Veterans (Homelessness): 12th May 2014

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD)
12. What steps his Department is taking to tackle homelessness among veterans; and if he will make a statement. [903954]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Anna Soubry)
Some 20,000 service personnel leave the armed forces each year. The majority transit into civilian life without any difficulty, but housing is a problem for some. As a result, we have made £40 million of LIBOR funding available to charities and other organisations so that they can address the problem.

Stephen Gilbert
I welcome the money that the Minister has just outlined, but more than 4,000 British veterans find themselves in housing need each year. Will she join me in welcoming the work of Homes for Heroes, and meet me and representatives of that organisation to see what more can be done to tackle this issue?

Anna Soubry
Indeed. I pay tribute to all our charities and other organisations, which are doing great work to make sure not only that when people leave the forces, they have somewhere to live, but that those veterans who have slipped through the net, some of whom, unfortunately, have ended up homeless, are assisted. I will check my diary and get back to the hon. Gentleman.
 
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab)
Is the Minister aware that a proportion of those homeless veterans also have mental health problems? Given the reports that we have seen today about a steep rise in Afghanistan veterans with mental health problems, what are Ministers doing to support veterans in that position?

Anna Soubry
We all take very seriously all those who suffer from mental health problems by virtue of their service. It is worth saying that the incidence of mental health problems among our veterans is the same as in the population at large. We have ploughed around £7 million recently into making sure that services are available. I pay tribute to Combat Stress, for example, for the outstanding work that it has done. It has had £2.7 million, for example, of LIBOR funding and other funds made available to it. The problem is a serious one, but we have to get it into proportion. Mercifully, the overwhelming number of members of our armed forces do not suffer from mental health illnesses, but when they do, we take that very seriously.