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Troops on the frontline will be among first in line for council housing
Brave servicemen and women who have risked life and limb for their country are being fast-tracked for council housing, as local authorities pledge extra support to help ease them back into life on civvy street.
Many councils have reviewed housing allocation policy to ensure that returning armed forces heroes are given priority when they apply for social housing.
Perks like free gym membership and shopping discounts are being offered to former and current military men and women in some parts of the country.
Several councils have joined forces with the Royal British Legion to enhance the support they provide to current and former members of the armed forces, whether it be offering career advice, financial assistance or help finding a home.
Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, said:
“These heroic servicemen and women have laid their lives on the line for their country, and along with their families, have made some of the biggest sacrifices imaginable.
"With conflicts ongoing in Libya and Afghanistan, it is just as important as ever to show them our support.
“Councils recognise the difficulty faced by men, women and families who leave the armed forces and have to adapt to a completely new way of life.
“Local authorities will do absolutely everything they can to make that transition as smooth as possible, whether that be finding them a home, helping them into a job or letting them know what other support they are entitled to.
“It’s a small gesture in return for the massive sacrifices our brave troops and their families make for their country."
Support being offered by councils includes:
Birmingham City Council is building new homes especially for ex-service personnel. The development of 12 new houses, bungalows and apartments is due to be completed next year and priority will be given to ex servicemen and women with disabilities.
Former armed forces personnel returning to Barnet will now find it easier to get social housing after the council last month amended its allocation policy. The change means that ex forces personnel who lived in the borough at least six months prior to enlisting will be given special status – shared by hard-working volunteers and foster carers – which will push them up the housing waiting list.
War heroes returning to North Tyneside will now benefit from free use of the council’s gym and leisure centres. The scheme is open to armed forces personnel, who live in the borough and are on leave from a period of active service, and any immediate family who accompany them to the council’s facilities. Those eligible will also be entitled to free hire of CDs and DVDs from libraries and entry to popular tourist attractions.
Councils in the north east have been working with the Royal British Legion to identify the needs of the ex-service community. All 12 councils have signed up to a review pledging to start identifying members of the armed forces in need of support before they leave the military. They have also pledged to ensure housing allocation policies give special consideration to the needs of former members of the armed forces. The councils involved are: Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, Northumbria County Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, South Tyneside Council, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Sunderland City Council.
Mansfield District Council created a Veterans’ Charter which commits the local job centre, NHS and police force to work alongside charities including the Royal British Legion to provide health, financial and career support to ex-service personnel.
Wychavon District Council has published a directory of contacts for servicemen and women leaving the army with contact details for council services and dozens of charities and voluntary organisations which support retired members of the armed forces.
Oldham Council has worked with the Royal British Legion to make it easier for former members of the armed forces to claim benefits like housing benefit and council tax benefit, if they need to. Current members of the armed forces are also being offered discounts in local shops as part of a scheme organised by the town centre partnership.