Local support for veterans at risk, councils warn

Thousands of veterans and servicemen and women across large swathes of the country risk missing out on vital support with two-thirds of council areas not receiving specific funding to help them.

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Thousands of veterans and servicemen and women across large swathes of the country risk missing out on vital support with two-thirds of council areas not receiving specific funding to help them, the Local Government Association warns today.

Armed Forces serving personnel, veterans and their families are valued members of our communities which is why all councils have signed the voluntary Armed Forces Covenant and work to provide a range of services to support them, including housing, money advice, employment support and health and wellbeing services.

Since 2015, councils have been able to bid for an annual share of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to help local efforts to support veterans and their families. Only a third of councils were awarded funding in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

This funding is oversubscribed and often used to identifying the presence and needs of the armed forces community locally. However once that need is identified, the pressure on additional local services is not funded for by government.

Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 they had from central government to run local services. Faced with growing demand for adult social care support, children’s services and homelessness services, the LGA is warning this will make it increasingly difficult for councils to deliver the level of support for veterans and those most in need.

As part of the Government’s forthcoming Spending Review, the LGA is calling on the Government to address the overall £8 billion funding gap facing councils by 2025.

It comes as a new report from Shared Intelligence, commissioned by the LGA, reveals the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has been vital in helping councils to get projects off the ground that support their forces communities.

There are more than 2 million veterans in households living in England and Wales. They often face significant barriers to accessing services and tailoring them to meet local needs is vital to ensure they’re not left behind. With better understanding of the needs of the armed forces community, councils are training staff to signpost veterans to the services they need the most.

Examples include:

  • Charnwood, Melton and Rushcliffe Borough Councils are mapping the armed forces presence in their area, training staff to better signpost veterans and service personnel to the right services and working with local partners including GPs to encourage them to do the same.
  • Greater Manchester, which found that 10 per cent of its residents are from the armed forces community, is providing families with the support they need to make the transition from military to civilian life, and ring-fences a minimum guarantee for the forces community in areas from housing to skills and employment.
  • The York and North Yorkshire Partnership undertook a needs assessment. It identified veterans with no or low qualifications in Scarborough; unemployment and under-employment of some veterans; concerns over the access of housing and mental health services; and isolation and accessibility issues.

In order to prevent the need for longer-term support and to adequately meet the needs of the armed forces community, councils are also calling for greater collaboration with including the Ministry of Defence and other partners, before, during and after the transition of service personnel into civilian life.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community and Wellbeing Board, said:

“Armed Forces veterans and their families will often face a range of challenges around housing, health and wellbeing, school provision and employment and skills support.

“Councils are often the first port of call for veterans who have left active service and their families and are committed to trying to provide then with the support they need and deserve.

“The scale of the funding challenge facing local government means it is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain the current level of support for the armed forces community. Covenant funding has been important but only a minority of local areas have benefitted from it. Our veterans across the whole country deserve better than this.

 “More information about the number of veterans in our communities would also help councils better plan their local services to make sure they can try and have the right services in place. The Ministry of Defence need to do their bit and work with service and ex-service personnel and councils to ensure that safety nets are in place and to prevent the need for longer-term support.”

Notes to editors

  • Councils across the country are celebrating Armed Forces Week, which runs from Monday 24th June to Sunday 30th June. Armed Forces Day is Saturday 29 June.
  • Our Delivering the Armed Forces Covenant Locally report can be found here: www.local.gov.uk/delivering-armed-forces-covenant-locally
  • The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust awarded £6.6 million to local government through two rounds of the ‘Strengthening Local Government Impact of the Covenant’ priority in 2016/17 and 2017/18. In total, 33 grants were made to partnerships of councils in England. Alongside this, the Fund awards a range of other grants and smaller grants to local projects up to a value of £20,000.
  • Councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign aims to influence the forthcoming Spending Review and highlight the growing risk to vital local services if the Government does not take action to secure the financial sustainability of councils. Visit our campaign page for more information - www.local.gov.uk/spending-review-2019