Defence chiefs have admitted they have no idea how many veterans are homeless or have committed suicide in recent years.
Hundreds of former military personnel have ended up on the streets after suffering marriage splits, job losses and trauma following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And as fears for their plight grow in “suicide season” – the cold, dark and lonely run-up to Christmas – charity Action On Armed Violence has learned there is no data on how bad the problems are.
Its Freedom of Information request discovered a “statistical blindspot”. On homelessness, the MoD said: “The information is not held.” This is despite Veterans Minister and Army veteran Johnny Mercer’s office saying it will make the UK the “best place in the world to be a veteran”.
Former Rifleman Dwain Lugg, 30, who was homeless last year, said: “When you leave, you are left out in the cold to rot, basically. The MoD should know these figures.”
The MoD referred AOAV to unspecified, non-Government research showing that 3% of the homeless are ex-forces personnel.
With 4,266 sleeping rough in England this means 128 are veterans – and that figure does not include all homeless as many stay with pals and are not permanent rough sleepers.
AOAV executive director Iain Overton said: “How can this Government accurately claim to be reducing veteran homelessness and suicides if they do not have baseline figures to show improvement?”
Dorinda Wolfe Murray, chief of charity FirstLight Trust, said: “This time of year is particularly bad for veterans. It is what I have called the ‘suicide season’.”
The Office for Veterans’ Affairs said: “We are working to enhance the collection and analysis of data.”
Boris Johnson must ensure councils set up Covid-secure homeless shelters, Keir Starmer says. The Labour leader warns “many more people, families with children, face destitution this winter”.
‘Helped back on to my feet’
Afghan war veteran Dwain Lugg has come a long way since his four months sleeping rough last year after a relationship ended.
The former Rifleman, who served with 3rd Battalion The Rifles in Helmand Province in 2009, suffers from PTSD.
But he now has hope thanks to forces charity FirstLight.
Dwain is building his own home and says he is looking forward to a more “secure” future.
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The 30-year-old, from Hereford, said: “I am back on my feet now and don’t know where I would be without help from FirstLight Trust.”
Last year, Dwain walked the 150-mile length of Offa’s Dyke to raise £950 for charity.