Latest News & Information
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10 Oct - SFA Compensation Scheme – High Street Vouchers
Another result for AFF – DIO to review CAAS location data
SFA Customer Satisfaction Survey
Improved access to student loans for Army spouses and partners: an AFF win
AFF achieves housing success on behalf of Army families
Celebrating 35 years of support for Army families
Are your dependent children registered on JPA?
Did you know broadband and media packages are now fairer for your family?
Concerns over FAM gain wider coverage
AFF receives Defence response to our FAM Manifesto
MOD's FAM survey results released
Did you know? Good news for homeowners redeployed within the UK
AFF responds to Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution’s announcement concerning tax rates in Scotland.
AFF and the other Families Federations add families’ view to Covenant Annual Report
AFF launches FAM Manifesto on behalf of Army families
Armed Forces children in Wales share their experiences through short films and digital stories
Service families to benefit from CMI membership
Covenant commitments: ensuring your future
FREE accounting courses for Army families
AFF is delighted to report that DIO has announced that the problems surrounding the issue of High Street Vouchers to successful SFA Compensation Scheme claimants have now been resolved. Read more
Claimants are now being sent details of the appropriate codes to allow vouchers to be redeemed from their supplier’s site.
The Compensation Team is working to clear the backlog of successful claims on a date approved basis; it is expected this will be cleared by mid-November.
DIO apologises for the time taken to resolve this issue. The Compensation Scheme remains open for new claims.
Find out more
Full details of the scheme, including eligibility, can be found here, or read more on pg31 of the latest edition of Army&You magazine.
We’re delighted to be able to report that DIO will now be reviewing some of the factors affecting proposed changes to Army families’ final CAAS band, specifically relating to location. Read more
These changes were first reported a few months ago, and the original timeline for implementation of these largely increased charges, based on CAAS location factors, was to be from September 2017, giving families at least 93 days’ notice.
It’s become apparent that in order to ensure that the data is accessible to families, some of the factors, including the broadband baseline, required further investigation.
As a result, no changes to final CAAS bands due to location will now be made until 1 April 2018, once the review has been completed, families will be notified, still giving the original amount of 93 days’ notice of any changes to the final CAAS band. The charges will not be backdated.
For those families already at the final CAAS band, an adjustment will be made to that banding, and for those still transitioning SFA, the location factors will be taken into account and the final band for charge will be amended.
No letters will be sent to SFA regarding the location review and any associated CAAS band changes until the review is finished.
AFF’s been working hard to help bring about this development and we’re pleased that DIO has taken our concerns on board and is working to try to make the process simpler.
Find out more Contact our AFF Housing Specialist Cat Calder at email@example.com
DIO has appointed a new supplier to carry out their regular SFA customer satisfaction survey. Read more
In future, Opinion Research Service (ORS) will be carrying out these short phone surveys.
Until now, DIO has selected 200 UK SFA occupants to take part in the monthly survey. DIO has now increased this to 500 occupants who will be contacted. The overseas survey will also recommence in October 2017.
Your feedback helps shape the future delivery of Service Family Accommodation. If ORS contacts you, please take the opportunity to let them hear your views.
Please rest assured that your personal data will remain safe and secure.
If you have any queries related to the Customer Satisfaction Survey, please contact the accommodation team at DIOSDAccn-SSM1a@mod.uk.
As of 1 August 2017, Army families posted overseas who wish to undertake a qualifying UK based university or college course can access a loan via Student Finance England. This applies to both full and part time courses, and you no longer need to be in the UK for the first day of the course to qualify. Read more
An AFF win
Last year, we were proud to publicise this AFF win, announced by the Universities Minister Jo Johnson, after much lobbying and joint working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The change applies to new students starting a distance learning course in 2017/18 and also to those who have already started a distance learning course before and who are continuing that course in 2017/18.
Unfortunately, this does not apply to those from the devolved nations. To be eligible, you must qualify for the English student support package.
Putting families first
AFF continues to prioritise spousal employment and training, and this includes those posted overseas who sometimes cannot work and so choose to undertake a course during that time.
Find out more
For more information and full eligibility criteria, visit www.gov.uk/student-finance/who-qualifies
AFF is delighted to announce that after taking families’ concerns surrounding recent letters about the Combined Accommodation Assessment Scheme (CAAS) banding to the DIO CAAS team they have agreed to take positive action to investigate the increased final charge issue some of you were facing. Read more
Families’ evidence proves vital
Families contacted AFF to say they had received a letter advising them of a jump in grade, which meant some homes jumped by more than one band based on a review of location and surveys that had been conducted throughout the year.
However, families were told they could only appeal on the location piece and not on anything relating to the survey results.
After listening to your concerns, we approached DIO on your behalf.
We’re now happy to say that DIO has agreed that, where the final banding of an SFA has jumped by two or more grades, it will be fully investigated.
AFF has asked DIO that next year they ensure the letters reminding families of the increase in CAAS band due to transition pathways are sent out early March – these letters are simply reminders, you won’t be able to challenge its contents.
AFF has asked that any letters regarding a change to the final band as a result of surveys or data reviews follow the correct procedure and time frame and that families are given the chance to appeal where they feel any changes are not correct.
For the full article and more information, click here.
This year, AFF is celebrating 35 years of support for Army families.
From humble beginnings as the Federation of Army Wives Clubs back in 1982, we’ve evolved into a worldwide charity, working on behalf of all Army families – Regular and Reserve, wherever you are based, whatever the make-up of your family. Read more
Facing challenge together
Together we’ve faced many challenges. We’ve supported families during times of conflict, including in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Kosovo and, more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’d love you to share your stories of support with us – tell us what brought you to AFF for advice or support.
Over time, we’ve branched out into more locations across the globe. In 1989, we developed a team in Germany and in 1994, we set up our Cyprus team. So many Army families have since passed through these locations on posting and, no matter where the Army sends you, we now have a team of dedicated overseas staff to make sure you’re never far from our support.
In May 1996 we were renamed the Army Families Federation and continued our hard work to improve the lives of Army families, tackling the issues you face and ensuring the Army family voice is heard by the MOD, government and other decision makers.
Making sense of Army life’s changes
With the constant changes of Army family life, we work hard to secure, and then make families aware of, positive developments, which we hope improve the experiences of your Army family.
Our quarterly magazine Army&You provides a great snapshot of the Army community and has developed over the years into a professional publication dedicated to the families we serve.
We want families to feel confident that we are with you every step of the way of your Army family journey. We firmly believe that, together, we are one Army, one family.
With the development of the Armed Forces Covenant, we continue to make sure the nation’s promise is truly meaningful, and work in collaboration with other businesses, charities and local authorities to bring the promises of the Covenant to life.
Watch our film
We invite you to take a step through history with our special, 35th anniversary film and see how far we’ve come.
Declaring dependent Service children on JPA can enable appropriate allowances to be obtained, enable paternity and adoption leave requests and can have an influence on allocation of Service housing and potential assignments.
To complete the registration process, your soldier should provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate to their unit HR who will complete the JPA process. For more information, contact DCYP-DCYP-Mailbox@mod.uk
AFF is delighted with the announcement from Defence Minister Mark Lancaster that Service personnel posted within the UK or overseas will no longer have to face cancellation fees for their broadband and media packages. Read more
Tens of thousands of Forces households in the UK and abroad are likely to benefit from this positive change, which recognises the unfair disadvantage many military families have been facing due to their mobile lifestyle.
Who’s on board?
BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, who represent 95 per cent of the market, are all on board, and this change has come into force with immediate effect.
The exemption will apply only in locations where the provider does not currently operate and you will be required to provide proof of your soldier’s assignment.
AFF is currently determining whether retrospective cases can be investigated. We’ll update families as we learn more.
A welcome move
Defence Minister Mark Lancaster, said: “The removal of cancellation fees by leading broadband providers is yet another example of the Covenant in action, which is making sure our brave personnel are treated fairly. It’s a welcome move and we’re looking forward to seeing what more British businesses can do to support our military”
More Covenant info
To find out more about how the Covenant is bringing fair improvements for the Armed Forces community, visit www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk
AFF is delighted to see journalists and politicians supporting military families’ and our own concerns around the Future Accommodation Model (FAM). Read more
Independent think tank The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has released Homes Fit For Heroes: A housing strategy for the modern armed forces. The CSJ aims to give people in the UK who are experiencing disadvantage and injustice, the opportunity to reach their full potential.
In their report, they outline ideas to address several concerns surrounding FAM and specifically look at how subsidised housing enables soldiers to serve, accompanied by their families.
In response to the report, AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade says:
“We are delighted that the CSJ are shining a light on the hugely important issue of housing for our Armed Forces and their families. Like the CSJ, we do appreciate that budgetary constraints need to be considered in any review of accommodation policy and that there are many different views in this discussion. It is therefore encouraging to see the firm grasp they have on the situation, in that, a solution to this housing issue cannot be found in a ‘one size fits all’ approach, as is being put forward by FAM. Each service must be taken in isolation, in relation to accommodation, to ensure that serving personnel and their families receive the most appropriate support.
“The changes that are being proposed by the MOD have the potential to have a hugely negative effect, not only on the nature of our Armed Forces in the future, but also how we honour and protect those who sacrifice so much in the line of duty to serve our country. Indeed, 76% of respondents to AFF’s survey on FAM said they would definitely leave or consider leaving the Army if FAM is introduced.
“It is important that any changes to the policy for accommodation under FAM are not blindly pushed through in the name of cost cutting measures and supposed modernisation, but are carefully considered with proper consultation and evidence, with families and serving personnel at the heart of the matter.”
Find out more
Click here to read the full report from the CSJ.
To read a Times article on this issue, from 20 March, click here.
Following on from the incredible reaction we had to our Big Survey 2016: The Future of Military Housing, we developed the AFF FAM Manifesto as a direct response to the feedback we received from families.
Here at AFF, we try to be balanced in our approach to all things, including the proposals around FAM, and appreciate there are many different views in this discussion. Read more
Our FAM Manifesto, therefore, represents the majority view from our families, based on the evidence we gathered from the survey, and we are now using it to demonstrate the strong feelings and concerns around FAM.
We have been working hard to make sure families’ voices are heard in this debate and our staff have been using the Manifesto in meetings with key MOD officials, MPs and civil servants.
Response from MOD
Most recently, we asked Lieutenant General Richard Nugee CVO, CBE, who, as Chief of Defence People (CDP), has the responsibility of planning and implementing FAM, to submit a response to our Manifesto, giving Defence’s views and feedback on FAM directly to families.
We are pleased that he accepted our invitation, as this shows Defence’s commitment to keeping families abreast of any developments and ensuring that their views are considered when developing FAM, a proposal that will drastically change the way you, as Army families, live in the future.
A copy of General Nugee’s letter can be found here and, whilst encouraging, AFF will be investigating some elements further and discussing them with the FAM team. To view AFF’s thoughts, click the linked sections within the letter.
The findings from the MOD’s FAM survey, which attracted over 12,000 responses from Army personnel, have now been released. AFF wants to make clear that this survey was created and driven by MOD and was separate to our own Big Survey 2016: The Future of Military Housing. Read more
While we are encouraged that families and personnel are being consulted, the results of the MOD’s survey confirm our fears that there is still too much of a gap between the expectations of FAM and the reality of it.
There are also huge gaps in knowledge and information, which can prevent Service personnel and their families from making an informed decision on this important issue. According to the survey, 43% of the Service personnel who responded had never heard of FAM prior to taking the survey. With that in mind, AFF questions how relevant and reliable the results of the survey are.
AFF continues to work on ensuring FAM will not represent a reduction in the ‘offer’ to families, if and when it is implemented. Our FAM Manifesto outlines the key points we feel need further investigation based on feedback from families.
You can also see our Chief Executive, Sara Baade, voicing her concerns around FAM.
If you have any concerns around housing in general or of FAM, please contact our Housing Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org
AFF is pleased to learn that the Government has extended support available to Service personnel and their families who own a home but are then posted overseas, to include those redeployed within the UK. Read more
Under the agreement, military families are able to rent out their home without facing higher costs or having to change their mortgage.
The recent announcement from Defence Minister Mark Lancaster will help to ensure that personnel and their families are treated more fairly in line with the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Minister said: “This extension means our brave men and women will save time and money when they are fulfilling vital roles across the country, and is another example of how the Covenant is making a real difference.”
The initiative is supported by 47 of the UK’s largest banks and building societies and is an extension to the original offer made back in January 2016, for which AFF campaigned for some time.
Find out more about AFF’s work on this issue here.
For further advice and guidance, email email@example.com
AFF responds to Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution’s announcement concerning tax rates in Scotland.
The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, Derek Mackay, confirmed that he would not change income tax rates or bands and would also not replicate the UK Treasury’s tax cut for higher earners. This means that the 40% income tax rate will start at £43,430 in Scotland but will start at £45,000 elsewhere in the UK from April 2017. For further information on this, please click here.
AFF is concerned that if this is applied to military personnel serving in Scotland, some could face a significant financial disadvantage as a result of their jobs. We are urgently seeking clarification from the MOD as to whether there will be an exemption for military personnel and will update families as soon as we know more.
The Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report for 2016 is now published and, once again, the Families Federations were invited to comment and give serving families’ view on this important document. Read more
The report highlights Covenant successes in education, health and employment, amongst other areas. The comments from the Families Federations offer a balanced approach, highlighting where improvements are needed and celebrating those that have already been made.
AFF was particularly pleased this year to learn about new National Insurance credits to protect the State Pension of spouses who previously accompanied their soldier overseas. Improved access to student funding for distance learning courses while overseas is another step in the right direction in tackling the disadvantages that military families still face.
Considerable progress has been made during 2016 to remove the disadvantages some of you face when accessing commercial products and services such as mobile phones, mortgages and motor insurance – all of which AFF has highlighted to you through our various channels. We are also hopeful of more improvements in this area for 2017.
More to be done
However, overall, there is more to be done. Housing is still a major concern for AFF, despite statistics showing recent improvement. We know that the ‘lived experience’ of many families remains poor, causing you stress and frustration. There is also increasing nervousness about the Future Accommodation Model (FAM), which has the potential to change radically the way that accommodation is provided in the future. AFF continues to prioritise this issue and has developed the AFF FAM Manifesto to help bring your views to the fore when decisions are made.
Another area of concern for AFF is Foreign & Commonwealth, where we unfortunately still see a lack of commitment to remove disadvantage. Families continue to tell us that overseas assignments in particular can cause specific issues relating to residency, passports and obtaining National Insurance numbers. We would like to see these matters addressed by the Covenant during 2017 and will continue to offer our own support in the best way we can.
Find out more
AFF continues to work with the Covenant, which is acting as a driving force for many positive changes for military families. To read the annual report and the Families Federations’ comments in full, click here.
AFF’s work to make the Covenant more meaningful to families is ongoing. Look out for Covenant news, updates and facts across our website and social media as part of our ‘Did you know…?’ campaign, or click here to read more about our Covenant work.
Following on from AFF’s work ensuring Army families’ voices are heard during planning for the Future Accommodation Model (FAM), we have now developed the AFF FAM Manifesto. Read more
Our manifesto outlines the key actions we believe must be taken in order for FAM to be viable and, most importantly, fair to you, the families.
Using your evidence
Our manifesto is based on the results of this summer’s AFF Big Survey: The Future of Military Housing. More than 8,300 of you responded to our survey, an indication of just how important this issue is to families. Our manifesto represents the majority view from families based on the evidence you gave us.
The AFF FAM Manifesto
We want to ensure that the evidence you gave us is not ignored and our manifesto sets out ways to make sure this does not happen. To view the full AFF FAM Manifesto, please click here.
We launched the manifesto at our annual Networking Event in November, which was attended by the Chief of The General Staff, Sir Nicholas Carter KCB, CBE, DSO, ADC Gen, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, CVO, CBE and a number of key MOD and Whitehall officials, all of whom have now received a copy of the AFF FAM Manifesto. We have also held one-to-one meetings with all those mentioned above, to really drive home the concerns of Army families. As part of these meetings, we have continued to question how your views will be considered.
We have also been communicating with a number of MPs around the issues that FAM could create and will keep you updated as and when we know more.
Find out more
Further updates surrounding our work on FAM will be published via our website and social media.
Two powerful films and a bank of digital stories have been launched to raise awareness of what life is like for Armed Forces schoolchildren in Wales. Read more
Pupils, parents and staff at Llantwit Major High School and Prendergast Community Primary School have made the films, with support from the MOD, Army Families Federation, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and Storyworks UK.
The initiative has been co-ordinated by the Welsh Local Government Association’s (WLGA) Supporting Service Children in Education Cymru project (SSCE Cymru).
A snapshot of Service life
Speaking at the launch event, Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams AM said: “We hope these online films and digital stories will help schools and local authorities understand the circumstances that Service children sometimes find themselves as well as providing a snap shot into the lives of Service children in Wales today.”
Cllr Brendan Toomey, WLGA spokesperson said: “These powerful films give a snap shot of what life can be like for the children of serving personnel. These videos and resources can be used as a training and teaching aid for educational professionals and for other Service children in Wales and beyond to hear the experiences of other young people with serving parents.”
Pupils share their stories
Storyworks UK also ran workshops with pupils that would allow them to share their own stories about what it’s like to have a parent in the Armed Forces. These workshops were turned into a bank of two-minute digital stories, capturing the children’s experiences.
AFF helps improve awareness
AFF Regional Manager North Annabel Ingram said: “Being involved in the project right from the beginning meant that I was able to contribute on behalf of AFF, and as a parent. I used our evidence from families to help the wider audience understand the unique situation Service children can find themselves in. The project has been a huge success and it was fantastic to be part of it. I hope many people view and use the films and digital stories.”
Find out more
All the films are available on the project website www.sscecymru.co.uk
AFF is pleased with news the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has signed the Armed Forces Covenant and pledged to support Service spouses and partners in gaining leadership qualifications to help them further their career. Read more
AFF has worked for a long time to highlight the challenges Army spouses and partners can face when finding and maintaining employment – a key issue that features firmly in the Covenant.
Supporting career development
Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute said: “We’re proud to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and help families of the heroic men and women who serve our country get the support they need to develop their careers.”
CMI has pledged support for Service spouses and partners through their MOD Family Membership Scheme, which provides access to discounted leadership, mentoring and coaching qualifications – the scheme is offered FREE to Service children aged 16-18 years. They are also committed to supporting the military spouses and Reservists they employ with flexible working where possible.
Valuing Service families
Participating in the Covenant signing, Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee said: “The families of our Service personnel are an important part of the Covenant. We value and are grateful to them – the unsung heroes who support our Armed Forces. Knowing that the nation and organisations like the Chartered Management Institute recognises this is extremely important and fundamental in making the Armed Forces Covenant work.”
Find out more
For some useful FAQs about the scheme click here.
Find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant by visiting www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk
Did you know that as part of the commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant, you and your soldier should not be disadvantaged in your career goals and pension? Read more
Some of the ways the Covenant works to ensure this include:
- Jobcentre Plus Armed Forces Champions focus specifically on the support, advice and guidance provided by Jobcentre Plus to ensure they reflect the needs of the Service community.
- Working with Employers so that they understand the benefits of employing Service leavers and Reservists, as well as the need for flexible employment policies.
- Exemption, when returning from overseas, from UK residency rules when seeking Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- National Insurance credits for Service spouses and partners for time spent accompanying their partner abroad to ensure that they receive their full State Pension when they retire.
For more on AFF’s Covenant work, click here.
If you’re interested in bolstering your employment skills, why not apply to take part in the ACCA-X programme from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Read more
ACCA offers FREE online courses leading to a qualification that is recognised throughout the world, ideal for that overseas posting.
The course itself is FREE but there is a fee to register with ACCA and to take the exams.
Gain access to career support
By registering, you will also gain access to the ACCA Careers site, with thousands of vacancies, careers support and advice, as well as invites to networking and career-building events. As a student member, you will also have access to additional courses and learning opportunities.
Register your place
To apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important that you state you are part of an Army family who saw this promotion on the AFF Facebook page.