MPs in call to improve housing for military personnel

Efforts to improve housing for military personnel have failed to raise standards enough and ministers must set out what alternative arrangements are available given the "dismal track record" of the main contractor, MPs have said.

The Commons Defence Committee found that despite ministers' intervention and the introduction of an improvement plan with contractors CarillionAmey, a range of independence surveys and assessments suggest personnel are still dissatisfied with their housing.

It said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should continue to "consider its options" with CarillionAmey, whose performance was last year described as "totally unacceptable" in a separate report.

Last July, the Public Accounts Committee found that forces families were often left for too long without basic requirements such as heating, hot water or cooking facilities.

Today, the Defence Committee urged the MoD to publish monthly the number of complaints received about housing, alongside information setting out the performance of CarillionAmey against its contractual performance obligations.

The cross-party group of MPs also called for the creation of a new minister with responsibility for the Armed Forces Covenant, which covers the state's duty to look after the welfare of the armed forces and their families.

It said the principles which underlie the covenant cover a range of areas in policy and society, and so responsibility should be given to a dedicated minister.

The report also called on the Government to move to reduce "barriers to care" for veterans seeking mental health treatment, and introduce targets to bring down delays in referral and treatment.

Service families that move around are still encountering difficulties getting school places for their children outside normal admissions cycles, the committee found.

It called for a "thorough" analysis of the capacity of local services to support increased numbers of personnel and their families as accommodation is concentrated into fewer areas.

Tory MP and committee chairman Julian Lewis said: "The Armed Forces Covenant sets out the debt the country owes to those who serve in our Armed Forces.

"It ensures that both veterans and serving personnel receive the recognition and support they richly deserve. The Government is making good progress in meeting the covenant's obligations.

"However, greater focus is needed on providing the housing, education and healthcare services the Armed Forces community rightly expects.

"For example, encouraging soldiers to buy their own homes, yet making them uneconomic to let when their owners are posted away from home, shows a lack of joined-up thinking.

"There also needs to be greater consistency of services and support across the UK."

CarillionAmey said in a statement: "We are proud to serve the Armed Forces and have recently received a Bronze Award under the Armed Forces Covenant.

"Although the performance of our contracts was not satisfactory in early 2016, subsequent improvement plans quickly brought performance in line with contract requirements, and in places is exceeding requirements.

"Our efforts were commended at the Public Accounts Committee in January 2017, complaint volumes are falling and we continue to work hard to improve the experience of service personnel and their families."