An urgent review is needed to ensure homeless veterans are not "invisible", says Northern academic

An urgent review is needed to ensure homeless veterans are not rendered invisible by the way statistics are collected, a leading academic in the North of England has warned.

The lack of data held by the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs on homelessness or suicides amongst former military personnel has accentuated concerns that support is not being targeted at those most at risk.

University of Salford academic Dr Mark Wilding wrote a report on the subject which found that veterans were “predominantly self-referring” into hostels or accessing support through Armed Forces charities and community organisations rather than going through the statutory homelessness system.

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Dr Wilding insisted that there needs to be a change in how homelessness statistics are collected to improve coverage.

The lack of data held by the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs on homelessness or suicides amongst former military personnel has accentuated concerns that support is not being targeted at those most at risk. Photo credit: PA

He told The Yorkshire Post: “The scale of the problems facing veterans, particularly in terms of homelessness, is under-estimated.

“The problem with the current statistics in the way that they are – it renders homeless veterans invisible.”

He added more funding was also needed from the Ministry of Defence to help support veterans.

New analysis for The Yorkshire Post from the University of Salford has documented 6,400 households as being owed a prevention or relief duty - when the council is required to step in to prevent or relieve homelessness under the Homeless Reduction Act - in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Pictured, University of Salford academic Dr Mark Wilding. Submitted picture

However, the data show only 50 of these households recorded as having support needs due to having served in the Armed Forces.

Across England, 63,750 households were assessed and owed a prevention and relief duty over the same time period, and only 410 were deemed to be vulnerable due to having served in the Armed Forces.

The proportion of homeless veteran households in Yorkshire and the Humber stands at 0.8 per cent of homeless households compared with 0.6 per cent nationally.

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said: “I make no bones about it, our data on veterans is not in a good space - we are trying to play catch-up to that now.”

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

Mr Mercer said one of the major steps taken to improve data was the Government to introduce a veterans’ question, for the first time, into the census for March.

He added: “This will give us a better idea of how many veterans we have in this country.”

A special Yorkshire Post report on the weekend included:

- Armed Forces veteran across the region open up about the struggles of living with post-traumatic stress disorder

- In an exclusive interview Johnny Mercer, the minister responsible for Armed Forces veterans, has admitted that the Government needs more ambition in ensuring former military personnel are given the support they need to adapt to civilian life.

- Soldier-turned-politician Dan Jarvis warns that thousands of former military personnel are in danger of “slipping through the net” as they leave the Armed Forces.

- Armed Forces charities, including many that operate across Yorkshire and the Humber, have warned that financial pressures are placing the support they provide under intense strain after vital fundraising has been left in tatters throughout the past year.

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