Our top priority remains the people we support, and we are working hard to limit the impact on our services. As a precautionary measure, in line with government guidance, where possible we’re moving our face-to-face support to telephone and online advice, so those who need support can still access free and expert help. Support and information on the impact of COVID-19 on housing issues and rights can be accessed here. Access our wider support, guidance and advice via our get help pages and webchat.
There are currently over 31,000 older veterans in the Merseyside area according to the Royal British Legion. Many of these veterans – that is people who have served in the Armed Forces or who have undertaken National Service – have been part of the community for years, often having moved here to seek employment in the years after the Second World War.
Now retired, many of these veterans are experiencing housing issues, which is why we at Shelter Merseyside have set up a specialist support service for Aged Veterans. As part of the Royal British Legion’s Healthy Living portfolio, the Merseyside Aged Veterans Service is open to veterans born on or before 1 January 1950 who are struggling with housing problems or social isolation. We work with veterans, their partners, husbands, and wives to make a positive difference.
We deliver this service in partnership with other local organisations who work with veterans. These include the Royal British Legion, Veterans HQ, Tranmere Rovers FC, Sefton Veterans, FACT, SAMS Armed Forces Support Hub (St Helens), and Everton in the Community. Together, we aim to address the key issues of social isolation and improve the health and wellbeing of veterans.
Explaining why this service is best delivered through this partnerships approach, Jo Cutler, Shelter Merseyside Hub Manager, said: ‘We identified a housing need for this group, but we also identified that there were a lot of grassroots organisations that were working very closely with veterans.’
While older people do experience similar housing problems to younger people, like disrepair, eviction, and homelessness, there are also specific issues that they are more likely to face. These include social isolation, often from losing partners and from friends passing or moving away, and a struggle to claim the benefits they’re entitled to, often because they are more likely to have low digital literacy and applications are now be made online.
There are also issues that tend of affect Aged Veterans more. One of the main problems is that a lot of people are not aware that they qualify as veterans because they didn’t serve in a war or were not injured in service. However, neither of these are necessary to qualify. Many ex-service staff also want to be self-sufficient and find it difficult to ask for help or do not want to claim benefits they are entitled to even if they are struggling financially. A lot of veterans also need help understanding their military pension, the income of which can be essential for staying in their homes. As Jo Cutler adds: ‘When you ask what the difference between [the problems faced by Aged Veterans] and any other older person, it’s the same but it’s more.’
One person who has been helped by the Shelter Merseyside Veterans Service is David, who served in the King’s Regiment and went onto have a career making ship propellers. David suffers from dementia and arthritis, which has severely affected his spine and resulted in problems with his mobility. David says that without the service, he ‘wouldn’t really get out.’ Situated in a convenient location where he feels comfortable and safe, the service has allowed David to feel less isolated and offered a valuable way to socialise.
On top of offering veterans practical support to empower them to claim the benefits they are entitled to so they can stay in their homes, it also acts as a place to meet other veterans, share experiences, and make friends.
David said he enjoys meeting liked minded people who’ve had similar experiences to him through the service. ‘I love it because there are people to speak to,’ he said. ‘Just talking to staff and participants makes a big difference.’
The service is advertised in GP surgeries and accepts referrals from other organisations that work with veterans such as Veterans HQ. If you’re a veteran born on or before 1 January 1950 or know someone who is, contact Shelter Merseyside for support from the Aged Veterans Service.
Shelter is also a supporter of the No Homeless Veterans campaign, which was launched on the 24th of September last year. The campaign aims to reduce homelessness of veterans to as close to zero as possible. Together, we call on local authorities, homelessness charities, and advice agencies such as Citizens Advice to ‘Think Veteran’ in order to identify former servicemen and women and signpost them to the enhanced support services available to them.
Shelter Merseyside also works to help people with a wide range of housing problems and is open to everyone.
For housing advice and support, visit us at 2nd floor, Stanley Building, 43 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DN. Find out more about what we do on our website.