Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities

Chapter 24: Former members of the armed forces

Guidance on providing homelessness services to former members of the armed forces.

24.1 This chapter provides guidance on providing homelessness services to former members of the armed forces, who are referred to throughout as veterans.

24.2 Members of Her Majesty’s regular naval, military and air forces are generally provided with accommodation by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), but are required to leave this when they are discharged from the service.

24.3 Housing authorities that have a significant number of service personnel stationed in their area will need to work closely with relevant partners, such as the Joint Service Housing Advice Office and MOD’s resettlement services, to ascertain likely levels of need for housing assistance amongst people leaving the forces and plan their services accordingly.

24.4 The Secretary of State for Defence is subject to the duty to refer in relation to members of the regular forces. The Secretary of State is required to refer members of the regular forces in England he considers may be homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days to a local housing authority, with the individual’s consent. For further guidance on the duty to refer see Chapter 4. The regular forces are the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the regular army and the Royal Air Force.

Advice and information

24.5 The principal responsibility for providing housing information and advice to Service personnel lies with the armed forces up to the point of discharge and these services are delivered through the Joint Service Housing Advice Office and through Veterans UK. Some people, who have served in the armed forces for a long period, and those who are medically discharged, may be offered assistance with resettlement by the MOD’s resettlement staff.

24.6 Housing authorities have a duty (section 179) to provide advisory services free of charge to people in their district. The service must be designed to meet the needs of certain groups, which include former members of the regular armed forces. This duty will be particularly relevant for housing authorities who have armed forces stationed within their districts, and in these circumstances authorities are encouraged to consult with the services concerned about how best to deliver local housing advice to prevent veterans from becoming homeless. For further guidance on providing advice and information on homelessness and threatened with homelessness see Chapter 3.

Veterans required to leave service accommodation

24.7 The MOD recognises that housing authorities will need to be satisfied that entitlement to occupy service accommodation will end on a certain date in order to determine whether applicants who are service personnel and approaching their date of discharge may be homeless or threatened with homelessness.

24.8 For this purpose, the MOD issues a Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy Service Accommodation 6 months before discharge. These certificates indicate the date on which entitlement to occupy service accommodation ends, and the Secretary of State considers that housing authorities should not insist upon a court order for possession to establish that entitlement to occupy has ended.

Priority need

24.9 A person who is vulnerable as a result of having been a member of Her Majesty’s regular armed forces (a veteran) has a priority need for accommodation. Veterans will include a person who was previously a member of the regular naval, military or air forces.

  1. 24.10 In considering whether veterans are vulnerable (as set out in paragraph 6.9 above) as a result of their time spent in the forces, a housing authority may wish to take into account the following factors:

    1. (a) the length of time the applicant spent in the armed forces (although authorities should not assume that vulnerability could not occur as a result of a short period of service);

    2. (b) the type of service the applicant was engaged in (those on active service may find it more difficult to cope with civilian life);

    3. (c) whether the applicant spent any time in a military hospital (this could be an indicator of a serious health problem or of post-traumatic stress);

    4. (d) whether HM Forces’ medical and welfare advisers have judged an individual to be particularly vulnerable in their view and have issued a Medical History Release Form giving a summary of the circumstances causing that vulnerability;

    5. (e) the length of time since the applicant left the armed forces, and whether they have been able to obtain and/or maintain accommodation during that time; and,

    6. (f) whether the applicant has any existing support networks, particularly by way of family or friends.

Intentional homelessness

24.11 Where service personnel are required to vacate service quarters as a result of taking up an option to give notice to leave the service, and in so doing are acting in compliance with their contractual engagement, they should not be considered to have become homeless intentionally. For further guidance on intentional homelessness see Chapter 9.

Local connection

24.12 Section 315 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 amended section 199 of the 1996 Act to enable members of the armed forces to establish a local connection through residence or employment in the same way as a civilian. For further guidance on local connection see Chapter 10.