Latest News & Information


On this page:

24 Oct - No move on top grade house prices
22 Oct - The Big Debate 2014: unravelling the day
22 Oct - Get ready for the new SFA contract this November
17 Oct - Ebola Virus Disease Q&A
15 Oct - Update on rebasing
13 Oct - Ebola Virus Disease
02 Oct - New support service for carers in the Forces community
02 Oct - Tackling rebasing: AFF Germany hits the road
26 Sept - How will changes to the Army affect your family?
25 Sept - Looking after your SFA
23 Sept - Making buses our business
22 Sept - Publication of the Royal British Legions’ Manifesto 2015
22 Sept - Special Educational Needs reform
Habitual Residency Test: a fair deal for families
Free school lunches for Service children overseas
Does your child’s surname differ from yours?
AFF Press Release
Big Debate 2014: spotlight on employment
What does Army life mean to you? Share your views at AFF’s Big Debate
It pays to join the Army Reserve!
Provision of school buses in Cyprus
Army families give AFF the big picture
Great news for Army families living in their own home
Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces - give your feedback
Headline findings from the NEM Consultation
Armed Forces Covenant achievements celebrated
Good news for Service voters
Army families: funding is available for your child’s school!
No more routine pre move-out appointments
Struggling to get help to buy?
Army family, own home: the big issues
New Employment Model Myth Buster

 

No move on top grade house prices

AFF is relieved to hear that the top level of SFA costs will not change. So if you live in a grade one house the price of your accommodation will not increase. We were aware of price increases for many in the middle grades but we are pleased to hear that this is capped at all levels. For soldiers the price increase will not be more than £30 a month. However, we remain concerned that increases of costs are disproportionate to income increases. Even at £30 per month this will often equate to a 10% increase in housing cost against a 1% pay increase. For our families on low incomes every pound counts and when you are living on the margins what seems like a small increase makes an unwelcome difference. We have raised our concerns Min DPWV and with the Army Pay Review Board.

Nevertheless, we welcome the new categories being used to grade housing. It is a step forward to identify the needs of a modern family for example access to good quality broadband is more relevant than proximity to a phone box. We also welcome the efforts to tackle mould and hope this will be a criteria when grading a house.

For more information please review the Army’s information sheet.

Families if you have concerns please contact us at housing@aff.org.uk - we are here to help you. 

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The Big Debate 2014: unravelling the day

AFF Big DebateWith an initial buzz created by the well-attended Jobs fair, the Big Debate 2014 began with a warm welcome from Compere, Patrick Eade.

Welfare officers, military and of course Army families all battled the elements to come and get much-needed answers to their burning questions.

Influencing work across defence

AFF Chief Executive, Catherine Spencer, spoke frankly to families about the impact the Army review has had in terms of redundancy, rebasing and the Army Reserve.

She explained that: “Many of the policy changes which we’ve [AFF] secured will genuinely make life better for Army Families.”

She acknowledged that Army spouses need the chance to forge their own careers – as a fail-safe if for no other reason: “despite chequered CVs they [the non-serving partner] can offer diverse skills to an employer” 

Jobs fair 

The jobs fair was a motivating mix of employers, training providers and organisations that support soldiers and their families in a range of ways.

Among the stand holders where Skanska, Big Debate’s gold sponsor. AFF asked Resourcing Partner at Skanska, Pam Ware, what they were hoping to share with those visiting their stand. Pam revealed that they are due to announce 2,000 new jobs over the next two years. She added: “Soldiers leaving the Army, and their partners too, can bring important qualities to an employer including discipline and commitment - together with the right education in how to best present their CVs, they make for excellent employees.”

What’s your question?

AFF Big DebateThere were three lively question and answer sessions. The first focussed on ‘your future’ and invoked a number of questions of the panel – chaired by Jill Misson - around housing and the future of SFA once rebasing has taken hold. 

Questions ranged from what the MOD is doing to ensure adequate infrastructure in rebasing areas to making appointments for SFA repairs more convenient. 

A second session focussed on ‘your job’; many of you shared your struggles including moving a business each time you are posted - if self-employed – and the difficulties in obtaining a work permit if posted overseas.

AFF Big DebateOn the panel was Ren Kapur, Founder and CEO of X-Forces. AFF caught up with Ren to discover her key secret to success for any fledgling business. Ren explained: “Know your customers - market well! Confidence comes with time but understanding what your audience wants is the key for making your business viable.” 

A final Q&A session was an open debate and questions were wide ranging from discrepancies in NHS waiting lists, to the Ebola outbreak which some soldiers have already been deployed to help tackle.

Rewarding great work

Two prestigious awards were presented: The Employer of the Year award was presented by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester to Enterprise Rent-a Car and after lunch, the Community award was presented by AFF Chair of Trustees, Caroline Buchanan, to The University of Wolverhampton for their business start-up course aimed at military dependants.

AFF spoke to Ruth Moore, Client Liaison Manager at Irwin Mitchell – kind sponsors of the award. Ruth said: “We are really pleased to sponsor the Community award. The University of Wolverhampton are worthy winners – their work is outstanding and is a great opportunity for many Army families.”

Key speakers 

There were three key speakers, Adjutant General Lt Gen Berragan, Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Nick Carter and Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Anna Soubry MP.

AFF Big DebateAnna gave a refreshing speech and was open and honest about her role as Minister and her thoughts about AFF and Army families in general. She described AFF as “supporting those in need and getting things done,” a candid review rounded up with a challenge for AFF to increase its role as a pressure group - holding councillors and politicians to account.

She showed her support for the Army families and the role they often endure, saying: “It is the unstinting support, courage and determination of you – the families – that enables our Servicemen and women to carry out their duties so effectively.”

“I am genuinely impressed by your strength and stoicism and while you may feel like the unsung heroes, I want you to be assured that, certainly in the MOD and at a Ministerial level, you are absolutely recognised for all that you do.”

A word from the top

During his speech, Lt Gen Berragan echoed this sentiment and directly thanked Army spouses for the role they play, he rightly admitted: “a happy family normally means a happy soldier.”

Our third key speaker, Gen Carter, spoke about the Army structure with the aim of providing useful context for families when digesting what they had heard throughout the day.

Dispelling the myths

AFF spoke to many families during the course of the day. One Army spouse, who had travelled over from Northern Ireland for the occasion, agreed that it had dispelled many of the myths that had worried her. It was also a stark reminder of the emotion that accompanies the many issues that families face – whatever they may be.

The day was a huge success for AFF and we hope those who attended felt able to share their experiences ask their questions and meet others who also consider themselves part of the Army family.

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Get ready for the new SFA contract this November

Are you living in the UK and in a Military Quarter (SFA)? Please read on!

Don’t forget a new maintenance and repair contract comes into place on 1st November. Everyone in the UK is switching to the same service provider – CarillionAmey and the number to call to book an appointment is 0800 707 6000.  

For full contact details and more information click here.

There will also be changes to the move-in and move-out procedures; the families guide explains everything you need to know.

Cat Calder explains “It’s very important that you read the families guide as there are changes to your responsibilities when taking over an SFA - make sure you are clear on these if you are moving soon. If you have read the guide and still have a question please contact me, at housing@aff.org.uk

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Ebola Virus Disease Q&A

AFF is fully aware that families have some very understandable concerns about their loved ones imminent deployment to Sierra Leone and the possible risk of them catching Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). We have asked the chain of command to answer some questions so that you are as well informed as possible about this deployment. This information follows the current guidance and policy but in this International Public Health Emergency this is ever evolving. Click here for the Q&As

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Update on rebasing

Getting rebasing right is a priority across defence.

Everything from housing to health care to education is being meticulously planned by the Army Basing Team and overseen by Major General Alastair Dickinson, Director General Basing and Infrastructure.  

Update on rebasingThe number of Army children in Germany, and units across the UK, has been fed into the Department of Education and local authorities to estimate the number of additional pupils likely to need school places as a result of ‘the big move’ from Germany; further work has taken place on transport and anything else which needs accounting for when additional Forces and their families move into an area. 

Will I have a house? 

This is a popular and understandable question. While the location of units was determined, a study of how many additional houses are needed was undertaken by the MOD and Defence Infrastructure Organisation; building is now well under-way in many areas.

AFF has had excellent access to the decision makers, the Army Basing Team, DIO, UK Support Command and HQ BFG to ensure that the needs of you, the Army families, have been considered in the process, and can say that those involved are dedicated to getting rebasing right.

However, we must also be realistic that this is a massive project – ambitious and challenging - and there may be stumbling blocks.

A recent instruction from the Army to commanders stated:
‘Our people should know that the Army is determined to gain the optimum outcome from the Army Basing Programme but this will take time and will require patience from us all. We will hold the DIO to account for structures and the men and women we serve.’

Keeping you in the loop

We are confident that in Germany, command are working hard to ensure that services remain for families enjoying the last few years and that in the UK, all avenues are explored to get it right – but as a community we will need to be empathetic to the task given to the MOD if things don’t go quite as planned.

Bad weather, legal, environmental or commercial challenges are potential hazards to the carefully decided time-line but AFF will work with command to understand any issues and communicate with the MOD and families to ensure as little disruption as possible.

Consider your future

AFF’s Big Debate, 21 October, has a whole session dedicated to your future – covering the truth about rebasing, the Forces Help to Buy scheme, the New Employment Model and a chance to have your housing questions answered by the experts.

Not yet registered? There’s still time - see the Big Debate pages

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Ebola Virus Disease

With the current media coverage of the continuing spread of Ebola virus disease and the recent announcement of 750 troops being deployed to Sierra Leone, we understand that families must have concerns. We are keeping up to date with the latest developments and have been assured that the chain of command will be releasing some specific information on this deployment for families in the very near future. As soon as we have any further information we will make it available to you.

How is Ebola Virus Disease transmitted?

Ebola spreads through direct human-to-human contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people. It can also be transmitted through contact with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. Infection generally does not occur through routine, social contact (such as shaking hands) with individuals who do not have any symptoms. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms.

Most people are infected when they are giving care to infected people, either by directly touching the victim's body or by cleaning up body fluids (stools, urine or vomit) that carry infectious blood. People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 3 months after recovery from illness.

Who is at risk?

People who care for an infected person or who handle the blood or fluid samples of an infected person are at risk of becoming infected. Family members and healthcare workers are at greatest risk. Strict infection control procedures and wearing protective clothing minimises this risk. Simply washing hands frequently with soap and water (or using alcohol rubs when soap isn’t available) can destroy the virus. It is also important that people don't handle dead animals or their raw meat or eat bush meat, they avoid contact with people who have symptoms and make sure fruit and vegetables are washed and peeled before eating.

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools).

For further information on Ebola virus disease and deployment to Sierra Leone

www.gov.uk/government/collections/ebola-virus-disease-clinical-management-and-guidance 
www.nathnac.org/pro/clinical_updates/ebola_westafrica_101014.htm 
www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ 
www.army.mod.uk/news/26592.aspx  

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New support service for carers in the Forces community

The Army Families Federation (AFF) is delighted that The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) has awarded a grant to deliver and evaluate a pilot online-support service to carers and families of people suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) in the Armed Forces community.

Helping you care for your loved one

The online service, facilitated by Wiltshire Mind and run by Healios in collaboration with AFF, will enable carers to easily access resources to improve their understanding of mental health difficulties and gain some of the skills needed to care for their loved ones. This service will be particularly important for those making the transition from military to civilian life.

AFF is very keen to support families which include someone suffering from mental health issues and were pleased to be involved with the bid for this project.

We recognise that caring for a loved one who has SMI can be incredibly difficult; you may feel isolated, helpless and struggle to know how best to provide, or get, support. Many people find it difficult, or are unable, to access appropriate support services.

Will you get involved?

If you are over 18 years, based in Wiltshire or the surrounding counties and currently looking after a family member with SMI, why not take part in the pilot of this new service?

SMI includes:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Find out more

For more information, contact Karen Ross at additonalneeds@aff.org.uk  

To pre-register for the project, contact Hannah Wiseman, at Healios, by telephone +44 (0) 3303 350 603 or email: info@healios.org  

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Tackling rebasing: AFF Germany hits the road

AFF’s Germany roadshows are in full swing with Army families turning out to ask your questions and get the answers you need to allay your worries and concerns about the big move – rebasing. 

From housing to healthcare, employment to education, we’ve got it all covered to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Facing rebasing together

Families from a variety of circumstances will face the move together with some family members having never before lived in England.

Speaking from Hohne, on the first day of our three-day event, Catherine Spencer, Chief Executive of AFF, said: “We are confident as an organisation that there’s an enormous amount of work being done across Defence – within Army HQ in Andover, within the MOD in London and then within local authorities specifically in the areas we are rebasing to.”

“We must encourage families to get involved with their community – and involved in the community that’s outside of the Army, which can offer some really rich environments.”

Committed to families

Taking your questions and listening to your views was our panel of experts including Catherine Spencer, Diane Weir - AFF Director Germany and Colonel Andrew Reynolds, Garrison Commander of Bergen, Hohne Garrison.

Speaking to Forces TV, who covered the event in Hohne, Col Reynolds said: “It’s really important that we can reassure them [Army families] that we are absolutely committed to making sure our services here are properly maintained to the end, and that we are here to support them.” Watch the full Forces TV report at frces.tv/nsms5U 

Contact AFF Germany at germany@aff.org.uk for more information. 

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How will changes to the Army affect your family?

Your future, your sayThe Army is going through some big changes; wouldn’t you like to know how they will affect your life as an Army family?

Come and hear the latest from the Army’s most senior officers and from Anna Soubry, the Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, at an event for anyone with a husband, wife or partner in the Army.

AFF’s Big Debate

The Army Families Federation’s biennial conference, the Big Debate, takes place on Tuesday 21 October, 10.30am – 4.30pm at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL.

This FREE one-day event is your opportunity to discuss your future with others affected by the same issues and concerns, and put your questions to those at the top.

Focus on your future

Are you affected by – or worried about – rebasing, the move to super garrisons, the New Employment Model or changes to Army pensions?

We recently encouraged our Facebook followers to ‘Ask AFF’ and you didn’t disappoint! From welfare for reservist families to what’s really going to happen to the cost of your SFA, you shared your worries and frustrations.

One Army spouse asked: “We have our own home but have been posted overseas; why can't we get a council tax discount?”

All of our AFF Specialists will be at the Big Debate ready to take on your queries and use their knowledge and expertise to fight your corner and, where relevant, lobby for change. Housing, foreign &commonwealth, education, money and more – we’ve got it all covered to help make your future a little brighter!

Don’t miss out

Take the first step to a better future for your family.

To secure your place, enjoy a free buffet lunch and make the most of the day, visit our Big Debate webpage.

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Looking after your SFA

CarillionAmey logoYour new housing service is coming soon and it’s really important that you’re aware of the upcoming changes.

A new contract to support Service Family Accommodation (SFA) across the UK is being introduced in November and December, and will bring changes to the way the service is delivered to you, the families.

A new streamlined system

CarillionAmey, on behalf of DIO, will deliver the service and act as a one-stop-shop for all housing issues including:

  • managing the applications systems and allocations (instead of the HASC)
  • move-in, move-out and pre-move out appointments
  • maintenance
  • improvement work
  • provision of SFA furniture

This should give a much more streamlined system for your family.

What to expect

There will be one national helpdesk and telephone number which will cover maintenance and allocations, as well as local customer service centres and a new website which will continue to be developed with the intention of allowing you to report maintenance issues online (this will come in at a later date).

Details will follow in leaflets, booklets, online and through your soldier’s chain of command – some of which will come from CarillionAmey directly.

AFF will continue to update you of all changes so that you know what to expect.

Putting you in control

Customers will also be expected to take a greater role in the process, giving you the power to sign off work such as agreeing that CarillionAmey is meeting the required standards at Move In, or that repair work has been completed; you will be given guidance to help you do this.

It is VERY important that you familiarise yourself with your responsibilities as soon as possible - AFF will publicise more detail about this as soon as we can.

When will the new process begin?

The changes will take effect on 1 November in Scotland and Northern Ireland for maintenance/repairs and also for UK wide housing allocations; maintenance/repairs in England and Wales and the provision of SFA furniture will go live on 1 December.

Want to know more?

We know that you will have questions so please look out for further information in the coming months about how the service will be delivered, how to continue to access services and what your responsibilities will be to help the contract function effectively.

For more information about SFA, contact AFF Housing Specialist, Cat Calder, on housing@aff.org.uk

Click here for the information leaflet.

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Making buses our business

AFF asked you, the families of BFC, to tell us your views on the forthcoming changes to school buses in the area; independent of the chain of command, we were not involved or consulted on the initial decision to reduce the school bus provision across the island.

We took your comments, both negative and positive, straight to the top - the Transport Review Team - and as a result the Chief of Staff has released a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Representing your views

AFF is pleased that some of your constructive comments and suggestions are to be considered further; these include:

  • initiatives to develop road safety awareness
  • a review of opening times for crèches
  • breakfast clubs
  • walking buses
  • flexible working conditions

We encourage the local communities throughout BFC to get involved with supporting these initiatives.

Opposing opinions 

We are disappointed that, despite providing evidence of concerns relating to traffic management, and increased risks around the drop off/pick up areas and car parks of the primary school entrances, the response from HQ BFC is that: “As parents are discouraged from driving their children to school it is not intended to make changes to drop off or parking areas at school entry points at the moment. However, this and other aspects will be monitored and any issues addressed as they arise.” 

Many of you have already told AFF that you will not be walking to school as, in excessive weather conditions, this will have a negative impact on your child’s education and wellbeing - and on your family’s quality of life; therefore an increase in traffic may be the consequence.

Seeking something similar to the UK

Families indicated that they are willing to pay for a school bus service similar to in the UK. This is a key area of frustration relating to MOD policy which states that charges cannot be made for MOD provided transport. AFF will push for this policy to be reviewed as part of the work on the ‘Cyprus Offer’ since there are severely limited public transport options in BFC.

Chain of command also stated that BFC will not be responsible for establishing another bus contract, highlighting that there is an opportunity to apply for a business licence to provide a service within the SBA.

We recognise that it is probably not feasible for any individual within BFC to set up this type of service as we are such a transient population and it could involve significant set-up costs. Instead, the provision of ‘pay as you go’ transport could have a significant positive impact on the BFC community gaining access to employment, training and leisure facilities.

Have your say

There will be further information provided over the coming weeks.

If you have any questions or comments relating to the FAQs, then contact AFF Cyprus at rmcyprus@aff.org.uk or call 00357 2596 2289.  

AFF will continue to voice your concerns, to push for answers from BFC and to represent you, the families of BFC.

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Publication of the Royal British Legions’ Manifesto 2015

AFF welcomes the publication of the Royal British Legions’ Manifesto 2015. It has well-considered policy recommendations for both veterans and the serving population. We particularly welcome the recommendation that all Armed Forces widows should retain their pension and that spouses are to be included in the resettlement support. The Armed Forces Covenant is making some good progress in removing disadvantage – however we must continue to consider areas of service where provision for our serving families needs to be above that of the civilian population to ensure that the outcome is the same. AFF has recently published our own policy recommendations, click here to download.

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Special Educational Needs reform

Does your child have Special Education Needs (SEN)?

SEN assessment and support in England has changed. AFF has gathered information to help you in this new process; so whether you have already been assessed, or think your child should be assessed, read on to see how the changes will affect your family.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) replacing SEN statements 

On the 1 September 2014, statements for children and young people under 16, and learning difficulty assessments for young people over 16, were replaced by a single integrated education, health and care plan (EHCP) from 0 to 25 years.

This should ensure that all local agencies for education, health and social care work together to meet your needs and stop parents having to undergo repeated assessments with different agencies; it should also improve the transition process for young people when they leave school. For more details download our info sheet.

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Habitual Residency Test: a fair deal for families

Did you know that anyone moving to the UK, who is a European Economic Area (EEA) national, has to meet the conditions of the Habitual Residency Test which is designed to prove whether you have a right to claim certain benefits.

This test is also carried out on some UK nationals who have been living or working abroad.

How could this affect me?

This could affect your ability to claim contribution-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for the first three months after your return to the UK from overseas.

Since 1 January 2014, a claimant cannot be habitually resident during their first three months’ residence and it has come to AFF’s attention that some Service families moving back from an overseas posting are being affected by this new rule.

We are working with the Armed Forces Covenant team and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to resolve this unfair disadvantage; our aim is that Service families be exempt from this new three month rule.

Has this already affected you?

Have you been told by Jobcentre Plus that you are not ‘habitually resident’ for the first three months of being back in the UK? Tell us your experience - contact our Employment Training Allowances & Money Specialist, Caroline Mayne, at etam@aff.org.uk or 07799 045955. 

For further information on the Habitual Residency Test, please click here.

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Free school lunches for Service children overseas

Does your little one attend a Service Children’s Education (SCE) School at your overseas posting?

All children in reception years one and two will now receive a FREE lunch in line with the Government’s decision to provide free school meals to eligible children in England.

This initiative is just one way in which SCE Schools, on behalf of the MOD, are working to ensure that Service children are not disadvantaged; for schools in hot climates, where a hot lunchtime meal is not ideal, packed lunches will be provided.

SCE Schools comply with the Schools Food Standards which govern all food and drink on offer within the school and it is hoped that this arrangement will go a long way to ensure that children get the nutrition they need during the school day – as well as saving you money!

Based in Cyprus?

SCE Schools in BFC have extended the school day by 15 minutes for key stage one children to accommodate this change; there is no official lunchtime at schools in this area.

The BFC dental team and dietician are working with Sodexo to ensure your child will receive a balanced chilled snack.

Want to know more?

For more information, contact your child’s school Head Teacher or email DCYP-DCYP-Mailbox@mod.uk  

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Does your child’s surname differ from yours?

Concerns over child trafficking have led to new legislation giving UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers responsibility for checking that there is a genuine and legal link between the child and the parent/guardian where surnames differ. This is for both military and civilian flights.

If you are due to fly with your child, be aware that you may be asked about your relationship to them, especially if you have a different surname.

We recommend you carry a copy of your child’s birth certificate; without such evidence, the immigration officer may talk to both you and your child depending on their age, to satisfy them self of the relationship.

For more information, contact the Joint Booking Centre (JBC) – your soldier can do this on the Army intranet. Or contact our overseas director overseas@aff.org.uk for further information.  

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AFF Press Release

The Army Families Federation (AFF) has hosted a successful reception at the Honourable Artillery Company headquarters, London, to recognise the important work we undertake with the MOD, wider government and private and third sector organisations. Amongst those present was AFF’s patron, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, and the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson.  

The event, kindly sponsored by Skanska, gave AFF a chance to thank the broad range of organisations and people we work with. Catherine Spencer, AFF Chief Executive, shared a candid review of the impact of Army 2020, rebasing and redundancy on Army families.

Focussing on two key issues: affordable childcare supporting dual-serving parents and working spouses, and soldier’s pay - she stated that the nation’s commitment to Army families is “judged by the families by their standard of living,” adding that “increasing the stagnant pay packet must be the main effort.

AFF’s role in planning for the future Army is to scrutinise every initiative and continue to inform at all levels. Catherine reiterated that “we need to design the fabric of a society that we would wish to be part of,” - failure to do so will lead to retention issues. She also stressed the holistic nature of looking after Army families and clarified how AFF meets those needs at all levels and across a range of issues.

Covenant Signing Sept 2014 Thanking the military for their sincere commitment to maintaining dialogue with AFF, even when the evidence and requests run contrary to their own plans, she stressed the importance of the Armed Forces Covenant, the Community Covenant and the Corporate Covenant - essential in levelling the playing field and removing discrimination faced by Army families due to their commitment. She praised the work of our partners in all the local authorities we engage with, and thanked companies such as Barclays and HSBC for their commitment to understand the nature of Army life.

Catherine spoke of the potential of these Covenants, highlighting that more work needs to be done but announcing that AFF is engaging with this process in the most fundamental way, namely signing the Corporate Covenant.

AFF Director Communications, Beth Spencer, explains “It was a great privilege for AFF to have the Secretary of State for Defence signing the Corporate Covenant with our Chief Executive. For us it signalled a firm commitment that despite all the pressing issues of government, Army families remain on the radar at the highest level.”

This success now leads us towards the Big Debate next month when the focus will be very much on families; however, it is reassuring to know that the issues raised at our biennial conference can be taken higher to key figures who have shown by attending this event that they understand the place of Army families within the community.

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Big Debate 2014: spotlight on employment

spotlight on employmentIt’s almost time for the Big Debate 2014, and the Army Families Federation (AFF) has the spotlight firmly focussed on spouse employment.

What’s your question?
I’m an Army spouse looking for a job, how do I know which employers are supportive of the Army life?
I want to start my own business, where do I start?
My CV needs improving, what training can I access?
Is gaining further academic qualifications going to make a difference when I’m ready to go back to work?  

The Big Debate is centred on all of these issues this year, with a jobs-fair full of useful stands from companies such as Skanska, HSBC, Serco and Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Keen to explore training opportunities then Cranfield University, SORTED and RBLI Lifeworks are on hand or testing the water then visit Brook Street Recruitment Agents. Don’t miss our employment question and answer session during the morning of the event covering topics such as boosting your confidence, working hours, childcare and training opportunities; take the opportunity to put your questions to our expert panel featuring X Forces and Barclays.

Not sure what’s right for you? Come and listen to a motivational speech by Ren Kapur who knows what it’s like to struggle to find your identity whilst juggling a young family. By 20 she had two children but also began a new life as a business woman. Inspired by a passion for creating ‘opportunity’ for others she has worked with young people and now helps military personnel and spouses to make their innovative ideas a reality.

We’re for families
AFF is working hard to put spouses in the spotlight.

Building on our aim of breaking down barriers to employment, this year we are delighted to announce the first winner of AFF’s Employer of the Year Award. This prestigious award raises awareness of the many hurdles spouses face - the award will go to an employer who has taken into account the effect on Army spouses of frequent moves, childcare responsibilities and a fractured work history.

Watch this space to find out who our winner is. The Award will be presented, 21 October at the Institute of Education, London – the main event runs from 10:30am to 4:30pm with early-bird specialist surgeries from 9:30am; Caroline Mayne our Employment, Training and Money specialist will be there.

Join Us
Free to attend, but priceless for your career - visit the Big Debate webpage for details or to register.

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What does Army life mean to you? Share your views at AFF’s Big Debate

AFF Big Debate logo“A life of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, lifetime friends and loneliness - all because I fell in love with a soldier” AFF Facebook follower 

The Army Families Federation (AFF) is holding our Big Debate on 21 October and we want to see as many Army families there as possible!

If you have a husband, wife or partner who is in the Army, this free one-day event is for you. Come and get together with others affected by the same issues and concerns as you; whether you love or loathe being ‘married to the Army’, AFF wants to hear what you think and what Army life means for you and your family.

You tell us

AFF recently asked our Facebook followers ‘What does Army life mean to you?’ More than 50 comments were posted, with many people mentioning loneliness and separation, unpredictability and frustration and a sense of losing their own identity.

“Never being viewed as anything more than a dependant” said one follower, and “welcome to a life of being married to a soldier, but living as a single parent” said another.

Others focused on the positives of great friendships, opportunities for travel, visiting new places and the sense of community they have experienced. One lady told us: “Not easy but when you do have the time together it’s priceless and worth every countdown chart going!”

Got a question?

At the Big Debate you will be able to ask questions and get answers from senior military personnel, or just talk to AFF specialists and other AFF staff face to face. This is your chance to voice your concerns about Army life loud and clear so we can help to resolve your problems and push for policy changes.

Jobs fair

Are you looking to get back to work? Perhaps you want to access training to improve your skills? With a special focus on employment this year, the Big Debate is also hosting a jobs fair full of stands with advice, information and job vacancies across the UK from companies that are Armed Forces friendly including Skanska, HSBC and ASDA. One follower told us that Army life meant: “being ‘just a wife’” – here is your opportunity to find out what training and job opportunities are out there for people just like you. Can you afford to miss it?

Early bird surgeries with AFF Specialists start from 09.30am, with the main event taking place from 10.30am – 4.30pm, at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. Register now to secure your place - AFF Big Debate  

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It pays to join the Army Reserve!

If you’re ex-Forces and unsure about your next career move, why not consider the Army Reserve? 

What’s in it for me?
As part of the MOD’s plan to increase the number of Army Reserve soldiers, the Reserves Commitment Bonus is a financial incentive offered to people like you, with a similar incentive being offered to those who have never served with the Regular Army, to encourage you to consider the Army Reserve when taking the next step in your career.

How much could I receive?
Eligible ex-Regular soldiers, with the rank of Captain or below, who join the Army Reserve can receive a Commitment Bonus of up to £10,000 over four payments.

Those who have never served with the Regular Army will receive up to £2,300 over three payments.

All sums are subject to tax and National Insurance and are in addition to the tax-free Training Bounty payments which you may also qualify for.

Already joined? Not a problem - payments can be back dated to 1 January 2014.

Want to know more?
For more details and to find out if you’re eligible, click here to visit the Army website.

Join in the Big Debate
Worried about the impact on your family if you join the Army Reserve?

AFF’s Big Debate takes place 21 October in London and is the perfect opportunity for you to come and share your concerns, raise your questions and get the answers you need. 

AFF works hard to support all Army families, included the families of Army Reserve soldiers. Come along and see what we can do for you.

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Provision of school buses in Cyprus

It was recently announced that a review into the provision of transport across Cyprus would be undertaken; the first phase of this review, which focussed on school buses, is now complete.

How will the transport review affect your child?
A number of proposals were made, and endorsed by Chief of Staff British Forces Cyprus, Air Commodore A D Huggett. These included:

  • Akrotiri - the external bus to St John’s secondary school will continue but all other internal buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Episkopi - a bus service will continue to be provided from North & South Paramali but all other buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Dhekelia - buses will be provided for primary school children for return home journeys in Jun, Jul and Sep only and all other buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Ayios Nikolaos - the external bus to King Richard’s secondary school in Dhekelia will continue
  • Nicosia - the external bus to King Richard’s secondary school in Dhekelia will continue

The proposed implementation of these changes is not until January 2015; however, Air Commodore Huggett has made clear that road safety measures and improvements to infrastructure must first be made.

AFF View
AFF is very keen to engage with the review process and promote further consultation on the proposed changes to the provision of school transport within British Forces Cyprus.

Whilst it is recognised that there is often a need for change due to budget restrictions, our role is to ensure that all concerns and comments made by families are heard by the chain of command as the review process moves into the implementation phase and there is still some scope to influence local priorities.

AFF was delighted to be recognised as the voice of the Army families in the letter that was issued by the Chief of Staff and we urge all families to continue to give us your feedback, both positive and negative, on the proposed changes via email direct to the local AFF Co-ordinators.

Families’ concerns
AFF is continually seeking feedback and receiving enquiries from Army families around the world, and Cyprus is no exception.

Your experiences make up our quarterly Families’ Concerns report which is distributed to key figure heads and decision makers to help inform policy change and improve Army life for you, the families.

Family briefs are planned for this autumn. However, in the meantime, if you have any concerns, contact your local co-ordinator in Cyprus: esba@aff.org.uk for Dhekelia, Ayios Nikolaos and Nicosia or wsba@aff.org.uk for Akrotiri and Episkopi.

To view the full letter to families sent by Air Commodore Huggett, click here.  

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Army families give AFF the big picture

Results of Big survey are inThe Army Families Federation (AFF) recently conducted our annual Big Survey – collating the facts about the Army lifestyle as experienced by Army families.

This year the survey looked at the ‘big picture’ – covering all aspects of Army life; over 2,600 people took part from around the world.

What did we discover?
With the drawdown from Germany already underway, a number of concerns were raised – not surprisingly housing and schools were the most prevalent; however, spouse employment was also highlighted as a worry.

Although spouse employment is hard for the military to plan for, it must be recognised as a key factor in retention; AFF has been working to promote this.

AFF’s Germany branch is hosting a number of roadshows this autumn for families in BFG going through this period of transition to ask their questions and allay their worries.

Money talk
With the rise in cost of living, and prolonged Army pay freezes, 46% of families are worse off than they were two years ago.

Once again, spouse employment was perceived to be one of the core reasons for this with 64% of families experiencing financial issues without a second income; the future Army can’t be shaped on a single income.

The main factor affecting the spouse’s ability to secure employment was their soldier’s lengthy or unpredictable working hours (75%), but frequent moves (66%) and their soldier being away so much (65%) also played a part.

Going it alone
72% of those in their own home didn’t feel they received adequate welfare support from the Army. This must be rectified if the Army is to positively promote ‘living in your own home’ as part of the New Employment Model (NEM) - 47% of families are considering purchasing a home in the next 3 years.

AFF recently commissioned a report on geographically dispersed families, looking at both the benefits and drawbacks of Army families choosing to live in their own home. When the report is finalised AFF will use the information to inform policy making.

AFF comment
The needs of the Army must be balanced against a sustainable family unit.

Provision of heavily subsidised housing is still an essential part of the remuneration package for many; a significant proportion cannot afford to live in their own home.

AFF continues to promote the importance of spouse employment and the positive effects it can have on the various aspects of the Army family lifestyle whether soldiers are Regular, Reserve or living in their own home.

Big Debate
AFF’s Big Debate takes place on 21 October and this year there is a special focus on spouse employment. With a plethora of employment and training stands present, and companies such as Skanska and HSBC in attendance, we strongly urge Army spouses to register to come along – CV in hand – and take the first step to shaping your future.  

arrowClick here to download the results brief.

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Great news for Army families living in their own home

AFF in ActionJust because you’re an Army family living in your own home, doesn’t mean you should receive a raw deal when it comes to MOD allowances – right?

You told AFF

Earlier this year AFF was contacted by a family living in their own home who’d tried to claim Concessionary Travel for Families (CTF) allowance whilst their soldier was deployed, only to be told that CTF was only for involuntary separated families and not for families living in their own home (voluntary separated).

Fighting your corner 

We put AFF Employment Training Allowances and Money Specialist, Caroline Mayne, on the case and argued that it’s wrong to assume that such families are able to receive support from their wider family and that a deployment should be regarded as being involuntary separated.

We are delighted to announce that the MOD has agreed, and that the policy has been changed to ensure that families living in their own home will now be able to claim CTF while their soldier is deployed.

You can make a difference

Your opinion matters, your voice counts!

AFF’s Big Debate takes place 21 October in London; there has never been a better time to have your say.

For full details, visit the AFF Big Debate page - together we can make a difference for Army families. 

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Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces - give your feedback

In November 2013 NHS England released the Interim Clinical Commissioning Policy: Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces, which means that if you meet the treatment criteria you will be eligible for two cycles of NHS funded IVF or other assisted conception treatments wherever you live in England.

AFF and NHS England would really like some feedback from any couples that have successfully (or not) used this policy to access treatment. If you would like to give some feedback please contact Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist at additonalneeds@aff.org.uk.

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Headline findings from the NEM Consultation

The New Employment Model (NEM) is the Ministry of Defence’s most thorough review of Service personnel terms and conditions of service (career structures, pay, accommodation, training, etc.) in a generation. Over the last six months, they have consulted with Service personnel and tackled issues such as overseas postings, supporting partner employment and buying your own home. Over 12,000 Service personnel participated in the consultation. Click here to find out the results. 

AFF is currently reviewing the content of this report and will report back.

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Armed Forces Covenant achievements celebrated

The Prime Minister hosted his annual Armed Forces reception on 17 July, marking several important Armed Forces Covenant achievements. 

AFF is delighted to see that all local authorities across Great Britain have now signed up to the Community Covenant - a great commitment to supporting the Armed Forces in local communities.

The Community Covenant will enable us to continue highlighting the unique nature of Army family life and the issues that matter locally to you, including housing, education, employment and childcare.

In good company

200 organisations have now signed up to the Corporate Covenant. The Corporate Covenant allows companies to pledge to support the employment of Service leavers, Reservists and spouses; additionally, companies can make specific commitments related to their business.

Tell AFF the difficulties you face accessing commercial services due to the Army lifestyle and we will ensure these are highlighted.

For the full list of organisations that have signed the Corporate Covenant and details of their pledges, visit the gov.uk website.

Funds for veterans

The Prime Minister also announced the first eight projects to receive funding from the £40 million Veterans Accommodation Fund, part of the LIBOR fine money made available to Armed Forces organisations and charities; five projects support accommodation for wounded and injured personnel and three support care home accommodation for veterans.

For full details of the successful projects, visit the gov.uk website.

AFF view

The Armed Forces Covenant is producing some positive cultural change and is beginning to improve policy in areas where families and Service personnel are disadvantaged. We have seen advances in the services being offered to families in areas such as education and health; however, there is still much to be done.

Increased communication and co-operation between government departments is vital to enabling better access to services.

The New Employment Model element of the Armed Forces Covenant will take some time to deliver on its promise of increased stability, and will continue to struggle to provide predictability.

Until pay recovers to pre-pay-freeze levels, soldiers and their families will continue to question whether the covenant is working. Soldiers judge the value the government places on them by their disposable income and their standard of living and thus pay is a major component in retention.

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Good news for Service voters

Ballot envelopeIs your family currently posted overseas? 

Did you know, you can register as a Service voter for five years at a fixed address in the UK even if you move around; this may be particularly useful if you are based overseas or think you may be posted overseas in the next few years.

Why not post your vote?

In the past, the short period of time given to send and receive voting paperwork has meant that postal votes were not always received in time to be counted.

Now, due to a Parliamentary Bill passed earlier this year, it is easier for Service personnel and families living overseas to vote in elections.

Ballot papers will be sent out earlier to postal voters before the poll closes; this means you will have more time to ensure your vote is counted.

Mixed message

The MOD is currently advising Service personnel and families posted overseas/on operations to appoint a proxy to remove any doubt about whether there is enough time to receive and return their postal ballot before the polls close; this is until it is clear how much earlier the ballot papers are actually being dispatched.

If you are currently posted overseas then find out about becoming a Service voter at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/armed_forces

AFF View:

The extra time for Service voters will certainly help; however, AFF believes that a move away from proxy voting is preferable as many personnel do not have someone who they can rely on to vote for them. AFF has received evidence of several Service personnel who have discovered that, after years of overseas posting, their proxy has voted in the opposite manner to their request.

We welcome this change but remain concerned that proxy voting does not offer a good solution.

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Army families: funding is available for your child’s school!

school fundingFunding is now available for schools with children from Regular and Reserve Forces families. Why not encourage your child’s school to apply?

The MOD Education Support Fund aims to help schools support children coping with exceptional mobility and/or deployment, including settling into new schools.

All publicly funded schools - state schools, academies, free schools, 6th form colleges and/or local authorities on behalf of schools - can apply; £15m has already been awarded to schools across the UK!

For a grant application pack and more details, including where to send completed applications, click here.

The deadline for submission is 4pm on 30 September.

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No more routine pre move-out appointments

DIO has announced that, as from 14 July, they are no longer accepting routine requests for pre move-out appointments.

This will allow staff to focus on move-in and move-out appointments at their busiest time of year; existing appointments are not affected.

No change to move-out requirements 

You can still access the documents usually provided at the time of the pre move-out appointment from the GOV.uk website

It gives guidance on reinstating the condition of the property, if you have made changes, and can help you prepare the property to the correct standard for move-out.

Really concerned?

This is a short term temporary measure. If you feel particularly anxious about your move-out please email the Housing Allocations Service Centre (HASC) to see if they can make an exception for you and arrange a pre move-out. Please use the correct team email address available on the HASC map to request an appointment ensuring you include the full details of your SFA address and a contact telephone number.

Share your experience

If you have any issues with getting a pre move-out booked, or if you feel that the lack of a pre move-out has impacted on your subsequent move-out by resulting in charges, contact Cat Calder, AFF Housing Specialist, at housing@aff.org.uk

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Struggling to get help to buy?

AFF has had a number of queries from Army families regarding mortgage lenders not being signed up to the Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme.

As a result of your feedback, we have approached the MOD to ask if they are able to confirm which lenders are on board.

Unfortunately the MOD is unable to do this as they understandably can’t be seen to be endorsing specific companies; however, they have guaranteed that most major high street lenders are on board.

AFF InvestigatesAFF investigates
Without a list from the MOD, AFF is contacting numerous mortgage lenders on your behalf with the aim of providing you with a list of participating companies …. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s compiled.

Don’t give up 
With this in mind, we encourage families (who are eligible for the scheme and also for a mortgage) to keep pushing major lenders as it may just be that staff in your local branch might not be aware of the scheme.

If you encounter resistance from the branch, urge them to contact their central office as, according to the MOD, they should be aware of the scheme.

Let us know
If you come across a lender who says they are unaware of the FHTB scheme then please let AFF know, or you can email the FHTB team direct at perstrg-NEM-Mailbox@mod.uk

With your feedback and experiences, the MOD can then work with the Council of Mortgage Lenders to identify why the scheme is not being taken up.

For more information about the FHTB scheme, please visit www.gov.uk/forces-help-to-buy  

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Army family, own home: the big issues

AFF recently commissioned a report to help us learn more about the reasons Army families choose to live unaccompanied in their own home, and the challenges or benefits this brings.

Families like yours?  

The families included in this report had all made the move from SFA. In-depth interviews were conducted and themes such as loss of identity, poor communication and feeling under-resourced as a parent when the serving spouse is away, were all identified.

The report makes a number of recommendations including developing a Contact Pack with useful information on relevant supportive networks, more invitations for the spouse to attend events on base and standardising the military welfare support system.

Read the full report HERE and get the full story of what we discovered. 

Stay in touch  

If you are a military spouse living in your own home, check out www.aff.org.uk for information on events, policy changes and latest info.

Subscribe to Army&You, AFF’s FREE quarterly magazine for news and real-life stories of military families like yours – not to mention a whole host of competitions! Subscribe today at www.armyandyou.co.uk  

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New Employment Model Myth Buster

The current employment model dates back to the 1970s. Some aspects are still very good and need to be protected however, other aspects have failed to keep pace with the way in which our people live their lives in the 21st Century. The New Employment Model (NEM) will be designed to ensure a package of terms and conditions that are affordable, agile and attractive, keeping what works but getting rid of the more outdated aspects of the old package.

On a financial front, significantly discounted accommodation will remain a core part of the ‘offer’ to Service personnel and the Armed Forces Pension Scheme 15 will still be one of the best available anywhere. Our high standard of training and education, and the quality of our welfare support will also be retained.However, to keep pace with the aspirations of the young people we need to recruit in the future we also need to examine the impact of Service life on families and the ability for spouses and partners to pursue their own careers. 

In June the department launched a programme of consultation and engagement with Service personnel which will run until October. Feedback from the consultation will be used to shape the detailed policy development of the various components of the NEM. So far there has been a fantastic volume of responses to the online survey already and some extremely helpful feedback has been gathered during focus groups and interviews. But there has also been a number of commonly repeated misconceptions about some of the changes or perceived problems that the NEM will bring about and so this week we aim to address some of those myths.

Click here to download the Myths and comments.

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