162. The level of assistance provided for those leaving
the Armed Forces depends on length of service. The standard package
consists of guidance from specialist resettlement advisers on
the rules for resettlement and the options available. Those with
three to five years service also have access to a job-finding
service provided by Career Transition Partnership (CTP), a joint
venture between the MoD and Coutts Consulting Group plc, which
includes the possibility of attending courses run by CTP 'if spare
places exist'. The full resettlement package is offered to those
with five or more years' service and those who are being medically
discharged. This includes advice from a personal consultant on
finding a suitable job; a three-day career transition workshop
covering interview techniques, drawing up a CV and self-marketing;
and the option to attend a variety of job-related courses to assist
with such things as management and trade skills run by the Resettlement
Training Centre at Aldershot.
The Royal British Legion Training College at Tidworth also provides
training courses to Service leavers, as one of CTP's suppliers,
in such subjects as information technology and management skills.
The MoD established a Veterans' Advice Unit in 1998, staffed by
warrant officers, which provides advice to ex-Service personnel
and their families on issues affecting them.
Much of its work involves guiding inquirers to other government
agencies, such as the Department of Social Security, who can provide
practical assistance with such matters as pensions and benefits.
163. The families' organisations believed resettlement
provision has improved recently, but that more should be done
for spouses, given that their commitment has supported the Service
person, that they have often sacrificed their own career, and
that returning to civilian life will affect both partners equally.
We recommend that 'resettlement' facilities are made available
to spouses. The view of the naval families' association was
that personnel would be greatly assisted if the principle that
their last 12 months could be spent ashore, to enable them to
take up the full range of resettlement provision, was honoured
Providing resettlement assistance to partners seems an obvious
way in which the Services could show that they acknowledge the
contribution which Service families make and would be evidence
that the Armed Forces were responsible and caring employers.
164. The Royal British Legion provides ongoing assistance
to ex-Service personnel, including advice and funding for those
wishing to set up small businesses. The Legion is concerned that
many personnel leaving the Services do not receive the training
and advice from the Services for which they are eligible because
they are not told about it or because operational demands prevent
them taking up these opportunities. They wish the Services to
make resettlement assistance an entitlement rather than a privilege,
and to allow it to be taken up after discharge if workload makes
this impossible before then. This seems sensible and we recommend
that the MoD make resettlement training and advice an entitlement
for Service personnel which should be available for up to 12 months
165. Professor Dandeker emphasised the asset that
ex-personnel could be to the Services in explaining the Armed
Forces to those who have no experience of them and in maintaining
the links between military and civilian society. As well as having
a wider, cultural value for the Services, it would directly assist
recruitment if those returning to civilian society represented
examples of how well the Services treated their personnel and
prepared them for a second career and the return to civilian life.
It is in the Services' own interests that those leaving the
Armed Forces take a positive experience back to the civilian community.
The Services need to do more to ensure this is the case and should
draw on the knowledge and experience of organisations who work
with ex-Service men and women, and therefore understand their
problems, in further developing their resettlement package to
meet the needs and expectations of those who have served their
166. Ex Service personnel also encounter problems
with access to social housing after leaving the Forces. Under
the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 as clarified by the Local
Authority Joint Local Connection Agreement on 'Procedures for
Referrals of the Homeless', where any person wishes to acquire
local authority housing on grounds of homelessness, that homeless
person and any person who might reasonably be expected to reside
with him, has to prove a 'local connection' with the areas where
it is desired to live. In the case of a Service person (in the
priority category), being discharged from the Armed Forces and
wishing to acquire local authority housing in areas in which the
family is based, under current legislation the time spent in the
Regular Armed Forces is explicitly excluded when proving 'local
connection' for residence and employment.
Even if the legislation did not intend it, this situation would
seem specifically to disadvantage an ex-Service person. Yet the
location and duration of residence in any area is at the discretion
of his Service's manning authority, and the Service person may
during what might have been many months or years in a locality
have made a significant contribution to the local civilian life.
That a local authority may make its own decisions as to what 'special
circumstances' may or may not apply in relation to establishing
a local connection can and does result in Service personnel being
treated differently by different local authorities and being treated
differently from civilians.
167. One way to rectify those anomalies could be
for a Service household which knows that it is to be discharged
at a specific time and, being in the priority category, wishes
to acquire local authority housing in the area of its current
posting, to have the Service person's last 6 months of service
explicitly included when proving 'local connection' for residence.
Were that to happen however, all such Service households becoming
homeless on discharge would have the current posting as the local
connection, thus precluding a local connection elsewhere. Similarly,
estranged families would have the current posting as the local
connection. It is not known how many Service families are annually
disadvantaged by the status quo nor how many would be disadvantaged
if regulations were changed to the last 6 months' service's location
being explicitly including as the local connection. Nonetheless,
we would welcome an explicit statement of what is being done to
address these problems by the MoD in conjunction with relevant
other government departments.
168. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association
(known as SSAFA-Forces Help) provide practical help to personnel
and their families after, as well as during, their service and
therefore come into contact with those for whom the process has
not been easy. They refer to one description of leaving the Services
as being 'like stepping off a train. Once you get off, it is gone
and no one wants to know'.
We have received evidence from Emmaus UK which indicates that
the proportion of homeless people who have previously served in
the Armed Forces could be as high as 25 per cent.
SSAFA, although accepting that a number of ex-Service personnel
do become homeless, point to the need to be very careful in analysing
the statistics. They, along with other ex-Service and voluntary
organisations and the Services themselves, are working with the
government on the Ex-Service Action Group which has undertaken
a number of initiatives to tackle homelessness amongst former
members of the Armed Forces.
This is an important area and we expect the MoD to provide us
with an assessment of the scale of the problem and a policy statement
in response to this Report.
Sick and injured veterans
169. Professor Strachan believed that the way the
Armed Forces treated those who had suffered injury or ill health
as a result of their service was crucial to the public image of
the Services and that at present 'the MoD does not emerge from
the press as a caring employer'.
This Committee and our predecessors have reported more than once
on the specific circumstances affecting veterans of the Gulf War,
most recently in April last year. In that report we drew attention
to the 'debt of honour' which this government acknowledges is
owed to those who have served their country in the Armed Forces.
We welcomed the progress which had been made since 1997, and concluded
that the government had gone some way to honouring its debt: but
we felt more should be done to assist veterans with health care
and financial provision and made recommendations accordingly.
170. The issue of the treatment of sick military
veterans is not going to go away. There have been recent reports
of ill health amongst NATO military personnel who served in the
Balkans. Some have ascribed this to contact with depleted uranium.
In response, the government announced a voluntary screening programme
for British personnel who believe their health has been adversely
Veterans who believe they have been affected in such ways will
no longer accept it as part of military life, if they were ever
prepared to do that, and will increasingly resort to the media
and to the courts to seek redress for the harm they believe has
been done to them. A further problem, which is beginning to be
better recognised, is the problem of mental illnesses (including
post-traumatic stress disorders) arising from experiences in the
Services or after discharge. These are complicated issues but,
as we have commented before, the MoD has not in the past handled
the issue of sick veterans with anything like the sympathy and
concern which it should demonstrate.
That has been counter-productive, and the lessons learned have
to some extent been applied. Everyone must accept that military
service is not the same as other jobs, but this does not absolve
the Services from acting as responsible and caring employers.
If they do not, those they are seeking to recruit will reject
them. Financial assistance is not the whole story in satisfying
the legitimate needs of sick veterans but it is an important part.
We hope that the outcome of the current reviews of pensions and
of compensation which we have discussed earlier will ensure that
the MoD is seen as moving closer to being the type of caring and
effective employer we expect it to be.
279 AFOPS, p 54 Back
p 241 Back
Report 2000, para 84 Back
p 242 Back
of Commons Library Back
p 241 Back
Supporting Essay 9, para 56 Back
from the Minister for the Armed Forces to the Officers' Pension
Society, 22 September 1998 [not printed] Back
Deb, 22 March 2000, c 567w; Ev p 43, para 25.1 and Q 118 Back
771-774, 785 Back
Deb 31 October 2000, c 344w Back
Deb, 3 July 2000, cc 57-58w; Ev p 43 para 27.2 Back
p 242 Back
Telegraph, 4 January 2001;
for details see Ev p 245 Back
pp 48- 49, paras 34.2-34.4 Back
p 237 Back
p 49, para 35.1. Back
pp 162, 165-166, 167 Back
p 165 Back
299 SSAFA Back
p 185 Back
pp 238-239 Back
pp 259-260 Back
66; Ev p 3 Back
Report, Session 1999-2000, Gulf Veterans' Illnesses, HC
125, paras 98-100; see also Gulf Veterans' Illnesses: A New
Beginning, MoD, July 1997, para 2 Back
Deb, 9 January 2001, c 877-890 Back
Seventh Report, Session 1999-2000, op cit, paras 5-6, 24-25 Back