Latest News & Information
On this page:
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
27 Oct - Overseas and out of pocket?
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
AFF Chief Executive, Catherine Spencer wrote to The Times in response to an article on predicted defence cuts which appeared on Sunday 26 October.
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.
Chief Executive, Army Families Federation
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.
You told us that you are not happy with the current level of Disturbance Expense when posted overseas. We listened and raised your concerns with the chain of command. It is now being reviewed and we need you to tell us if you think Disturbance Expense for overseas posting is enough or too little – and why.Please take 5 minutes to complete our short survey which will be fed directly to decision-makers; your evidence could impact this very important aspect of the overseas offer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org - we are here to help you.
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”
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?
There 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.
On 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.”
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.
Anna 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.
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
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 email@example.com"
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
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.
The 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.
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
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?
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Adjustment disorder
- Bipolar disorder
Find out more
For more information, contact Karen Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org
To pre-register for the project, contact Hannah Wiseman, at Healios, by telephone +44 (0) 3303 350 603 or email: email@example.com
Your 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for the information leaflet.Back to top
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.
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 email@example.com or 07799 045955.
For further information on the Habitual Residency Test, please click here.Back to top
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.
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.
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.
Click here to download the results brief.
Just 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!
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.
Is 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.
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
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.
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.
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-buyBack to top
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.ukBack to top
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.