on seven outcomes: Housing; Employment; Health; Finance; Criminal Justice System; Relationships; and its Enabler programme.
About the University of Stirling
The University of Stirling is ranked fifth in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society.
Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community.
The University’s scenic central Scotland campus – complete with a loch, castle and golf course – is home to more than 14,000 students and 1500 staff representing around 120 nationalities. This includes an ever-expanding base for postgraduate study.
The University received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in the latest round of awards, in recognition of the quality and innovation exhibited by its Institute of Aquaculture. The University is the UK Sports University of the Year 2020, as conferred by The Times / Sunday Times Good University Guide.