Our armed forces veterans deserve targeted support when the time comes to return to civilian life
As we remember the service of all those that have defended our freedoms at this time of year, it's important to consider the challenges that veterans face when returning to civilian life.
Navaz Sutton, Strategic Partnership Manager (Lincolnshire), details how Ageing Better and Lincolnshire County Council are coming together to help meet veterans’ housing needs.
Lincolnshire has a rich history of military life which Remembrance Day this Sunday recognised. As well as being home to the Red Arrows and Typhoons, it was often referred to as ‘Bomber County’ during WWII due to the large number of RAF bases across the county. It's also now home to the International Bomber Command Centre, a world-class facility which pays tribute to, and acknowledges the efforts of, the 57,861 men and women who gave their lives supporting the Bomber Command during WWII.
Each year around 22,000 armed forces personnel make the transition to civilian life. This can be a difficult time, with some people needing health support and social care provision. Housing is a common concern as for many veterans transitioning to civilian life, it's the first time that they have had to find a home for themselves.
There is a host of support available from organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Armed Forces Covenant, Seafarer’s Advice and Information Line, Veterans UK and the Royal British Legion. But it can be difficult for veterans to find or access the particular support needed, and many are reluctant to reach out for support due to pride or the complexity of their situation. Further guidance is needed to ensure veterans, and other Lincolnshire residents, can easily access the support needed to live in affordable and accessible decent homes.
The ‘Strategy for our Veterans’ seeks to ensure that veterans feel valued and supported. The aim is for all veterans to have a secure place to live by 2028, whether through buying, renting or accessing social housing. The Centre for Ageing Better and Lincolnshire County Council are working together under the Good Home Alliance to gather insight into Lincolnshire residents and their housing needs. This insight will be used to develop recommendations to improve current services and provision.
Ageing Better has identified that Lincolnshire has much less efficient homes, lower incomes and greater fuel poverty compared to England as a whole.
A key part of the project’s engagement with veteran groups is consulting with members who have lived experience of requiring maintenance, repair or adaptation to their homes. Building on research conducted for the Good Home Inquiry, Ageing Better has identified that Lincolnshire has much less efficient homes, lower incomes and greater fuel poverty compared to England as a whole. Surveys and stakeholder and community engagement reveal that veterans face similar challenges to other Lincolnshire residents, including affordability, knowing how to get started, finding trusted tradespeople, and the cost of keeping inefficient homes warm.
Veterans identified the transition to civilian life as a difficult process, especially when in many cases they must find both a place to live and a new job. Lincolnshire veterans also share nationwide views around the difficulty in navigating the housing system. Even though there is a wealth of support available, the unfamiliar processes and approach to housing can be daunting and not everyone is aware of the support available.
This is why the Good Home Alliance project is so important in supporting Lincolnshire residents to access more simplified and efficient housing services that enable healthy and independent living for as long as possible. The project has worked with diverse stakeholders including the Lincolnshire Healthy and Accessible Homes Group to identify the changes needed, such as establishing a single point for quality information. The project is now establishing a Reference Group of experts by experience to develop good practice recommendations.
The work of the Good Home Alliance clearly highlights the need for accessible, consistent and locally-targeted support to help diverse groups including veterans live in decent homes. Data from the Census 2021 recently published by the ONS reveals that in some local authority areas, former servicemen and women make up one in eight of the population. It would be great to see the progress being made here in Lincolnshire replicated around the country with particular focus on local authority areas that have significant veteran communities. Everyone deserves to live in a decent home, not least veterans who have given so much for our country.