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30 April 2024

Landmark report reveals dire state of UK armed forces accommodation

A commission launched by the late Lord Kerslake finds severe deficiencies in housing for service personnel

military accommodation
Credit: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC. Crown Copyright.

A new report by the Kerslake Commission on Armed Forces Housing has highlighted severe deficiencies in the accommodation provided to UK Armed Forces personnel and their families, describing the situation as a “tax on the goodwill” of those serving. Chaired by the late Lord Bob Kerslake, former Head of the Civil Service, the commission has raised serious concerns over the impact of inadequate housing on military effectiveness and personnel retention.

Key findings of the report

  • Widespread issues: Service accommodations are plagued by persistent problems, including dampness, mould, gas and electrical faults, and pest infestations. These issues not only compromise the health and well-being of service families but also severely damage morale, impacting recruitment and retention within the Armed Forces.
  • Inadequate MoD investment: The report criticises the Ministry of Defence’s current accommodation investment programme as insufficient, failing to rectify a longstanding legacy of underfunding.
  • Potential impact on service commitment: The commission warns that the quality of life offered by current service accommodations may deter skilled personnel from long-term commitments to the Armed Forces.

Commission composition

The Kerslake Commission on Armed Forces Housing was launched in February 2023 and included the late Lord Bob Kerslake (chair), crossbench peer and former Head of the Civil Service; General Sir Richard Barrons, former Head of Joint Forces Command; Terrie Alafat, former Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Professor Nicola Fear, Co-director of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London; Brendan Sarsfield, former Chief Executive of the Peabody housing association; and Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council.

Lord Kerslake was asked to conduct an independent review of armed forces housing, covering the Army, RAF and Royal Navy, following longstanding concerns about the state of service accommodation by shadow defence secretary John Healey as an independent contribution to improving the lives of serving personnel.

Statements from Commission members

General Sir Richard Barrons:

“Decent and affordable accommodation is crucial for the wellbeing of our Armed Forces personnel and is essential for maintaining the operational effectiveness of our national defence. Yet for many years the accommodation for many service personnel and their families has been poor, and in many cases unacceptable. Substandard accommodation has effectively become a tax on the goodwill of highly prized people that directly undermines operational effectiveness and retention of our Armed Forces. The longstanding neglect of service housing is a disservice to our highly valued service personnel and undermines our military capabilities.”

Terrie Alafat:

“Too many service personnel are expected to put up with poor accommodation as if it were somehow a reasonable expectation of service life. The Commission heard that some service personnel feel they should not complain for fear of repercussions. More should be done to empower service personnel to have a voice in how they are housed. This means the service having clear accommodation standards and an effective and independent means for service personnel to raise their concerns.”

The Kerslake Commission calls for immediate action to improve conditions and ensure that Armed Forces personnel are provided with the standard of living they deserve. The full report is a critical step towards understanding and rectifying the housing challenges faced by those who serve.

Read the full report, Homes unfit for heroes The poor condition of armed forces accommodation and what needs to change.

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