Latest News & Information


On this page:

22 Jul - Good news for Service voters
22 Jul - 2014 Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards
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
02 Jul - Premium schools win excellence award
19 Jun - Struggling to get help to buy?
10 Jun - Army family, own home: the big issues
05 Jun - Getting your child to Cyprus
02 Jun - Improved Additional Needs Adaptation (ANA) process for Service families
22 May - Plans for the Salisbury Plain area
12 May - Supporting you as before: DIO announces new Service accommodation contractor
22 Apr - AFF Foreign and Commonwealth Roadshows
31 Mar - About to apply for additional needs adaptation to your Service Families Accommodation?
27 Feb - Service couples to benefit from policy change as of 20th February 2014
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

 

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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2014 Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards

The Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards are now open, giving you the opportunity to give credit to those exceptional teams and individuals that have made a real difference to the health and wellbeing of Service personnel, their families and Service veterans.

Anyone can nominate an achiever, an achievement, their team or an individual that works for Defence Medical Services, the National Health Service, the UK Departments of Health or the independent and voluntary sectors. You just need to complete a simple online nomination form highlighting their outstanding contribution in providing the Armed Forces Community with the very best in health and social care. 

The deadline for nominations is 27th July 2014.  

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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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Premium schools win excellence award

Excellence 2014  WinnersThe Service Premium (SP) is Government money available to state primary and secondary schools in England, intended to help Service children cope with the unique issues of Army life.

All schools that receive this money were invited to nominate themselves for AFF’s revered SP award, and to ask parents to endorse their entries with examples of how they have helped children cope with Army life in school.

26 schools made the shortlist and were categorised by how many Service children attend the school.

Click here to find out more and for the winners! 

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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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Getting your child to Cyprus

Until last month, if your child was at boarding school in the UK and wanted to travel to Cyprus to visit their family, they had to use the trooper from Brize Norton unless civilian flights had been authorised.

New improved process

AFF is delighted to announce that this policy has now changed so that your child can once again use civilian flights as well as the trooper. This is great news as it means that your child will be able to travel from an airport much closer to their school rather than having to travel to Oxfordshire.

You will need to choose an economy seat and claims for additional flight extras such as increased baggage allowance, additional leg room, fast pass boarding and subsistence are not permissible – you need to pay for those things yourself.

Booking a civilian flight

To use civilian flights, simply submit an application on JPA - ideally at least 3 months before the date of travel. Once approval is received you then need to go to your travel cell with details of the flights you want to use. The great thing about this is that you do not need to pay for the travel and then claim the cost back.

If you would like your child to travel from an airport other than the one closest to the boarding school, you need to seek the permission of your soldier’s Commanding Officer. You might want to do this if the nearest airport does not offer direct flights to Cyprus or a service for unaccompanied minors.

Click here to view the full process of booking a flight; or for more information, including where your travel cell is located, contact your local AFF Co-ordinator.

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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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Supporting you as before: DIO announces new Service accommodation contractor

DIO has announced that CarillionAmey (Housing Prime) Ltd has been awarded the National Housing Prime contract. This means that the current contracts in England and Wales (MHS), Scotland (Turners) and NI will be replaced. 

The new contract will cover maintenance and repairs to your Service Families Accommodation (SFA) but will also include allocations, move in/move out and the supply of furniture.

Roll out of the new contract will be gradual, initially working in parallel with the existing contracts, so for the time being you should continue to report faults and apply for housing through the usual methods.

AFF will shortly be attending a meeting to find out more about the new contract and how it will affect you as Army families; we will keep you up to date with any news.

If you have any concerns about the change in contract please contact the AFF Housing Specialist, Cat Calder, on housing@aff.org.uk. Click here for the open letter to families from DIO.

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AFF Foreign and Commonwealth Roadshows

Roadshows 2014Are you a Foreign and Commonwealth family keen to find out how to apply for citizenship or worried about how the new rules could affect your application. Perhaps you are having problems accessing social and educational benefits and want to understand what you might be entitled to?

Please come and meet our Foreign and Commonwealth team who are running a series of roadshows around the country. There will be central brief on the changes to the visa application process as well as some opportunities to talk one on one.

Take a look at the F&C Roadshows page to find out more. If there isn’t a roadshow near you keep checking the website as more venues will be added later. 

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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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Service couples to benefit from policy change as of 20th February 2014

A recent Employment Tribunal and Service Complaints Panel have both found that the existing policy on housing for Service Personnel (SP) who are serving married unaccompanied at their permanent duty station was discriminatory. As a result the policy has been changed so that there is now entitlement to single living accommodation (SLA/SSSA) to both married personnel/civil partners who are both serving members of the Armed Forces at their respective duty stations when serving married accompanied. It also means that those designated as PStatCat 5s/c will no longer be charged. For full details click here

AFF is delighted that this change has been made.

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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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