Metro Mayor Dan Norris has accused ministers of failing to support West of England veterans during the cost-of-living crisis after figures obtained by Labour showed around 3.5% of all veterans, or 70,000, could be on benefits.

The Government has admitted 33,800 veterans are currently in receipt of Universal Credit. But the first-time figures, released by the Government after pressure from Labour, are drawn from an assessment of 45% claimants, meaning the true figure could be more than double that. There are 2 million veterans in the country, according to the MoD.

In total, including the West of England, there are 103,427 working age veterans residing in the south west region, meaning 3,620 could now be reliant rely on universal credit during the cost-of-living crisis.

The news comes as the outgoing Johnson Government faces growing pressure to take action over the rise in living costs. Households in the West of England and across the country are being hit with rising costs when it comes to fuel, energy and food, with inflation running at a 40-year high.

The Conservatives have also broken their own promise on employment support for veterans, says the Metro Mayor. In 2019, the Government announced up to £6 million to fund more than 100 Armed Forces Champions in jobcentres. However, the Veterans Strategy Action Plan confirmed ministers were pushing ahead with plans for only 50 Armed Forces Champions.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris warned that the figures were the “tip of the iceberg”, and could hide a wider problem affecting thousands who have served their country to “protect the freedoms that we enjoy today”. He said: “It is unforgivable that ministers are forcing South West veterans who have served our country with great distinction to protect the freedoms we enjoy today to rely on Universal Credit as the cost of living continues to bite in our region. But these figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. We have a moral obligation to provide proper support to those who have served their country with dignity and bravery during the tough weeks and months ahead”.

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