Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Homes for Heroes Foundation Launched

Tuesday 9th February 2016

A hundred years ago the Prime Minister David Lloyd George promised soldiers returning from the battlefields of Europe that they would have ‘homes fit for heroes’. This in turn led to the Housing Act of 1919.
Today, many servicemen and women leave the armed forces after years of serving their country in the most dangerous parts of the world – only to face on their return an uphill battle to find a home for themselves and their families. There are several reasons for this: some veterans suffer permanent physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder; others are healthy in body and spirit but have sacrificed the opportunity to put down roots, whilst serving abroad.
By the time we reach the centenary of the 1919 Housing Act, we want Britain to have the finest housing package for returning armed forces of any country in the world. We’re working with housebuilders, key military figures, local authorities and financial services to make this a reality.

Who are we?
The Homes for Heroes Foundation is headed by former Minister of State for Housing Grant Shapps MP. During his time in government Grant championed housing needs for former members of our armed forces and promoted plans designed to prevent homelessness.
Joining Grant on the HHF’s advisory panel:
• General Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff
• Lord Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO
• Jake Berry MP, co-founder of the Foundation, who has 15 years’ legal experience in the housing sector

Key Finding: The Armed Forces Covenant has highlighted the moral obligation our nation owes to its armed forces and made great progress in addressing the disadvantages that the armed forces community often faces. But our investigation so far shows that the Covenant is not always properly applied, when it comes to housing, and that in many cases, either greater provision or the removal of disadvantage is required, in order to ensure the fair treatment of serving and former military personnel.
Key issues for the Foundation:
• Comparative study: How do other countries treat their veterans? The Foundation will undertake an investigation into how other countries (and particularly NATO members) treat their returning military personnel, when it comes to housing need. We will analyse the results and see what lessons can by learned for the UK.
• The Armed Forces Covenant and Housing The Covenant has sought to give priority status to former service personnel when applying for Government sponsored housing programmes like Help To Buy. However, there are concerns that the Covenant is not always uniformly applied and that greater focus is required to make it truly meaningful, when it comes to housing. We want to persuade every housebuilder, every mortgage lender, all local authorities and housing associations not only to sign up to the Covenant, but to honour its spirit too.
• Local authorities and statutory guidance and veterans Preliminary evidence suggests some councils have shown themselves unwilling to prioritise housing for former servicemen and women and their families. There is evidence that they are failing to apply statutory guidance on providing priority need to veterans, particularly with regard to the social housing waiting list.
• Adapted Housing for injured service personnel Concerns remain about the provision of adapted houses for seriously injured servicemen and women. The current policy requires that expenditure for the adaptation of a house be approved before the injured person has left the Services, 3 leading to hasty and often unwise decisions about the choice of house and location. The policy needs to be amended to allow greater flexibility.
• Foreign and Commonwealth personnel The moment Foreign and Commonwealth servicemen and women stop serving, the ‘right to remain’ in this country is removed and they become technically homeless. Yet they have fought for our country and should be allowed to stay in it, if they wish. The ‘right to remain’ is a straightforward procedure, if done before discharge. However, there is evidence that the wrong advice is sometimes given and greater flexibility may be required.

The Homes for Heroes Foundation which launches today (9th February 2016) aims to work together with housebuilders, credit rating agencies, armed forces charities and parliamentary colleagues to raise awareness of the plight of former service personnel who are struggling to be housed.

By 2019 – before the end of this parliament – we intend to have all the elements in place to honour David Lloyd George’s vision. The brave servicemen and women of today have fought for their country, just as their ancestors did. Now the Homes for Heroes Foundation is going to fight for them and ensure that they all have a home to come back to.

Quotes on the Homes for Heroes Foundation:

General Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff: “It’s my experience that the British armed forces contain the world’s best service personnel. It is therefore appropriate that we should honour those who have served this country on their return. That is why I am delighted to back the Homes for Heroes Foundation, which will work to ensure that when it comes to housing, no country in the world will do it better than Britain. “We have some way to go with a list of housing issues to resolve, but I am committed to working with the Foundation to identify and eliminate the barriers to quality homes for those who have put their country before themselves.”
Lord Robertson, former Secretary General of NATO: “For our servicemen and women, being out of the country on active duty can break community ties, so it is vital that we do everything possible to help our returning servicemen and women get back in civilian life. There can be no greater need than that of a settled home and that is why I am enthusiastic about the programme of work planned by the Homes for Heroes Foundation. “As Secretary General of NATO I got to see how member countries provide help to returning service personnel. Now I want to ensure that Britain is doing its bit. One of the first pieces of research by the Homes for Heroes Foundation will be into those international comparisons. By the end of this parliament we must aim to have the best housing for former personnel of any country in the world.”
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, former Housing Minister: “New evidence shows that returning Armed Forces personnel are less likely to be able to buy a home than the rest of the population. Plenty of schemes have been introduced with the goal of providing better housing opportunities for our veterans, but now we want to ensure that we deliver better than any other country in the world. “These brave men and women fight for our country and now the Homes for Heroes Foundation will fight for them to get better homes when they return.”
Jake Berry MP, Housing Lawyer: “The Homes for Heroes Foundation is not about raising money, nor is it about building new homes. It is simply unacceptable that almost one hundred years on from the 1919 Housing Act, serving and former members of our armed forces struggle to find a home. “The Homes for Heroes Foundation will work with Government, the Armed Forces, and some of our best known former charities to change both government policy and practice, and to deliver the aims and spirit of our Armed Forces Covenant in relation to housing.”

Key findings:
1. More than half of Service families are unaware of the Armed Forces Covenant. ( 49607/Tri-Service_families_continuous_attitude_survey_2015_main_report.pdf)
2. Armed forces service personnel are 1/3 less likely to own their own home compared to the rest of the general population.
3. The Homes For Heroes Foundation research shows that 20 local councils are (in the case of English councils breaking the law) or are not upholding the spirit of the Armed Forces Covenant
4. 85% of all veterans in London have really basic housing needs (