Latest News & Information


On this page:

18 Dec - Christmas message from the Secretary of State - Michael Fallon
11 Dec - The new CarillionAmey contract: an update
10 Dec - Stay secure - important message about access to Service homes from CarillionAmey
08 Dec - Your chance to support AFF this Christmas
04 Dec - Local authorities lead the way in housing support for divorced spouses
28 Nov - New ‘Walk away’ scheme from CarillionAmey
24 Nov - Supporting Service children in Education Cymru: have your say
13 Nov - Counting the cost of your overseas posting
11 Nov - Justice for widows: a success story
07 Nov - Latest rebasing news for BFG families
04 Nov - Op valleys: your posting to Wales
03 Nov - AFF welcomes the findings of latest Defence Committee report
29 Oct - AFF Chief Executive, Catherine Spencer wrote to The Times in response to an article on predicted defence cuts which appeared on Sunday 26 October.
28 Oct - EBOLA Guidance For British Soldiers of West African Origin
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
New support service for carers in the Forces community
Looking after your SFA
Publication of the Royal British Legions’ Manifesto 2015
Habitual Residency Test: a fair deal for families
Army families give AFF the big picture
Great news for Army families living in their own home
Headline findings from the NEM Consultation
Good news for Service voters
Struggling to get help to buy?
Army family, own home: the big issues
New Employment Model Myth Buster

 

Christmas message from the Secretary of State - Michael Fallon

An Xmas message for Forces families from the Secretary of State – Michael Fallon. Read his letter here.  

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The new CarillionAmey contract: an update

AFF is hopeful that the new housing contract has addressed the majority of issues within the old contract and that the service you receive will be as good if not better in the long run.

As with any big process change, there will be some issues and these need to be addressed quickly so that the process can run smoothly.

What is your experience?

There’s a lot of talk about the new contract. As an evidence based organisation, we need to know the facts in order for us to feed back to CarillionAmey (CA) about any issues you are experiencing - please do get in touch with us.

In some areas boilers are taking longer to repair than usual due to the contractor changing over and legacy jobs being left. CA are closely monitoring this issue to ensure it is sorted as quickly as possible; in the short term you may find that it takes longer to get your heating back.

You should be given fan heaters as an alternative heat source and will have to use the emersion heater for hot water – if you don’t have one or other of these, let CA know via the helpdesk on 0800 707 6000.

NB Reported a job under the old contract which hasn’t been actioned yet? Ensure you call CA to check that it has been transferred to the new contract.

We want to hear from you

The new contract started in Scotland and NI on 1 November and in England and Wales on 1 December.

Have you:

  • not received a new CarillionAmey guide to living in SFA
  • been promised a call back from the Helpdesk and not had one
  • had workmen not turn up for appointments (were you called to be told?)
  • not had repairs done within the required number of days according to the guide
  • not had pre-move-out appointments met (were you called to be told?)
  • had a request for an incidental new work appointment (INW) cancelled without your knowledge
  • had a move-in appointment and if so were you left with a guide to combat condensation and your 14 day report form to fill in? How did you feel the appointment went, did it follow the new process set out in the guide? Were you given a copy of the Occupancy Form?

If you’ve experienced any these issues (or any other issues), please contact AFF at housing@aff.org.uk  

Make it official

It is very important that you put in an official complaint to CA if you’ve had any problems so that they can get a clear picture of how they are performing.

Make sure you get a complaint reference number - if you say you are unhappy and they apologise, or if you post on the FB page, this may not get recorded as a complaint, be sure to make it official.

Change for the better?

Had a really good experience with the new contract? Let CA know so that they can use this to establish best practice.

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Stay secure - important message about access to Service homes from CarillionAmey

carillionamey logoThere have been reports of incidents where people have tried to gain unauthorised access to Service Family Accommodation.

All families are advised that it is very rare for CarillionAmey or Defence Infrastructure Organisation staff to turn up unannounced, and in particular they will not turn up to undertake unannounced work or inspections.

We ask that all Service families remain vigilant when receiving unexpected visits and ask to see identification. If you receive an unexpected request to undertake work and wish to check credentials please call the CarillionAmey Helpdesk on 0800 707 6000. If you have any concerns about your security please contact the Police or your local security section/guardroom immediately. Any additional information regarding Description of Callers and Vehicle Details may assist in any subsequent investigation.

In addition, if you see any suspicious activity in your area, including people or vehicles, please take the details and pass them to the Police or security section. Do not potentially put yourself in danger by confronting anyone.

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Your chance to support AFF this Christmas

three and me charity single coverPost-modern folk group three and me are releasing a charity single ‘Lost and found’ with all download proceedings going to the Army Families Federation (AFF). 

Remembering those left behind

Inspired by Vera Brittain’s renowned autobiography ‘Testament of Youth’, the song is written from the perspective of a nurse caring for those in the trenches during WW1 and wondering whether her fiancé is still alive.

Portraying a mixture of pride and pain, which many modern Army families will relate to, the song has particular resonance at Christmas time which can be especially tough for those of us who cannot be together.

three and me band Matthew Davis, songwriter and band member, explains: “My dad served time in the Army… my mum spent months apart from him and had to bring up my eldest sister almost entirely on her own for the first two years.”

Giving families a voice

AFF works hard to ensure that all Army families – Regular or Reserve, are heard and receive the information and support they need wherever they are and whatever the time of year.

Matthew says: “We decided to support the work of AFF because families of Army personnel are often the unsung heroes- having to deal with a range of pressures few of us have to face.”

Three facts about three and me 

  • The band formed in Camberwell, South East London two years ago and landed their first gig in support of Beverley Knight.
  • Their music is an eclectic mix of pop, folk and rock, with some theatrical and classical influences.
  • 2015 will see the band record their debut album and work the festival circuit – so don your wellies next summer and look out for them!

Show your support

Download Lost and Found from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and CD Baby from 8 December, and show your support for AFF. 

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Local authorities lead the way in housing support for divorced spouses

A number of separated and divorced spouses contacted AFF to tell us you were unable to register for social housing due to a lack of local connection to your chosen area as a result of the mobility associated with Army life.

AFF in action

AFF in ActionWe highlighted this disadvantage to both central and local government and are delighted to announce that two local authorities are now leading the way in supporting such families.

After meeting with AFF, the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham council have confirmed their commitment to supporting the Armed Forces - including separated spouses of serving personnel – by including them in the criteria for their affordable housing programme. 

Improving policy

Cheshire West & Chester council has also become the first local authority to amend its social housing policy to make it easier for separated and divorced Army spouses to register for social housing. 

By waiving the local connection criterion for Armed Forces spouses, you will now have equal right to apply for social housing in your preferred area.

Our work continues

We would like to see other local authorities match this good practice.

AFF continues to work with individual local authorities and central government on this issue, particularly highlighting the effect on children within families who will remain part of the Armed Forces community whilst a parent is still serving.

If you’re experiencing difficulties accessing social housing due to a lack of local connection, contact Cat Calder, AFF Housing Specialist, at housing@aff.org.uk 

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New ‘Walk away’ scheme from CarillionAmey

Many of you have asked AFF about the new Walk Away scheme from CarillionAmey and what it includes.

As of 1 November, CarillionAmey have reinstated the pre-move-out appointment for all move-outs booked after that date.

During your pre-move-out appointment, you will have the chance to choose from the following elements to be cleaned under the Walk Away scheme:

  • Basic clean
  • Carpets – on a room by room basis
  • Cooker

A basic clean will include:

  • General overall cleanliness – removal of dust, dirt, mould and marks from all surfaces including tiled surfaces; all kitchen and bathroom surfaces and fittings will be free from mould and lime scale
  • Vinyl flooring will be cleaned and any minor stains and scuffs will be spot cleaned
  • Internal joinery - all surfaces will be cleaned and dust, dirt, mould and surface marks will be removed. Horizontal surfaces will be dust free
  • Windows - window casements will be free of debris, internal seal will be free from algae and mould
  • Glass - will be free from smears on both sides visible from 2 metres during daylight
  • Light fittings
  • Extractor fans will be free from grease and carbon
  • Radiators will be free from dirt and dust, including the fins and valves
  • Garages and outbuildings will be swept clean
  • All necessary refuse and recycling bins will be cleaned

The scheme has been priced to be less expensive than it would be to be charged at move-out. For a breakdown of costs, click here.

If you have already booked a move-out and need information on how to book the Walk Away scheme, please contact CarillionAmey on 0800 707 6000. From the 1 December there will be a dedicated e-mail address for the scheme available on the CarillionAmey website.

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Supporting Service children in Education Cymru: have your say

Are you a Service family living in Wales?

AFF in ActionWhether Regular or Reserve, if your child attends a Welsh school, AFF invites you to complete a short survey by the Welsh Local Government Association to have your say on the issues affecting your child’s education.

The survey is anonymous and is open until 30 April 2015 – visit www.sscecymru.co.uk/parents-survey to take part.

Find out more 

For more information about the Supporting Service children in education Cymru project, including a separate survey for your child’s school to complete, visit www.sscecymru.co.uk 

For support and guidance on any aspect relating to education or childcare, contact AFF’s Education and Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott, at ec@aff.org.uk 

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Counting the cost of your overseas posting

AFF recently closed its survey on Disturbance Expense and we owe you a huge thank you! 

Incredibly, over 1,000 of you took part over the past week or so from 47 countries spanning six continents – from the USA to Malaysia to South Africa.

Falling short

The survey showed that a staggering 90% of you don’t think that Disturbance Expense is enough - in other words, 9 out of 10 people who responded felt that an overseas posting left them out of pocket.  

Whether you have to shell out thousands for a car or buy white goods because your quarter is not supplied with them and your removals allowance was too small to take your own - the vast majority of you said that serving overseas can cost you dearly.

As one family said “I have served abroad on a number of occasions and every single one of those moves has cost me significant amounts of money. Why should I pay out myself when I am following an order?”

Crucial evidence

As well as saying what you think about the current level of Disturbance Expense and what it covers, you provided us with crucial evidence about what you end up spending money on and how much you actually spend.

We have produced a report about your comments, thoughts and opinions which has already gone to the chain of command.

We will produce a shorter report for the website which will be available in the next couple of weeks and we will feedback to you via our website as soon as we hear the outcome of the review of Disturbance Expense.

You share, AFF listens

This survey shows that hundreds, if not thousands, of you have really useful comments to make and evidence to provide about overseas postings.

A lot of work is being done to look at the package you get when you are overseas and we are keen to represent your opinions as effectively as we can; keep an eye out for future surveys so that you can continue to have a strong voice and to help secure a better deal.

If there is anything you would like to raise about overseas postings, drop us a line at overseas@aff.org.uk 

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Justice for widows: a success story

AFF welcomes the news that the Justice for Widows campaign has achieved its aim of ensuring that all widow/ers will be able to keep their pension if they re-marry or cohabit.

Unfair disadvantage for spouses

Under current legislation, widow/ers whose soldier was on a pre-2005 pension scheme, including thousands of spouses whose soldier is still serving, would have lost their pension if they had remarried or co-habited – they faced a dreadful choice of financial security or happiness.

Army spouses are likely to have reduced income and pensions of their own due to supporting the soldier, and their mobile lifestyle. Re-establishing their own career can be significantly challenging leading to a genuine need to retain their widows pension.

AFF in action

AFF has worked with the Forces Pension Society on this issue for the last year.

We have highlighted it to Anna Soubry MP, Minister Defence Personnel Welfare and Veterans during Covenant Reference Group meetings, the Families Federations meeting and most recently at AFF’s Big Debate where the Minister revealed that the Armed Forces Covenant may be used to resolve the issue.

We thank Major-General John Moore-Bick of the Forces Pension Society for his tenacity and enthusiasm in keeping the issue at the forefront of policy makers’ minds.

The Royal British Legion made it their number one priority in their most recent manifesto, demonstrating that the combined efforts of military charities has led to this significant announcement and that the Armed Forces Covenant can be used to drive policy change.

In the news

Read the media’s take on this important issue:

Want to know more?

For more information, contact AFF’s Employment, Training, Money & Allowances Specialist, Caroline Mayne, at etam@aff.org.uk  

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Latest rebasing news for BFG families

Around 10,000 of you are due to rebase to the UK from BFG in 2015.

For the latest Who? Where? When? - as well as accommodation details – read the latest update from the Army Basing Team on the Germany Latest News page.  

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Op valleys: your posting to Wales

If your family is posted to Wales, read on for the scoop on coming to Cymru.

Croeso I Gymru!

Op valleys - your posting to WalesWelcome to Wales, where the Welsh language (Cymraeg) is thriving. All government literature – road signs, letters and publications - is bilingual so you won’t struggle to get by but you may learn a few new words!

Although a part of Great Britain, Wales is a country in its own right; the Welsh people voted in favour of devolution in Wales in 1997 and were given the power to make secondary laws by the Government of Wales Act 1998.

Housing in Wales

In some areas, such as Chepstow and St Athan, you’ll likely be allocated an SFA close to the barracks; however, if you’re posted to Haverfordwest quarters can be up to 12 miles away and it takes a while to travel back to England so plan your journey well!

Looking for work?

Like in many areas, job opportunities aren’t great. Don’t let this discourage you though – it could make or break your posting! If you’re keen to get back to work, visit www.armyandyou.co.uk/jobs, or try www.wales.com for a range of other job-search websites.

Education and childcare

The Welsh Government offers fewer free hours of childcare per week for three year olds – typically around 10 hours. Check your local authority website or the Family Information Service (FIS) to find out what is available in your area. 

The Welsh Primary and Secondary curriculum is structured broadly in line with England but the content is different. Welsh is taught in all schools up to the age of 16; some schools teaching predominantly in Welsh and some in English.

Unlike in England there are no free school meals for year R pupils; however, some schools do offer free breakfasts. 

Service Premium is not available, but schools can apply for the MOD education support fund – contact Lucy Scott, AFF Education and Childcare Specialist, for more details ec@aff.org.uk 

Secondary school children don’t have to take GCSE Welsh language but they must study it. GCSE students also sit the Welsh Baccalaureate which carries an extra 120 UCAS points for university entrance!

Got kids off to University? You could be eligible for help with hefty fees. Visit wales.gov.uk student financial support webpage for details.

Healthcare

Prescriptions are free and you’ll still have access to NHS dentistry; as in other areas it can take a while to get to the top of the waiting list.

For more about NHS Wales, including details of local dentists, visit www.wales.nhs.uk 

Embracing Welsh life

If you love beautiful scenery and the great outdoors, your weekends will always be busy!

The Wales Coastal Path follows the Welsh coastline, and there are three National Parks on your doorstep: Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Pembrokeshire Coast. See www.visitwales.com/explore/national-parks for inspiration.

Weather too wet for walking? National Museums in Wales are free! From the National Museum Cardiff to the Welsh Slate Museum, there’s plenty to see all year round.

Cardiff has an abundance of great shops to suit all purses, or for something quainter, St David’s – the smallest city in Britain – is full of galleries, restaurants and shops.

Want to know more? Check out the other pages on this website for essential info about Army life, or contact our Wales Co-ordinator at wales@aff.org.uk  

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AFF welcomes the findings of latest Defence Committee report

AFF Chief Executive, Catherine Spencer, has welcomed the findings of the Defence Committee’s Report – The Armed Forces Covenant in Action part 5: military casualties, a review of the process.

AFF is especially pleased to see the following comments:

  • That more is needed to be done to improve the mental health support for serving personnel, Reservists and veterans and to support bereaved families and the families of severely injured personnel.
  • Urgent action is needed to reduce the harm caused by the abuse of alcohol to Armed Forces personnel and their families. Too many members of the Armed Forces appear to believe that alcohol is integral to group cohesion or believe that alcohol is an appropriate way of coping with a return from a military deployment.
  • The MOD needs to understand better the links between deployment, alcohol misuse and violent behaviour especially domestic violence.

AFF also welcomes the wide range of recommendations, chiefly:

  • Families need improved support, in particular, the families of Reservists who find it harder to identify sources of support than Regulars. The MOD should provide the Defence Select Committee with its study of the support to the families of wounded, injured and sick personnel as soon as it is available. It should also tell us how it intends to implement the recommendations of the SSAFA report on support to bereaved families and the above report. We call on the MoD to use the reports it has commissioned as the basis for a revision to its policy for the support of families.

In addition, with regard to the Armed Forces Compensation scheme:

  • Despite the assurances provided by MoD that the processing times had improved and backlogs reduced, we understand that serving personnel and veterans are still experiencing long delays in having their claims processed. We recognise that the backlog of cases awaiting award by Veterans UK has fallen but we are concerned that the throughput is still too slow. In response to this report, the MoD should set out how it intends to reduce the time taken to adjudicate on claims under the Armed Forces Compensation scheme and the War Pension scheme.
  • The report is a comprehensive review and, while there is still significant improvement needed, it demonstrates that the House of Commons Defence Select Committee is monitoring and demanding more progress in this area.

    Read the full report here.

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    AFF Chief Executive, Catherine Spencer wrote to The Times in response to an article on predicted defence cuts which appeared on Sunday 26 October.

    www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article4250660.ece 

    Sir, Predictions that the Ministry of Defence could face 7.5 per cent cuts in its funding will be of concern to Service personnel and their families. The Army is emerging from a four-year redundancy programme and soldiers continue to have reduced income after years of pay restraint. The mood across Forces’ families is low — we are not unscathed.

    Previous defence cuts were made in an era of the planned exit from Afghanistan and claims that “there is no appetite for war”, but the emergence of Isis, developments in eastern Europe and the use of troops to deal with Ebola demonstrate the need for a strong and agile defence force. There is no room for further cuts if we are to retain and recruit our soldiers and the families who support them. 

    Catherine Spencer
    Chief Executive, Army Families Federation

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    EBOLA Guidance For British Soldiers of West African Origin

    AFF recognises that some of our families who are of West African origin may have particular concerns regarding the Ebola Virus Disease crisis there. For these families who are planning to return home for leave or R&R in West Africa the leaflet EBOLA GUIDANCE For British Soldiers of West African Origin gives clear and important information for you to follow.

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    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 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 Q&A sessions. The first focussed on ‘your future’ and invoked a number of questions of the panel – chaired by Jill Misson - ranging 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 open debate Q&A session heard questions 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,” and challenged AFF to increase its role as a pressure group - holding councillors and politicians to account.

    Voicing her support for Army families and the role we often endure, she said: “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 admitted: “A happy family normally means a happy soldier.”

    Later, 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, 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

    As of 1st November the only number all families in the UK and Northern Ireland need to call for both repairs/maintenance AND allocations is 0800 707 6000 (the old MHS number)

    From 1st November UK allocations will no longer be handled by the HASC but by the CarillionAmey Occupancy Services Team based in Speke (Liverpool) – call 0800 707 6000. Customers who need to call the CarillionAmey Helpdesk from overseas or from mobiles can use an alternative number - 0151 728 1630.

    From 1st November Scotland and Northern Ireland will be part of the new contract (for details please read the new CarillionAmey guide to living in Service Family Accommodation which you should have received through the post).

    England and Wales will continue to operate under the existing MHS contract until 1st December at which point they will move to the new contract as well.

    If you have any queries about the new changes please contact AFF 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, had 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.

    Catch up on the day's events - 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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    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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    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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    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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    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.

    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!

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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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    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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    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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