Latest News & Information


On this page:

21 Aug - Great news for Army families living in their own home
21 Aug - Ebola Virus Disease – latest advice to Service personnel
05 Aug - Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces - give your feedback
31 Jul - Ebola virus disease: your soldier’s safety
24 Jul - Headline findings from the NEM Consultation
24 Jul - Armed Forces Covenant achievements celebrated
22 Jul - Good news for Service voters
10 Jul - Army families: funding is available for your child’s school!
10 Jul - No more routine pre move-out appointments
09 Jul - Deadline to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum has changed
19 Jun - Struggling to get help to buy?
10 Jun - Army family, own home: the big issues
02 Jun - Improved Additional Needs Adaptation (ANA) process for Service families
22 May - Plans for the Salisbury Plain area
31 Mar - About to apply for additional needs adaptation to your Service Families Accommodation?
24 Feb - Tranche 4 Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) Redundancy Scheme
12 Feb - Forces Help To Buy: Home Purchase Loan Scheme Rules
20 Sept - New Employment Model Myth Buster

 

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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Ebola Virus Disease – latest advice to Service personnel

AFF recently published advice and guidance from Public Health England, giving you the facts about Ebola and any risks to your soldier. 

Following on from this, the latest assessment (8 Aug 14) is that the overall risk to people living in England remains very low.

What you need to know
No cases of imported Ebola have ever been reported in the UK and the risk of any traveller to West Africa contracting Ebola is very low without direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.

Countries affected by Ebola have started to screen travellers leaving the country; in addition, some countries have started to screen travellers from areas affected by Ebola.

Individuals who have been exposed to an individual with Ebola or are demonstrating signs of feverish illness will not be permitted to travel until they are proven to be free of disease.

Precautions for travellers
Travellers should take the following precautions if visiting areas with on-going cases:

  • Avoid contact with symptomatic patients and their bodily fluids
  • Avoid contact with corpses and/or bodily fluids from deceased patients
  • Avoid close contact with live or dead wild animals (including monkeys, forest antelopes, rodents and bats)
  • Avoid consumption of "bush meat" 
  • Wash and peel fruits and vegetables before consumption
  • Practise safe sex
  • Follow strict hand washing routines 

The advice for travellers recently arrived from countries affected by Ebola virus is that they should seek medical attention immediately if they experience any symptoms consistent with Ebola within the first 21 days of entry into the UK.

Symptoms to look out for
The most common symptoms experienced by persons infected with Ebola virus are the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

Further information may be found at the following websites:

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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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Ebola virus disease: your soldier’s safety

AFF is aware of the current increased reporting in the media about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). If your soldier is serving in Africa, you may have concerns about this.

We have asked the Defence Consultant Advisor in Public Health for information and advice regarding the current situation and this is his response:

“Within Defence, we are working closely with our UK and International civilian (and military) colleagues to ensure that we give appropriate advice to our military commanders on the evolving Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. As with any significant outbreak of infectious disease the EVD outbreak in West Africa is being monitored to assess the risk to military personnel serving in affected locations, taking into account advice and guidance provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and World Health Organisation, which is regularly reviewed.

Whilst the outbreak is of concern, infection generally does not occur through routine, social contact (such as shaking hands) with individuals who do not have any symptoms. The likelihood of contracting Ebola is considered very low unless there has been direct contact with the blood or body fluids (e.g. saliva, urine) of symptomatic infected persons or animals, or objects that have been contaminated with body fluids. The risk to personnel in other African countries not affected by the outbreak is considered very low.”

If you want to know more about EVD, the following websites are useful:

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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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Deadline to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum has changed

VoteThe Scottish Independence Referendum is fast approaching. Want to vote? You will need to register no later than Tuesday 2 September – an amendment to the previously publicised date. 

Am I eligible to vote?

Eligibility to vote in this historical referendum is based on how and where you register, not whether you consider yourself to be Scottish.

You must be aged 16 years or over and be living in Scotland – you are eligible if you are posted to a Scottish location with your soldier.

Army families

If your family is originally from Scotland, but you are currently living elsewhere due to accompanying your soldier on a posting then you are still eligible to vote provided you register as a Service voter. The same applies to your soldier.

Posted overseas? You can either nominate a proxy or use a postal vote. Find out more using the link below.

Have your say

The Scottish Independence Referendum will take place on 18 September 2014. For more information about registering your vote, visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/armed_forces.aspx  

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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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Improved Additional Needs Adaptation (ANA) process for Service families

AFF in ActionIn 2012 AFF conducted a tri – Service survey to identify the issues that you were having with the Additional Needs Adaption to SFA process. We identified three main areas of concern from your feedback:

  • Acquiring an Occupational Therapist (OT) report (an OT’s report is always required for ANA to SFA)
  • Communication between your family, DIO and MHS
  • Timescales for the completion of adaptations

AFF commented extensively on the process and asked DIO for improvements to be made.

Success for families

AFF is pleased that, as a result of our evidence and recommendations, the Families Federations are now named as stakeholders in the new process; this will allow us to support your family even better.

The following improvements feature in the new process:

  • DIO assistance with acquiring a Local Authority (LA) OT within a certain timeframe, in some circumstances
  • Confidential medical information can be sent directly to the HASC manager via email
  • The housing officer will be the point of contact between your family and DIO/MHS for the duration of the process, keeping you regularly informed on progress and any reasons for delay
  • Specific timescales for each stage of the process and a published schedule of works 

To view the new ANA to SFA guidance flowchart click here.

 Get in touch

Are you about to apply for ANA to SFA? Then AFF wants to hear from you. 

We are really keen to follow you through the process so that we can give feedback from families to DIO. Please contact Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk or Karen Ross at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk for more information.

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Plans for the Salisbury Plain area

Are you in the Salisbury Plain area or likely to move there as part of the ‘BigMove’? Take a look at the final plans at www.gov.uk/dio. Does it make sense to you – can you see where the new housing will go? Have schools and recreational facilities been planned in? AFF will be taking a look but please have your say, contact AFF’s Housing Specialist, Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk.  

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About to apply for additional needs adaptation to your Service Families Accommodation?

Adaptations to SFA iconA new process has recently been published for the adaptations process which aims to make the journey simpler and faster for families. AFF is delighted that many of our recommendations have been incorporated into the new process. 

AFF would be very interested to hear from any families who are currently about to apply for additional needs adaptation to Service Families Accommodation. We would be very keen to follow them through the process so that we can give feedback from families to DIO at the 6 month review point. Please contact Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk or Karen Ross at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk 

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Tranche 4 Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) Redundancy Scheme

Details for the FHTB scheme for Service Personnel (SP) leaving on Tranche 4 Redundancy have been released in DIB2014/09

This is great news for families affected by T4 who wish to purchase their own homes. Both applicants and non-applicants can apply for a short-term loan of up to 90% of their redundancy lump sum or 68,000, whichever is the lower. The loan amount will automatically be recovered from their redundancy lump sum when they leave the Service. The loan can be used by those who wish to buy their first home, modify their existing one or move locations.

AFF believes that this scheme will greatly help the transition to civilian life for those who wish to buy their own home before the SPs discharge date. Moreover, the purchase of a home using a FHTB T4 loan will not affect entitlement to SLA/SFA which will extant until the SPs exit date.

Personnel leaving through this final Tranche of the Armed Forces Redundancy Programme will be sent FHTB T4 application forms as part of the redundancy notification process. Application forms will also be available on the JPA forms page, but must be printed and posted to Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA). Applications cannot be made until written notification of redundancy is received, so this scheme will launch on 12 Jun 14.

For detailed information and full rules for the general ‘Forces Help to Buy’ (FHTB) scheme as well as the new FHTB scheme which relates specifically to Service Personnel leaving as part of Tranche 4 redundancies (FHTB T4), go to Joint Service Publication (JSP) 464.

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Forces Help To Buy: Home Purchase Loan Scheme Rules

FOR SALEThe eligibility criteria and a summary of the policy rules for the new ‘Forces Help To Buy’ (FHTB) scheme have been published. The scheme will be launched on 1 April 2014.

The FHTB scheme will enable Armed Forces personnel to apply for an interest free loan of up to 50% of salary, (capped at a maximum of 25,000), repayable over 10 years. Those leaving as a result of Tranche 4 of the redundancy programme qualify for a separate scheme, the details of which will be communicated shortly.

For the duration of the FHTB pilot, the existing Long Service Advance of Pay (LSAP) scheme will be frozen. Personnel with an existing LSAP arrangement can also apply for a FHTB loan, with the outstanding LSAP amount being consolidated into one arrangement under FHTB.

The FHTB scheme will be administered in a similar way to LSAP, with applications submitted via JPA. The application form will be available via JPA from 1 April 2014. Mortgage companies are expected to be ready to offer mortgages to those with FHTB loans shortly after the scheme goes live.

For more information please refer to 2014 DIB/07.

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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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