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Don’t let an overseas posting affect your National Insurance record
Families overseas to see changes to chip and pin services at Forces Post Offices (FPOs)
Army families to avoid excess mortgage fees if posted overseas
Improved mobile phone measures announced for Forces families overseas
Enhancing the overseas offer: a step in the right direction
AFF secures change to student funding for Forces families
Free School Meals for Infant classes overseas
Great news for families overseas with children at university
Good news for families claiming JSA after an overseas posting
SFA charges overseas: more good news for families
Great news for families living overseas
Fantastic news for families - Increased School Children Visits Overseas – AFF in Action
The hidden cost of moving back from overseas
Counting the cost of your overseas posting
If you have accompanied your soldier on an overseas posting, you may have gaps in your National Insurance (NI) contributions record. This could affect your future entitlement to State Pension and other benefits. Read more
Although NI credits are available, AFF is aware that many spouses are not taking advantage of this opportunity to fill any NI gaps they may have.
Class 1 credits
Class 1 credits were introduced in 2010 and are available for any period spent overseas accompanying your soldier since that time.
They can help to protect your entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, as well as the State Pension.
You must apply for the credit before the end of the tax year (5 April) following that in which the overseas posting ends. For example, for a posting ending in June 2016, you’ll need to apply before 5 April 2018.
Class 3 credits
Class 3 credits were introduced on 6 April 2016, and are available for any period spent overseas accompanying your soldier since 1975.
They help to protect your entitlement to the new State Pension, which will be based on your National Insurance record.
You can still apply for this credit even if you are now widowed, divorced or have had your civil partnership dissolved.
Check your record
To check whether you have a gap in your National Insurance record, you can request a State Pension statement at Check your State Pension
From 1 May, there will be changes to the amount British Forces Post Office (BFPO) customers overseas can withdraw using the chip and pin facility. AFF has been in contact with BFPO HQ to understand the rationale behind these changes and you can find out more by clicking here.
Sarah Baade, Chief Executive of AFF, said,
“We understand these limits have been imposed to comply with directives imposed by HM Treasury and we are now working to understand and monitor how these changes will affect families in overseas locations. I would encourage anyone who has concerns to contact their local AFF Co-ordinator so that we are able to collect evidence to help us understand the issues further and raise any concerns up the chain of command.”
AFF is thrilled that after a great deal of campaigning, Army families posted overseas could be able to rent out their homes without facing higher mortgage charges or having to change their existing mortgage deal, saving them time and money.
At present, many Army families who rent out their homes during an overseas posting have to change their residential mortgage to a buy-to-let mortgage, often incurring new product charges and an increased rate of interest. Read more
Support from the big six
The new agreement is with the UK’s big six banks; Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Santander UK, Royal Bank of Scotland and Nationwide. Families will need to check with their mortgage provider as to whether they are a subsidiary of one of the big six or have signed up to this deal as an independent.
The next steps
AFF intends to capitalise on this momentum and will push for this offer to extend to postings within the UK – after all, a move from Sterling to Salisbury can be just as much of an upheaval for families.
Further support from financial sector
AFF continues to report on challenges families face when applying for mortgages s; these include the negative impact of multiple moves, and BFPO addresses. We are working closely with the Armed Forces Covenant team to help encourage our financial institutions to respond to these issues.
Your evidence is vitally important, so, if you are experiencing any difficulties securing or changing a mortgage as a result of Service life, contact our Employment Training Allowances and Money Specialist Laura Lewin at email@example.com
AFF is delighted by the news that Armed Forces families posted overseas will finally be able to suspend their UK mobile phone contracts, under new government plans.
An AFF survey back in 2013 found that 87% of respondents experienced difficulty in being released from a mobile phone contract when posted overseas. Whilst some providers were flexible if Service personnel were deployed on operations, this was not extended to overseas postings or Service families.
With the MOD no longer including phone calls in the Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) this left families who continued to pay for their contract, out of pocket. Read more
Good news for families
Now, mobile phone providers have made commitments as follows:
- Vodafone will enable families to suspend mobile contracts for two years, with separate arrangements in place for those deploying for longer.
- Three will suspend contracts of spouses joining their partners abroad for 12 months. If deployed for longer, a discount will be applied to any termination charges.
- EE will enable families to suspend contracts for 12 months.
- O2 will develop proposals that build on what they already do to help ensure that serving personnel and their families living abroad are not penalised.
These measures include some of AFF’s original suggestions about allowing contracts to be suspended; however, AFF would also like cancellation to be more readily available and is keen to ensure that both suspension and cancellation will come at no cost to the family. AFF also believes that families’ phones should be unlocked to allow continued use while abroad.
Supporting families overseas
The move comes as part of a package of measures being developed by the government to ensure that military families posted abroad are not commercially disadvantaged - one of the issues raised most often by Service personnel and their families.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Our work on commercial disadvantage is a key element of the Armed Forces Covenant, which sets out the relationship between the nation, the government and the Armed Forces.”
Find out more
To learn more about AFF’s work with the Armed Forces Covenant, click here.
Funding has been approved to enhance the overseas offer for Army families. The Defence Board has recognised the importance, not only of having suitably-skilled personnel to undertake overseas assignments, but also of accompanied Service.
The enhancements will take effect from 1 April 2015 and include the increase in School Children’s Visits (SCVs) from three to six. Read more
Over 1,000 of you, in 48 countries, completed our Disturbance Expense (DE) Survey - which directly informed the review into the allowance.
The good news for families moving overseas is that DE has been increased from £1,036 to £1,420. However, the additional rate of £81 per child and the rate for moves within the UK remain unchanged.
The revised overseas rate covers installation of satellite/cable equipment. In areas where the Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) already includes this, LOA will be adjusted accordingly.
Has enough been done?
AFF is pleased that the increased costs associated with an overseas move have finally been recognised.
However, a single rate is unlikely to cover the true costs incurred for families moving to various overseas locations – not just within NW Europe. AFF believes that location-specific DE may have been a fairer solution.
Additionally, the increased rate is only available for the outward journey and doesn’t account for increased costs incurred when moving back from an overseas assignment.
Advance of pay
Personnel, permanently assigned overseas and eligible for an advance of pay, can now request an advance of up to four months’ net pay for ‘additional set-up costs’; however, this can attract an individual liability for tax if the average amount outstanding, plus any other beneficial loans during a tax year, exceeds £10 000. Advancing pay acknowledges the costs associated with an overseas move and AFF is concerned that families could have to do this to set up home in their new location. The subsequent period of living off reduced pay could also prove financially challenging.
Subsistence for travel on assignment in NW Europe
Families assigned to NW Europe can now claim one night’s subsistence, where eligible, whilst in transit.
Duty travel for resettlement training
Your soldier can also now use their resettlement warrants from their overseas duty station to undertake Graduated Resettlement Training (GRT) - this will allow seven return journeys to the UK.
Single and married unaccompanied personnel
Unaccompanied or single personnel, assigned overseas and accommodated in Service Families Accommodation by virtue of their appointment, will now receive DE and Movement & Storage of Personal Effects at accompanied rates.
AFF has highlighted the significant financial implications of undertaking an overseas assignment for some time. The increase in SCV flights is excellent news for families; however, some of the other measures outlined above, whilst undoubtedly a step in the right direction, require careful evaluation against other overseas allowances. AFF will monitor changes to LOA, and will continue to work with policy-makers to ensure you get a fair deal when assigned overseas.
To talk to us about these changes, contact AFF’s UK and Overseas Director on 07795 687930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFF is delighted that, after much campaigning, Service families should now find it easier to enrol on distance learning courses while posted overseas. Read more
In September 2014, the Government announced that state funded schools in England (including academies and free schools) would offer a free lunch to every primary school pupil in Reception class, Year 1 and Year 2. MOD regulations on this have been published and if you are living overseas and have a child in these or equivalent years, then your child is now eligible for free school meals. Read more
Under the authority of the Secretary of State for Defence, MOD Schools provides an educational service, which as far as possible, conforms to that required by the Education Acts in England; as well as taking into account developments in the education systems of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Outlined below are the arrangements for MOD Schools and non-MOD Schools.
MOD Schools that already schedule a formal lunch break will provide a lunchtime meal to all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. This regulation started in September 14.
MOD Schools will comply with the schools food standards that govern all food and drink on offer within the school. Reasonable adjustments will be made for pupils with special dietary requirements.
Since the infant free school meals was introduced in Scotland, the MoD took the decision to allow all overseas personnel to be entitled to infant free school meals from April 15.v In non-MOD Schools overseas, pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 or their national equivalent are entitled to a free school meal. In some locations, due to local conditions/restrictions, the school may not be able to provide meals. The following is a direct quote from the rules that should cover most circumstances:
- Where a meal is provided by the school and the costs are borne by the parent, a refund of actuals is admissible.
- Where a meal is provided by the school and the costs are not borne by the parent, no refund is admissible.
- Where a meal cannot be provided by the school, and the cost of providing a meal for the child is borne by the parent, a refund is admissible.
- Where the school provides a meal but the parent declines a school meal on their child’s behalf, no refund is admissible. Unless the school meal does not cater for the child’s specific dietary needs such as vegetarian, Halal, Kosher. (A child simply preferring to take a packed lunch as they do not like the school meal does not qualify as a specific dietary reason and a refund is not admissible.)
- Where the meal forms part of the school fees, which the parent has already been remunerated for, no refund is admissible.
- Claims can be made in arrears up to 1 April 15.
Currently, only schools in Naples are not in a position to provide school meals. Until they can, specific arrangements for the refund of packed lunches have been made and parents can get this information via the school.
How to claim
Please contact CEAS in the first instance on +44 (0)1982 61 8244 or at email@example.com
You will need to submit an authorisation form to CEAS and once you have this authorisation, you can use the claim form to claim back the costs from your local administration unit.
There are published rates in the regulations for a selection of overseas locations, and CEAS will advise further if your location is not on this list.
AFF is pleased to publish the findings from our most comprehensive overseas survey to date, which looked at the whole of your overseas experience. The survey had 438 responses from 40 countries. Read more
We are delighted to announce that SCV flights for children in tertiary education have increased from one return journey to three return journeys per academic year. Read more
AFF is delighted with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announcement that spouses and children (up to 21 years) returning to the UK after accompanying Service personnel on overseas assignments, will be exempted from the three month residence rule required to claim income-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Read more
The Combined Accommodation Assessment System (CAAS) for families living in Service Families Accommodation (SFA) will be implemented in April 2016. Read more
AFF is thrilled that, after much campaigning, Contribution in lieu of council tax (CILOCT) is to be removed from all overseas postings. Read more
AFF is delighted to announce that the number of School Children’s Visits available for families assigned overseas has doubled. Provision will increase from 3 return journeys per year to 6, from 1 April 2015. It is important to note that a condition of the allowance is that a parental contribution will be made to each SCV. Read more
The hidden cost of moving back from overseas
Living abroad and want to use the Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) Scheme? Read more
AFF recently closed its survey on Disturbance Expense and we owe you a huge thank you!
Incredibly, over 1,000 of you took part over the past week or so from 47 countries spanning six continents – from the USA to Malaysia to South Africa. Read more