Saturday, 3 April 2010

A Land Unifit For Heroes

Betrayed: Iraq hero is placed behind criminals in queue for a home

By Ian Drury
Last updated at 8:39 AM on 03rd April 2010

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Shows: Private Joe MacDonald

Hero: Private Joe MacDonald and his family wanted a council house but were offered a room in a hostel instead

Fighting on the hellish battlefields of Iraq, he risked his life for his country every day. But when Private Joe MacDonald asked his local authority to help find his young family a house, his sacrifice counted for nothing.

He first met with a point-blank refusal, followed by the offer of nothing more than a room in a hostel for himself, his wife and three young children.

The council, which organises the provision of social housing through housing associations, put his case behind the unemployed, single mothers, criminals freed from prison and asylum seekers.

It claimed that because he was leaving the Army he was deliberately making himself homeless. The bizarre loophole could affect thousands of military personnel when they end their service.

Pte MacDonald, 25, completed a gruelling seven-month tour of duty with the Royal Logistic Corps in southern Iraq in 2006. He fought gun battles with Iraqi insurgents as he protected Army convoys carrying food, fuel, ammunition and kit to troops in UK bases around the British-held part of the country.

Last year he decided to quit the regiment to spend more time with his family and began searching for accommodation once his final posting in Germany ends this month.

He was born and brought up in Bexley, south-east London, and his parents still live there. But he was stunned when the council refused to provide a house for him and his wife Rachael, 21, and children Ellen-May, four, Harry-Joe, 19 months, and baby Maissy-Ann.

Pte MacDonald said officials told him that because he was making himself homeless by voluntarily leaving Army quarters, he was ineligible for any property at all.

Later, they offered the family the hostel room where they would have to share a bathroom, kitchen and living room with other families.


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Pte MacDonald fears he and his family will be forced to live with his mother-in-law near Salisbury, Wiltshire, where nine people will have to share the house.

He said: ‘I have put my life on the line. I have been to war and spent nine years in service for this country. It is absolutely disgusting that it is not recognised.

‘I am retraining as an IT engineer and desperately need somewhere for my family to stay as I won’t earn enough initially to afford private accommodation.

'It seems incredible that no one can find me a council house to live in while I find my feet. It seems like people in the Army are last on the list to be given help.’

In 2008, the Ministry of Defence pledged to give fairer treatment to forces’ families over accommodation.
Homeless: soldier Joe MacDonald with his wife Rachel, and children Ellen-May, Harry-Joe and Maisy-Ann

Homeless: Soldier Joe MacDonald with his wife Rachel, and children Ellen-May, Harry-Joe and Maissy-Ann

Recognising that the military struggle to get council housing because they go back to the bottom of the waiting list each time they move to different area of the country during their careers, ministers vowed to make it easier for them to apply for social housing.

Bernard Jenkin, a Tory MP on the defence select committee, said: ‘Labour gives the impression that veterans get priority for public services, including housing, but the reality is that they don’t.

'We urgently need a agency dedicated to looking after the welfare of veterans.’

A Royal British Legion spokesman said: ‘We are extremely concerned by this. The Government’s guidance to local councils makes it quite clear that service personnel should not be considered to be intentionally homeless in circumstances such as these. We will seek to ensure he is not discriminated against for selflessly serving his country.’

A Bexley Council spokesman said: ‘Mr MacDonald and his family contacted us in January for help with housing when he voluntarily leaves the Army. He has tied accommodation provided by the Army and he is not yet homeless.

‘He has some time in which to make arrangements for his housing and the council will try to help him find private rented accommodation in this area.

'Mr MacDonald told us that he has had two postings in Germany but made no mention of active service in Iraq.’

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Anonymous said...

Would make a nice little leaflet for the election campaign.

Nationalist veteran said...

This has been going on for years. My mate left the army in about 1988 after 15 years service.
The local council in Cambridge told him the same.He had 2 children.
It was only after a battle and the help of his MP that he m anaged to get a place.
It was almost the same with my friend Chris who served over 2 years of active and UN duty with an Infantry reg.
Havering council in Essex ruined his life and lead to a brakedown after his girlfriend left him taking his 3 kids.
The officals responsible should have been hanged.

Anonymous said...

yet the government bends over backwards to house refugees in the best locations and housing. ironically this serving soldier who fought in iraq is treated worse than an iraqi refugee.