Council leaders call for action to support millions of veterans who slip through the net
- Published on Thursday, 10 November 2011 10:59
- Posted by Scott Buckler
More than four million veterans could be slipping through the net and missing out on the support they are entitled to because of a lack of government information, council leaders have warned
Currently there is no public information on the location of about 90 per cent of armed forces personnel when they leave the military, leaving councils playing a guessing game when planning services to help integrate ex-servicemen and women into local life.
The news comes as the LGA today unveiled a new map revealing where concentrations of veterans are located in England and Wales.
It is the first time the information has been made publically available and is a step towards identifying the level of need for services specifically for ex-service personnel, such as financial and employment support, help into housing and advice to ensure armed forces children don't miss out on school places.
There are about 4.8 million veterans in the UK and the new data accounts for about 10 per cent of the known total.
The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, is calling on Government to provide a more complete picture of all those who have served so that local authorities have the information they need to fulfil their 'duty of care' to the armed forces as set out in the Military Covenant.
Given the right details councils, health boards and charities could also help to prevent vulnerable former soldiers from falling into lives of crime, drug and alcohol abuse.
Cllr David Rogers, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "The armed forces are an integral part of who we are as a nation and an inspiration to us all. This new map is a positive step in helping councils ensure that veterans suffer no disadvantage as a result of their service to our country.
"Council efforts to offer support to our armed forces community will continue to be hampered unless we have more accurate information on where they live. We of course recognise the need for privacy and data protection laws, but we want to work with the Government and other bodies to find a way to share data that will benefit our brave service men and women.
"The community covenant builds on the already strong foundation of work carried out by local government, charities and voluntary groups to support ex-service personnel and their families. As we approach Remembrance Day we would urge the Government to help us to go even further in fulfilling our duty to our servicemen and women for their commitment, service and sacrifice to our country."
The LGA argues that better sharing of data from the Ministry of Defence combined with the introduction of a more robust way to collect data on the number of service personnel in each local authority area would enable councils and voluntary organisations to better target their support and plan their budgets.
The map is based on information made available by the MOD to councils, health boards and charities and highlights the number of armed forces personnel per 1,000 of the population in each local authority area.
It links post codes to individuals in receipt of a pension under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme and War Pension Scheme as well as personnel awarded compensation under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
The figures show the highest ratio of veterans are in Hampshire, with Gosport Borough Council topping the table with 68 veterans per 1,000 people, followed by Fareham Borough Council with 47. North Kesteven District Council, Lincolnshire, is third with 45.
A number of London boroughs fall at the bottom of the table with Haringey, Hackney, Brent, Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Southwark having less than one veteran per 1,000 population known to be from the Armed Forces community.
In America comprehensive information about the Armed Forces community is publically available. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) annually collects information on the total number of veterans in each state under a National Survey of Veterans, which helps to inform policy decisions and improve benefits.
There are many positive examples of where local government and the armed forces are working together to integrate the armed forces community into local life.
A number of local authorities, including Birmingham City Council, Barnet, Newcastle, Durham and Northumbria are helping ex-service personnel into housing through schemes such as amending their housing allocation policies and building new homes especially for ex-service personnel.
Several councils, including Oldham Council and Hampshire County Council, are also working to increase support including career advice and financial assistance.
The map is now available on the LGA website and the data is being sent to councils across England and Wales.