Britain’s struggling ex-servicemen and women received a major boost yesterday when George Osborne announced £3 million of funding for one of the charities being supported by The Independent’s Homeless Veterans appeal.
Delivering his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons, the Chancellor said money gathered from banks fined for their part in the Libor rate-rigging scandal would “continue to support our military and emergency service charities”.
As part of this, Veterans Aid will receive a grant of £3m to help refurbish, update and extend its vital hostel in Stepney, East London, where it houses former servicemen who have fallen on hard times and would otherwise be sleeping rough on the streets.
New Belvedere House has 55 rooms, but is almost always full. In order to maintain its extremely high success rate in preparing veterans for independent living, the charity wants to enlarge and modernise the building, which has been used as a hostel for homeless ex-servicemen since 1973.
Mr Osborne told The Independent: “I am delighted we can give £3m, from the banking fines, to this fantastic charity which does so much to help true heroes. It is fitting that fines from those who demonstrated the very worse of values in our society are going to help the people who have demonstrated the very best of values.”
The hostel, New Belvedere House, has 55 rooms but is almost always full. In order to maintain its extremely high success rate in preparing veterans for independent living, the charity wants to enlarge and modernise the building, which has been used as a hostel for homeless ex-servicemen and women since 1973.
Dr Hugh Milroy, the CEO of Veterans Aid, said yesterday he was “delighted” to hear about the extra funding, which he said had given the charity a “real boost”. However, he stressed that it would be relying on the public’s generosity to complete the project.
“It won’t pay for the much needed rebuild and refurbishment of our Stepney hostel – but it will get us off to a flying start,” he said. “The award shows real commitment from the Government to the veteran community.
“We are already amazed by the public response to The Independent’s campaign which, I’m sure, will be reinvigorated by this announcement. Indeed, two days after it launched we were contacted by a gentleman who would be on the streets today without Veterans Aid’s swift intervention.”
Last year, Veterans Aid provided more than 21,300 nights of accommodation for ex-servicemen and women, answered more than 3,400 calls for help and advice and had 500 people walk through the doors of its drop-in centre.
The injection of Libor cash will go towards the addition of a further 15 bedrooms to the charity’s hostel to meet demand, as well as building extra offices and training spaces. Although the money will prove hugely helpful, Veterans Aid still faces significant day-to-day running costs.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
The annual price of keeping a person in New Belvedere House is £5,000, and between £3,000 and £5,000 is usually also spent on their training and next accommodation.
The Independent’s Christmas appeal, which is being run in partnership with The Independent on Sunday, i, the London Evening Standard and TV station London Live, is also supporting the work of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
The national charity of the British Army, it is an umbrella organisation which gives grants to more than 5,000 people per year and essential funds to other, smaller charities with specific expertise in helping both serving and former soldiers.
Major General (Ret’d) Martin Rutledge, chief executive of The Soldiers’ Charity, also welcomed the contribution to Veterans Aid but said the fight against homelessness among the country’s ex-servicemen and women was far from over.
“The Government earmarking this funding for Veterans Aid shows the seriousness of the issue at hand. This is a significant amount that will make a real difference to some of those veterans most in need, and is fantastic support for the Armed Forces community that demonstrates the nation really cares for those who have served their country,” he said.
“There remain other homeless charities operating elsewhere in the UK that The Soldiers’ Charity equally supports. There is still a need to provide the long term solution we all seek. Finding a roof over their head is an important first step for any veteran who finds themselves homeless – the next must be finding somewhere more permanent, stable and secure.”
Mr Osborne also announced that some of the money accumulated through Libor fines would be ploughed into other veterans’ causes, such as help for former Gurkhas living in Nepal.Reuse content