Armed forces veterans deserve better housing solutions, councillor argues

Councillor Ian Buckland
Councillor Ian Buckland

An increase in mental health problems among armed forces veterans has prompted a call for more help to house them.

Liberal Democrat town, district and county councillor Ian Buckland is vice-chairman of the Littlehampton Armed Services and Veterans Breakfast Club.

During a meeting of Arun District Council’s cabinet last week, he suggested that property could be bought to house veterans.

Mr Buckland said: “Not a big care home – I mean a house that could be turned into rooms that they could financially afford to rent, maybe at a peppercorn rent, from the council.”

At the same meeting, cabinet members recommended that the council’s housing and homelessness strategy for the period 2019 to 2022 be approved.

The strategy included work to provide support and housing help for groups highlighted as ‘vulnerable’ under the Homelessness Reduction Act. 

These groups include ex-armed forces personnel and people with mental health problems.

A report stated no ex-armed forces personnel had been accepted as homeless in Arun in the last three years, with ‘local authorities with closer links to one of the services…more likely to be impacted by this cause of homelessness’.

It added that, under the Arun Allocation Scheme, personnel who had been discharged because of a medical condition or disability sustained during their service, were given ‘additional priority on the housing register’.

If they died, the priority included their partner or spouse.

But Mr Buckland felt the strategy didn’t ‘stretch far enough’ to help men and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

And he told members that he knew of two men – one a 75-year-old former Marine – who had been told they were not eligible for housing because they had not lived in the area for seven years.

He added: “We can’t expect our members of the armed forces to come out of the armed forces – whether it’s due to ill health or other circumstances – to actually try and source the places to live under the private sector, when they served our country with pride.”

Cabinet member councillor Trevor Bence told Mr Buckland that he had already requested that ‘all armed services receive immediate access to our housing register’.

Mr Bence added that council was ‘proactively’ looking for property both within the district and at the periphery in which former service personnel could be temporarily housed until ‘acceptable accommodation’ was found.