AFF Conference 2012 Questions & Answers


We have started to compile the list of questions and answers from the AFF Conference. We will be adding to the list as the answers become available.

Question Categories

Allowances
Housing
Education
Welfare Support
Redundancy
TA
Miscellaneous

 

ALLOWANCES

(Added 30 Nov) Q. I've been informed that if you move to another Service Families Accommodation (SFA) within fifty miles of your current SFA, you’re not entitled to Disturbance Allowance (DA). If this is indeed the case, then I think this is a cost-cutting measure that’s gone too far. Families do not want to be out-of-pocket when they move. Many postings revolve around ‘super-garrisons’ and families have no choice but to move ten, twenty or thirty miles away when they’re posted, which would mean changing schools, buying new uniform etc, let alone all the other costs associated with a house move. This is a measure that seems to erode the last bit of goodwill Army families have left to give.
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Q. Why should a family who choose to send their children to boarding school, receive what is in essence a more substantial salary than someone who does not send their children? As an example, a family sending four children to board aged 7-18 would receive over the educational time of their private education, not far off £1m! How does the military explain this as fair? With far more military families choosing to live in their own home with commuting partners, why are families not made to pay a much higher proportion of the educational fees? With officers being the majority of those using the CEA system, surely it's a bit lopsided and propping up those at the top end of the ladder (and my husband is an officer by the way). Perhaps allowance should be means tested so that families earning over a certain amount get much lower allowances than those who earn below that threshold?
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Q.  How does the LOA review work? Why is it that clothing comparison rates are done by comparing clothes bought in Marks & Spencer in the UK? Even when living in the UK we cannot afford to clothe our children from Marks & Spencer - my children’s and most of our clothes come from Asda or Tesco.

LOA used to be a perk when posted overseas. It now costs us more money to live here, and the LOA just keeps going down. I don’t want my husband to be separated from his family, but something will have to give. It’s not fair. Click here to show answer

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Q.  I am disgusted that the MOD is removing the London Allowance from Senior NCOs. The current rate is £1,400 a year. It is intended to compensate for factors which make serving in London a less attractive posting for Service personnel. By removing it, I believe this is a case of indirect discrimination, defined as ‘when a working condition or rule disadvantages one group of people more than another.’ My husband, a Sergeant, is now £452 worse off than a Corporal – surely part of the incentive for gaining promotion is also financial reward.

The Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) report does not endorse the changes. It states that the AFPRB has been unable to review the Recruitment and Retention Allowance (London) (RRA(L)) because of insufficient evidence from the MOD. On visits to London, the AFPRB said that they heard strong views from Service personnel, who considered this a divisive measure and unfair, as all ranks faced the same issues. Some of those who lose RRA(L) will also be affected by other allowance reductions such as Home to Duty Travel and Food and Incidentals Allowance, resulting in a significant total reduction in disposable income. The AFPRB report also notes that the change will cancel out much of the five per cent pay increase on promotion from Corporal to Sergeant, and that the change may make it harder for the MOD to attract high calibre personnel to staff positions in central London.

The MOD can dress it up as an allowance and not part of your annual salary, but the fact remains that as a Sergeant, my husband now has a £72 per month reduction in his salary. The Strategic Defence and Security Review proposed a two year pay freeze, not a pay cut.

AND

Q.  The reason for taking away Recruitment and Retention Allowance (London) (RRA(L)) for Sergeants and above was given that we have lower cost accommodation, access to free gyms and live close to our workplace. That’s fair enough for Service families that live in SFA, but what about those people that have their own accommodation, mortgages, higher council taxes and added travel costs? In real terms this is a pay cut as we have already had a pay freeze for the last three years. How long will it before we see a pay rise?
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Housing

(Added 30 Nov) Q.  DIO’s Military Chain of Command Charter seems a pointless exercise at grass roots level as I have no influence, am unable to even speak to the HASC (and we have tried to build bridges), and in terms of offering specific details on customers and their circumstances it seems to have no weight. The staff at the HASC are not empowered or do not have the flexibility to make decisions regarding the regulations. Can it be possible to remove any responsibility from UWOs regarding SFA, grounds maintenance etc and make it clear to the customer (through a customer charter) that they liaise directly with DIO (the landlord) OR empower UWOs to act on behalf of Service personnel and their families?
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(Added 30 Nov) Q.  It was easy to find the word 'customer' on the DIO web pages; also 'customer guides' and 'customer services' but although there is a Military Chain of Command Charter there is no customer charter.
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(Added 30 Nov) Q.  Why is there such a housing shortage everywhere? It’s stressful enough moving without having the worry of being housed miles away from camp and away from other military people.
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(Added 30 Nov) Q.  Why does it take so long for removals to get from one place to another? If I can do a drive to NI in one day via Scotland when I live in the south of England (travelling just over 400 miles in a day), why with a two-person removal does it take up to ten working days? I understand that they have to stick to limitations on driving hours, but the timeframe seems far too long and many people don't have anyone to stay with and end up having to pay for hotels out of their own money.
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(Added 30 Nov) Q.  Housing repairs need to be done faster; I have been waiting for a new wall for the past year.
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(Added 30 Nov) Q. With the reorganisation of the Housing Information Centres (HICs) and the inevitable issues that have caused delays, should Service personnel be penalised for Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s (DIO’s) bad admin? JSP requirements are not being met and if a Service person failed in this way there would be consequences – will there be compensation?
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(Added 29 Oct) Q. Which of the following takes precedence: Extract from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) home page: ‘Our Armed Forces and their families deserve the best possible facilities in which to live, work and prepare for operations, within the current financial situation. A single infrastructure organisation will provide effective support to our military personnel and better strategic management of the Defence Estate.’ Quote from Dr Liam Fox MP (former Secretary of State for Defence): ‘It should also deliver significant savings in running costs, increase opportunities for estate rationalisation, and promote private sector growth - ultimately delivering better value for money to the taxpayer while giving the Armed Forces what they need.’ Seems to be a bit of a paradox…
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(Added 29 Oct) Q. Can UWOs access to Optitime be reinstated? We are no longer granted access to the document on the grounds of Data Protection. Optitime was a very useful document in the delivery of support to incoming and outgoing families. We now have two systems in place which aim to identify postings in and out and those applying for SFA. This was all well and good when we submitted hard copies of applications, but with the introduction of the electronic e1132 we don’t have sight of who is coming and going.

There was limited (if any) consultation regarding the removal of Optitime and seemingly no assessment as to how a solution could be found which would certify UWOs as suitable recipients under Data Protection. As I understand it, local DIO Housing Officers are in receipt of this information but UWOs, who have a far greater code of confidentiality, not to mention being SC cleared, do not!
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Q. What is the MOD’s long-term plan with regards to military housing? Is there a plan to eventually sell off all the houses and for families to buy their own? If that is the case then are families expected to have long-term separation from their partners?

AND

 Q. With regards to the withdrawal of Service Families Accommodation (SFA), what is the process of discussion and what are the options? If it goes ahead, when will it be introduced and how long will it take to implement? What provisions will be in place for those families who may not be in a position to buy their own home or even rent at current market rates?
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Q. My husband will complete his 22 years’ service in the RAMC next year. I was shocked to discover that after all this time serving that we were not entitled to a removals service to settle us in our final post. We are moving within the UK. What a lovely way to NOT help you when it’s one of the most stressful times ever. As if moving home, changing careers and finding schools are not difficult enough, you have to do it with no help at all. After all we as a family have given to the Forces you'd think the least they could do was ensure you were moved with ease!
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Education

Q. Why are families and children of school age not taken into consideration when postings are put forward?
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Q.  What is the Government doing to ensure that the Pupil Premium for military children is being spent appropriately? Whilst head teachers are happy to receive funds, some are not engaging with Service families despite our best efforts. If schools were required to provide evidence of where the money is being spent this would give Service families some leverage.
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Welfare Support

Q.  Will our unit send out information for Families’ Days? We have never been sent any information and I feel my sons have lost out. Do you think that welfare units could work together so all children can be treated the same?
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Q.  Why is the Army no longer supporting families? My husband had been deployed on Op Herrick twice in the last two years with two different units. Both times I didn't receive any correspondence.
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Q.  Not really a question, more an observation! As an Army spouse, I have spent the majority of my married life living on RAF stations due to my husband’s postings and the availability of housing! We get a copy of the AFF Journal posted through our door, but I always feel very isolated from the anything ‘Army’ related. AFF Roadshows are held in areas with a high concentration of Army families such as Bulford/Tidworth or Catterick, and during school hours which means that getting to them is not really possible and would require an overnight stay - which then brings up the childcare issue. I'm fortunate that I'm involved in SSAFA and know where I can turn for advice, but I'm aware that for some new Army spouses if this is their first experience of Army life, then it's not always a good start - especially as RAF life can be very different from life on an Army barracks. Are there any plans for more availability of AFF events or even advertising/reps around areas that, although predominately RAF, do have a high number of Army personnel?
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REDUNDANCY

(Added 29 Oct) Q.  How many Service personnel appealed against redundancy in Tranche 1 and 2 and how many were successful?
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TA

(Added 30 Nov) Q.  Under FR20, the TA and Reserves will make up thirty per cent of the Army’s deployable force. How will AFF support the growing number of Reserve soldiers’ families?
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Q.  I am in the TA and was injured in August 2010. I will be medically discharged from the TA next year. My question is why doesn’t anybody have information for injured TA soldiers? I have no idea what the pension will be, and I’m not entitled to any training to go into a civilian job as I’m not a Regular soldier. I have been away from work for more than two years and the office where I worked has now closed down. I thought it was one Army where Regulars and TA are equal.
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Miscellaneous

Q.  Why are Masters Degrees for BMS under threat? Is it a natural progression for career development?
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Q.  Why do we not have a Government department for Forces veterans to ensure they are supported post retirement?
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Q.  Non-Regular Permanent Staff (NRPS) officers and soldiers are getting fewer. They are not paid the x factor, unlike their regular counterparts, as they are only deployable in the event of a national emergency. Some of them have to travel considerable distance to get to their place of work. Home to Duty Travel was stopped for those working outside inner London back in December 2010, and they also currently have no entitlement to Service provided accommodation. Due to the limited number of NRPS75 remaining, would it be such a strain on resources for an NRPS entitlement to Single Living Accommodation to be made an entitlement in JSP 752, especially as most NRPS work long hours and at weekends.
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Q.  What exactly is it the Army expect from spouses? We are often told that we provide support for the soldiers and that we play an important part in our soldier’s life. Yet the Army seem too often to reject us completely by paying us no attention when our partners are deployed and raising issues with our partners if it's felt that we have ‘spoken out of turn’. Many of the families I have spoken to wish the military would involve them more, especially considering they give up so much to follow their soldier around the country, and sometimes even abroad.
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Q.  It is alleged that many ‘bottom third’ soldiers were able to find op tours to ensure that they were excluded from the most recent round of redundancy. Has Army command graded all personnel to see just how many escaped due to the operational exclusion which meant better quality personnel had to be sacked in their place. How will they prevent this from happening next time?
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