MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: LEAVING THE SERVICES
Publication of the Committee's 37th Report, Session 2007-08
Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:
"The resettlement support provided by the Ministry of Defence to prepare those who leave the Services for life and future employment is by and large well-received. But those who need it the most receive less support.
"The leavers with the longest service histories in most cases cope with life after the forces with ease. But it is the younger service personnel leaving early who often cannot find work or somewhere decent to live. These more vulnerable leavers need additional targeted support. They need a simplified system for obtaining the support. And those most likely to become unemployed might need additional help.
"It is understandable that Commanding Officers responsible for demanding front-line operations sometimes do not have the resettlement of leavers as a top priority. But it should not be forgotten. Likely deployments should be factored early into leavers' resettlement plans.
"Our servicemen and women are continually being called on to serve their country in extremely hostile conditions. As much as possible should be done to prevent those who intend to leave the Forces, especially the young and inexperienced, ending up unemployed and homeless."
Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 37th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Ministry of Defence, examined the development of resettlement policy; the support given to Service Leavers in gaining civilian employment and securing accommodation; and how other issues faced by Service Leavers are addressed.
The Ministry of Defence (the Department) needs to recruit about 20,000 men and women each year to the Armed Forces. Recruits are required to adapt to military life and to give up some of the freedoms enjoyed by civilians. They are also likely to leave the Armed Forces at least 25 years before a normal civilian retirement age of 65 and will, therefore, need and wish to have a second career. The Department believes that effective support for Service personnel at the end of their career aids retention and is a reward for long service.
The majority of Service Leavers are entitled to a full package of resettlement support from the Department and are generally very satisfied with this support. 91% of those Service Leavers entitled took advantage of the resettlement support. And six months after discharge, only 5% of Service Leavers looking for work were still unemployed. Of the 9% of Service Leavers who did not take-up the package, many were prevented from doing so because of pressures from operations or because they were refused time to attend.
Early Service Leaverswho have served less than four years in the Armed Forces or have been compulsorily dischargedare not entitled to the full resettlement package but to a much reduced level of support. This support is provided by the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force signposting them to Jobcentre Plus and ex-Service welfare organisations. This group are more likely than those who have been in the Services for longer to suffer from unemployment and difficulty in getting suitable accommodation.
Many Service Leavers have already organised civilian accommodation in preparation for when they leave the Armed Forces, either by purchasing or by renting a home. Fewer junior ranks own their own property compared to other ranks. The Department has recently introduced a number of measures to encourage serving personnel to buy their own homes.
Very few Service Leavers are entitled to support from local authorities in finding suitable accommodation. A few local authorities delay providing such support until the Department has gained a court order against the Service Leaver for possession of their military accommodation.