Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann has urged people to judge the DUP on their actions not their words, following the Party’s decision to highlight the service of our Armed Forces in part of its pre-Conference Broadcast.
The North Antrim MLA said;
“Whilst I welcome the DUP’s decision to highlight the service of our Armed Forces in part of its pre-Conference broadcast, I will be watching with interest to see if their words are translated into actions, and have highlighted areas where they can.
I was recently approached by a number of ex-Servicemen in North Antrim regarding housing issues, and was shocked to learn that men and women leaving the Forces received the same number of housing points as prisoners leaving jail.
I therefore asked the DUP Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland whether he intended to review the allocation of housing points to increase the points that are awarded to people who have left the armed forces and was left very disappointed by his response.
Mr McCausland said that “officials from my Department and the Housing Executive are currently carrying out an examination of the Housing Selection Scheme” … and continued “…there are no plans at present to increase the number of points awarded to people who have left the armed forces.”
But I was greatly concerned when the Minister also confirmed in his response that "...work to date has identified an aspect of the Scheme that has the potential to prevent ex-service personnel who have been based in Northern Ireland from applying for social housing here."I also wrote to the First and deputy First Ministers to ask what discussions they have had with the Joint Service Housing Advice Office about the housing at the St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena being made available for purchase to former and serving members of the Forces. This is the case with former married quarters in Great Britain, where servicemen are offered special MoD-approved military discounts. Once again I was left disappointed with the response, which was a simple “we have not had any discussions on the issue of the former military housing at the St Patrick’s Barrack’s site with the Joint Housing Advice Office.”
People will be watching to see if the DUP takes action to back up their rhetoric and actually help deliver real improvements to the lives of both serving and former personnel. The issue of housing is one which I have already highlighted where the DUP can take action. As everyone knows, actions speak louder than words.”