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.
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.
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