On this page:
08 Oct - Talk to AFF & Have Your Say on Special Educational Needs (SEN)
17 Sept - Changes to Housing Benefit
16 Sept - IVF Provision in NI, Scotland and Wales
25 Jul - Between the Cracks
22 Jul - Redundancy Tranche 3 Survey
11 Jul - Discrimination in Employment Quick Poll
19 Apr - MOD Partner Employment Project
Rebasing Announcement Quick Poll - April 2013
The AFF Grab - The annual survey on the opinions of Army families
Defence Select Committee inquiry into educating the children of Service personnel
Tri –Service SFA Adaptation Process Survey 2012
AFF Germany Employment Survey May 2012
AFF Removals Survey March/April 2012
Are you managing on your current pay?
Tongue-in-cheek £2.1 Billion Poll results!
Stability V Mobility Survey
Future of Army Housing Survey
Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) Survey
Op Herrick 12 Deployment Survey
Families' Concerns Reports
The Children and Families Bill is currently before Parliament and the Government are consulting on a draft new 0-25 Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice which will form statutory guidance. The Bill proposes replacing SEN statements (for schools) and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for young people in further education and training) with single 0-25 Education, Health and Care Plan. AFF will be submitting evidence to the consultation highlighting issues raised by Army families. This is YOUR chance to have your say – the last major reforms were 30 years ago! To submit your view, please click here. The consultation runs from Friday 4 October 2013 till Monday 9 December 2013. If you would like to discuss this further with AFF, have experiences that you would like to share, or would like to raise an issue regarding the SEN reforms, please email the AFF Education and Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott at email@example.com.Back to top
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 resulted in changes to Housing Benefit (HB). From April 2013, the size criteria rules that already existed for private tenants were extended to working age tenants in the social sector. This means that HB entitlement can be reduced where the household is deemed to be under occupying their home. Decisions are based on the number of bedrooms in the property. The reduction is worked out based on your eligible rent, not on your HB. Your HB could be reduced by 14% of the eligible rent if you have one extra bedroom and 25% of the eligible rent if you have two or more extra bedrooms.
In response to concerns raised by Members of Parliament and the public about the impact on different social groups, the Government announced changes to this reform in the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2013. HB tenants whose adult children are members of the Armed Forces, but continue to live with them and not in Single Living Accommodation (SLA), are allowed a bedroom for that adult child under the size criteria rules. If that adult child is deployed on operations, their parents are allowed to retain their bedroom if they intend to return home. In addition the non-dependant deduction (i.e. that any adult child is normally expected to make towards their living expenses) ceases and does not restart until they return home. Your HB entitlement should therefore increase when your adult child is deployed on operations.
Whether or not a member of the Armed Forces lives at home with their parents is a matter for the Local Authority (LA) to decide based on all the available facts. It may be that someone living in SLA is treated as living at home but equally SLA can be treated as a permanent home. Adult children judged by the LA to be living permanently in SLA are not treated as living at home with their parents during periods of deployment.
If the LA decides that the permanent home is with the parents and the parents receive HB, then they would be subject to a non-dependant deduction which could extinguish HB entitlement. This is because all working non-dependants are expected to contribute to their living expenses and there is no exception for Armed Forces personnel unless they are deployed on operations.
AFF has investigated the changes to Housing Benefit Regulations and whether Army families face any disadvantage in comparison to other families. There was not enough evidence to determine the overall impact on Army families and state our view on this issue. We therefore encourage families affected by the changes or with their own view on this matter to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The points that AFF has considered in this argument are outlined below:
- The publicised amendments for families of serving personnel assist only a small minority of families. These could include Reservists or those who choose not to live in Single Living Accommodation (SLA) because their parents live nearby. This was poorly communicated to families.
- All parents have difficult choices to make about downsizing once their children move away from home. This applies should you own your own home, rent privately or claim Housing Benefit.
- Families might face financial difficulties if Housing Benefit is reduced due to under occupancy and a room is retained for their soldier.
- Should serving personnel contribute to the family finances, then they would effectively be paying twice for accommodation.
- Social housing is scarce. Where families are able to downsize to smaller properties, this could increase the availability of suitable social housing for those families leaving the Service.
- Whilst there has been considerable upgrading of SLA, some serving personnel do not have a room of their own and instead share multiple occupancy rooms. It could be unfair to judge this accommodation as a permanent home. DIO recognise there is still much work to do to upgrade SLA.
- Special consideration might be required for families until personnel have successfully completed Phase 1 and 2 Training.
- There is clearly disparity across areas, as Local Authorities have the final decision whether a soldier’s home is classed as with his parents or in SLA.
Have you been trying to receive NHS funded IVF treatment or have you recently had IVF treatment? Have you had issues getting NHS funded IVF in NI, Scotland or Wales? What were your experiences of having treatment in NI, Scotland or Wales? AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist, Karen Ross is doing research into IVF provision for military families. Please email Karen at email@example.comBack to top
AFF welcomes this report, Between the Cracks from the RSA Action and Research Centre. Between the Cracks (exploring in-year admissions in schools in England) looks at the effect on all children (whether military or not) who are mobile. This report proves conclusively that:
- Lower attaining schools received a disproportionate number of in-year movers. An in-year mover was more than three times as likely to move to a low performing secondary school as move to a high performing school.
- The attainment of pupils who make in-year moves is markedly lower than their peers, and lower still among pupils who make multiple in-year moves. Only 27 percent of pupils who move schools three times or more during their secondary school career achieved five A* to C grade GCSEs, compared to the national average of 60 percent.
AFF is conducting its own study on attainment throughout the autumn and will be using this report and our findings to continue to lobby the Government and the chain of command about the possible consequences of mobility on the ability for Service children to achieve their potential.Back to top
The third and largest tranche of redundancies were announced in June 2013. 4,480 personnel were made redundant with 84% of them having volunteered for redundancy.
53% of the families responding to the survey were applicants for redundancy and 44% of respondents were non-applicants.
The majority of respondents who applied for but were not selected for redundancy stated that they would not choose to leave the Army (65%) (either through Premature Voluntary Release or Notice To Terminate).
Click here to download the results.Back to top
AFF ran a quick poll asking: In the last two years, have you been told you have been turned down for an interview or not got job because you are an Army spouse?
Click here to download the results.Back to top
AFF is very excited that the MOD has launched the Partner Employment Project. We have consistently emphasised the barriers to spousal employment to the MOD and how important it is to overcome them. AFF will be providing evidence, case studies and support to the Project.
The two year project will look at a number of employment factors including:
- Partner training and education, together with placement and career development services
- Access to national employment support, including interaction with national childcare initiatives
- Employment support to partners during the Service person’s transition
The aim of the project is to improve the financial situation of families through a second income which will allow more families to increase their standards of living. Importantly, it will enable more families to realistically look at buying their own homes.
Caroline Mayne, AFF’s Employment Specialist, would love to hear your views on this so please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to top
The rebasing announcement informed soldiers and their families which units would be moving and where to. AFF asked families how they were dealing with the news and what their main concerns were. A total of 127 responded. Click here to download the results of this poll.Back to top
AFF asked families and personnel to complete our survey during June 2012. Over 3,000 people filled in the survey, 92% of whom were Army families.
The results given here relate only to the Army responses; results for the RAF and Navy have been passed on to their Federations.
The underlying views of families indicate deep frustration with continuing cuts to their disposable income and fear of the future, in particular job security. All families feel worse off and despite results demonstrating encouraging signs that families wish to stay in the Army, the comments given suggest noteworthy dissatisfaction which could significantly affect retention.
AFF has two campaigns running this year focusing on ‘Employment’ and ‘Mental Health’. We asked questions in this year’s AFF Grab to provide evidence of the issues experienced by Army families. Predictably, results demonstrate that spouses find that maintaining a career, seeking work, and access to training is severely hampered by frequent mobility and the remoteness of some Army postings. A significant proportion of respondents reported that they have or have had a mental health issue.
Click here to download the briefBack to top
The Army Families Federation has been asked along with the other Service families’ federations to submit evidence for the Defence Select Committee inquiry into educating the children of Service personnel.
The Committee is interested in finding out more about:
- The difficulties facing Service families in achieving the same standard of education for their children as they would if they were civilians in the UK or overseas;
- The provision of education for all Service children from pre-school to age 19, including those with special needs;
- The transfer of information about pupils between schools, in particular pupils with Special Educational Needs;
- The effectiveness of the various financial support schemes for all Service families;
- The adequacy of oversight and monitoring of Service Children’s education.
The Armed Forces Covenant states that:
Children of members of the Armed Forces should have the same standard of, and access to, education (including early years services) as any other UK citizen in the area in which they live. The Services should aim to facilitate this in the way they manage personnel, but there should also be special arrangements to support access to schools if a place is required part way through an academic year as a consequence of a posting. For personnel posted overseas, the MOD provides early years and educational facilities where the number supports it, although the range of provision and choice may not be as great as in the UK. In certain cases assistance will be available to support Service children’s continuity of education, given the requirement for mobility.
The deadline to submit your comments has now passed. Thank you to those who left views and comments. Our evidence will be submitted mid-January and Catherine Spencer, AFF Chief Executive will be presenting it to the Defence Select Committee at the end of January.Back to top
Housing continues to be AFF’s most reported issue. A considerable proportion are additional needs issues, of which a number are related to problems with the adaptation process. There has also been much anecdotal evidence regarding the adaptation to SFA process, so a survey was conducted to collect concrete evidence. Due to the relatively small numbers of Service families that have a dependant with a disability and/or additional needs that are involved in this process it was decided to make this a tri-Service survey. We hoped it would give a broader overview of the problems being experienced.
The survey ran from 27 March 2012 – 1 June 2012. There were initially 107 respondents but because we were collecting data from adaptations to SFA in the last three years, the number of respondents decreased to 44.
Click here to download the brief.Back to top
In May 2012 AFF Germany undertook an employment survey for dependants in British Forces Germany (BFG). The aim of the survey was to determine if there were any barriers that prevented individuals either applying for, or gaining employment during their time in BFG. The online survey ran for three weeks and we received more than 320 responses.
To download the survey results, click here.Back to top
To gauge how Army families felt about the service provided by the new removals contractor, Agility, which took over the contract from M&S Shipping on 1 October 2010, AFF conducted a short Removals Survey earlier in the year. The survey, which was available on our website for five weeks, was open to all Service personnel and their families who had moved in the last nine months.
To download the survey results, click here.Back to top
The Sunday Express ran an article on soldiers’ pay, highlighting evidence presented to MPs which suggested that soldiers are going hungry during training. Whilst not endorsing the article, AFF used it as a chance to perform a quick poll on how you rate your current income. AFF recognises that the pay freeze and a one per cent pay cap to soldiers’ pay will result in families ‘feeling the pinch’. Our simple poll provided an opportunity to see how you view your current income. Happily fifty three per cent of the respondents that answered state that you are ‘getting by’ on your current income, however, many respondents commented that their soldier’s income was being complimented by a spousal income.
AFF knows that many newspaper reports are disingenuous, but the story they tell can provide us with an opportunity to look at the issues facing Army families. We do not use the results of our quick polls to influence command or politicians, instead using them to ‘test’ media stories and to see if there is a need to do further methodologically sound research.
The results are shown below:
Getting by on present income
“We, as a household, are getting by however little extras in life have gone such as family days out, my gym membership. Also less goes on better quality of food we buy; I tend to shop where there a bargains and only buy something which is on special offer. During the day I tend to have the heating turned down/off and wear two or sometimes three layers of clothing, the same in the evening once my child has gone to bed. This all goes to help reduce the cost of bills as everything is going up except wages, so in affect we have a pay cut”
“We are being very careful as we can see things becoming more difficult especially when we lose child benefit on top of all the allowance reductions and lack of pay rises. We have moved many times which meant that I had to give up my career and I will be penalised further for following the flag and bringing up my children”
Finding it difficult on present income
“I accepted a job in London in 2009 (for 2010 - 2012 posting) based on the pay and allowance profile explained to me by my RAO. As my wife is a xxxxxx, we decided I would go unaccompanied as the cost of childcare for our two young children in London is prohibitive and would have exceeded her full-time pay by 45%. Since SDSR, my GYH allowance has been cut, subsistence and 'London' allowances reduced to the extent that it now actually costs me money to work in London. In addition to this, we have lost all our Tax Credits. Service personnel make decisions on the information and costings available to them at the time, and ultimately suffer because MOD 'efficiencies’ are introduced within the two year tour cycle of its people. I'm an Officer - God knows how our soldiers are coping”
“My husband is a WO1 so in theory we shouldn't be finding things to hard, but as fuel/food prices are rising we are feeling the pinch. For instance, we knew things would be tight sending our eldest son to boarding school but as fuel has gone up so much, it now costs considerably more than we budgeted for when we first decided to send him to school three years ago. My husband finishes in four years and I am seriously beginning to worry that we won't be able to buy a house when the time comes as we no longer have the disposable income to save for a deposit”
“The problem with pay freezes or minimal increases for the lowest paid is that they do nothing to combat the effects of inflation and the increasing costs of energy, food and clothing, particularly for children, who need new shoes every three months. I know that many in the civilian sector are in a similar position of hardship, but Service families are at a disadvantage. We don't have a real choice where we live or serve or the accommodation provided. It's about time that the Pay Review Board got their finger out and gave due recognition that we suffer. I'm concerned about some mates who are ‘singlies’. They are paying about £540 per month to live in substandard accommodation and PAYD is a joke; with the contractors ripping them off if they want a choice other than the basic menu. They're struggling just as we are”Back to top
AFF asked an idealistic question based on an improbable report in The Daily Telegraph which suggested that the MOD had an additional £2.1 billion to spend. AFF is as sceptical as you that any additional funds exist and our tongue-in-cheek question was to gain an unscientific look at where families' priorities lie at a time of financial cuts. You'll be pleased to know that we won't be campaigning on the results but it has given us an idea of what, in an ideal world, your priorities would be. It is unapologetically populist, recognising that to entice everyone to take part we sometimes need to be creative.
AFF still bases its campaigning on real evidence from the concerns you bring us. Our annual AFF survey will take place in May to provide us with up-to-date information for our thirtieth anniversary Conference to ensure that we continue to represent your views.
£2.1 Billion Pound Question
The Daily Telegraph reports that the defence budget has been balanced and an extra £2.1 billion has been found. If true, where should the additional money be spent?
AFF had 42 comments - here is a small selection.
"The uncertainty under which most of us are living at the moment is so undermining for morale in these tough times, that to secure jobs would be a welcome boost. Also, if no further redundancies were made, we retain the numbers needed to ensure that those left are not totally stretched beyond reason"
"This is a disgrace that you are asking us the above questions. Do you think anyone will take you as a serious voice if you ask waffle questions? End the pay freeze? End redundancies? Not nice but required under the new model Army to be formed in 2020. I have lost my faith in the AFF as you seem to becoming an organisation that goes with the populist opinion and pandering to people's moans, who are not always correct or that understand the bigger situation"
"Firstly ensure that our boys are safe when they are on tour. Then virtually rebuild most of the houses as the families of Servicemen [and women] should not be left in houses which the council would not put people in if they were on benefits!"
"Jobs/work and housing are key to any economic climate and making of a better society, the Army is no different. Both provide security for the families and therefore if cut-backs were lessened the burden to the tax-payer and economy would be less over time"
"None of the above - the money should go towards paying off the Nation's debt"Back to top
AFF sought to understand why Army families choose certain lifestyle options. This enabled us to be better placed in helping influence policy decisions and in briefing the press and general public.
In particular to understand why a family might choose to send their children to boarding school rather than live away from their Serving spouse. Or why despite evidence that mobility can cause problems educationally, families choose not to claim CEA and to serve married accompanied? What influences a Service person to settle their family and commute to their unit? How do families decide what is best for them?
There was no 'one size' fits all solution to the questions or the challenges being faced but AFF was very interested in the reasoning behind the decisions that families make.
This survey was completed by 359 respondents. AFF passed the results on to the New Employment Model (NEM) who are looking at reducing mobility for military families. We also used the data to brief the media on the announcement of the results of the CEA enquiry. Click here to download the results.Back to top
On the 1st September 2011, the Army announced the results of the first tranche of redundancies. AFF wanted to hear from all families about how they felt these redundancies affected them. 288 families responded.
From the results, two problems became apparent. One, that families with children undertaking public examinations who had been made compulsorily redundant were struggling to maintain continuity of education at a critical time for their children. Whilst the MOD had made provision for those children undertaking public examinations whilst in boarding school, there is no provision in place for those families who chose not to claim CEA. AFF is lobbying the chain of command for a resolution to this. Secondly, families overseas expressed concern regarding their ability to settle back in the UK and to get time off to undertake interviews etc. AFF is engaging with the chain of command to pass these concerns on.
There was no 'one size' fits all solution to the questions or the challenges being faced but AFF was very interested in the reasoning behind the decisions that families make.
Click here for a full copy of the report.Back to top
In the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published last year, the government made a commitment to develop a New Employment Model (NEM) for Service personnel. The NEM aims to promote greater stability in service life balanced against the needs of defence.
*The NEM programme will seek to maximise stability and reduce dependency on publicly supported accommodation. The Future Accommodation Project (FAP) is one of five project teams reporting into the NEM’s final report for summer 2012.
FAP is developing options for a different approach to the provision of accommodation. AFF was invited with the other families federations to a meeting with FAP, as a result the three federations decided to ask families what they thought about future provision. The RAF Families Federation compiled the questions which AFF has adjusted for our own use. FAP have agreed to take our results into consideration to aid their decision making.
FAP will report their findings in April 2012.
The project considered the definition of a family and so those not currently entitled to accommodation were also asked to complete the survey. There is an assumption that accommodation will continue to be provided for the most mobile personnel and for those overseas.
Single Army personnel were invited to complete the survey as it also affects their future if they plan to stay in the Army.
* Defence Internal Brief Serial: 2011DIB/38 10th May 2011
Click here to download the results of this survey.Back to top
AFF conducted a Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) Survey to allow families to express the importance of CEA to their children and to their commitment to the Armed Forces. The survey was available on our website and was open to families with children younger than eighteen years old. It ran from 4 February 2011 to 16 February 2011 and received 3,204 responses. The survey was produced in response to the ministerial review into CEA and principally their Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) written survey and the huge amount of negative feedback we received from their respondents. The level of response was unprecedented. By allowing families to comment, AFF has collected over 3,400 points of view.
Click here to download the Continuity of Education Allowance survey results.
The results of the Ministerial Review into CEA were released on 13 October 2011. Visit the Continuity of Education Allowance page in the Education and Childcare section to read the report.Back to top
Between February and November 2010, AFF surveyed the experiences and concerns of the families of soldiers deployed on OP HERRICK 12. The aim was to specifically identify issues which may not come to light in a Families’ Continuous Attitude Survey or AFF’s own Families’ Concerns. Where possible to address low-level issues from the perspective of those left behind caring about loved ones, while 4 Mechanised Brigade were in harm’s way in Afghanistan.
The results have revealed a wide disparity in how Army families ‘feel’ before, during and after their brigade was engaged in protracted and well-publicised combat in Helmand. Contributions have been made from families whose soldiers have been significantly physically injured, and from those whose soldiers have been significantly mentally altered as a result of their experiences. The data is presented in three sections; Pre-deployment, Deployment, and Post-Deployment; themes are identified and conclusions drawn together in the summary.
Overall the experiences of families have been positive and they remain supportive of their soldier and unit. They generally empathised with the very difficult situation of unit rear parties, and understood the practicalities of Notification of Casualties (NOTICAS) and the difficulties of providing accurate information in the confusion of combat ops; “praise and thanks can never be enough for all that has been done for my soldier and us as a family”. Others have been less supportive of the whole experience and advised others to; “get divorced and marry a civvie”. There are however, many themes of best practice that emerge throughout the report and it is these that AFF seeks to present as recommendations to the Army, from the families’ perspective.
AFF is currently running an Op Herrick 14 Survey - to take the survey please click here.
For earlier versions please email AFF Central Office: email@example.com for a copy.
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