Dated 29 Mar 10
WORK UNDERTAKEN BY MOD AND GOVERNMENT
FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF EX-GURKHAS SINCE MAY 2009
· A cross-Government working group set up in June 2009 quickly established the ground that needed to be covered to make sure that those coming to the UK had fast track arrangements for obtaining National Insurance numbers which are essential to claim benefits and to get into employment.
· The DWP and UKBA worked between July and October to make arrangements for a special stamp for passports that would enable ex-Gurkhas reside in the UK for only 3 months before benefits could be paid.
· Time MOD recruited and trained staff to run a new Gurkha Settlement Office in Kathmandu which opened for business on 3rd October 2009. The government of Nepal and all ex-service organisations were briefed by MOD about the role of the new Gurkha Settlement Office which provides free help and assistance on the settlement process. This included information and education about life in the UK, filling out the visa form, help with completeing supporting documentation and get on the fast track for National Insurance.
· To date over 4000 visits to the office have been made by ex-Gurkhas and their dependants.
· Also in October 2009, the MOD in partnership with the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT), expanded its existing welfare arrangements in Aldershot with additional staff to deal with incoming ex-Gurkha welfare cases. A new Gurkha Welfare office jointly manned by GWT and MOD staff opened in January 2010 for the same purpose.
· In November 2009 and January 2010 several hundred ex-Gurkha representatives in Nepal were briefed by a joint MOD/UKBA team about the benefits of using the Kathmandu settlement office. In addition, all the major ex-service charities have been consulted about what more could be done in the UK. As a result of these consultations the DCLG announced in January that they will set up a Housing Advice Centre which will not only help ex-Gurkhas and their families identify suitable housing but will offer landlords a bond to cover the rent deposit required before the property could be made available.
· In March 2010, a booklet in English and Nepali that explains the cost of living in the UK was widely issued at the request of the ex-service organisations.
· A comprehensive book about life in the UK will be issued in Nepal in April this year. The book, developed in association with ex-servicemen, the service charities and local authorities contains information that ex-Gurkhas need to know about living in the UK.
· In April, further MOD/UKBA consultation and briefings will take place in Nepal with ex-service organisations. It is also intended to forward base some of the settlement office staff from Kathmandu to the east and west of Nepal to try and reach those who might not be able to travel to Kathmandu.