Ideas, articles and photographs for the Journal are very welcome at any time, whether they are about something that has happened to you, or in your community, or just voicing your views. In particular, we welcome contributions to the following pages, features or columns:
- News, views and opinions on how and where you live and experiences of life with the Army.
- Strong feelings or a question on a particular subject for Postbag.
- Career or training experiences for the Workplace pages.
- Personal experiences and feedback for Health, Education, Additional Needs, Housing, Foreign & Commonwealth issues and life as a TA family.
- Community action and good ideas happening in your garrison to be encouraged in others, or just a bright idea or a blindingly obvious suggestion to change things.
- Photographs of what may be happening in your community for our News From Around The World pages.
Where possible, text/copy should be emailed to us in Microsoft Word to firstname.lastname@example.org. Digital photographs must be very high resolution and in focus! Please email photographs and captions to us or pop images on a CD (protected in a jiffy bag) and post to the Journal office – remember to include your captions on a separate sheet. Send to: Editor, AFF Families Journal, IDL 414, Floor 1, Zone 7, Ramillies Building, Marlborough Lines, Monxton Road, Andover SP11 8HJ.
If you would like to write something for Journal, but want to talk to us about it first, just call us on 01264 382315. If you want to put news of an event in your area in to the Journal, let us know when and where it is happening. We want the Journal to be as topical and up-to-date as possible, even though we have to deliver the magazine to the publishers five weeks ahead of publication.
Here is a selection of previous postbag letters
From the spring 2013 edition:
Finding a school place
We have recently married and moved into our first Army quarter and I have not been able to get a primary school place for my son, who is five. We were offered a school which was too far away and although the council said they would provide transport, I would not put my vulnerable five-year-old on a bus everyday by himself. With my three-year old in pre-school nearby I cannot take him myself, as I can’t be at two different schools miles apart at the same time. At the moment, I am teaching him at home to the best of my ability so that he does not fall behind. He’s very emotional and sensitive lad and every day that he is off school could have a long lasting effect on him. I should be trying to find work, but with one child still at home it’s not possible. I have been in contact with all the local schools, the council and our Army Welfare team, but nobody can give me information on when a place will become available. I am at my wits end! Click here to show response
Response from Lucy Scott, AFF Education & Childcare Specialist: The Armed Forces Covenant and the School Admissions Codes 2012 have been designed in part to help families in this situation. The Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) has parent support officers who help with appeals. Email email@example.com or call 01980 618244.
Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) booklets on admissions and appeals are available to at www.ace-ed.org.uk
The Schools Admissions Code 2012 and School Admissions Appeals Code 2012 are available at www.education.gov.uk. This code specifically mentions children of Service personnel who move into an area on posting and need a school place. It is important to note that Local Authorities do not have to treat all Service children in Key Stage 1 as ‘excepted pupils’ as there may be a number of children in the same position.
AFF will continue to highlight this issue to policy makers and the Government. Please contact me if you require any further information on getting your children into school – firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the winter 2012 edition:
When we were posted abroad we were only allowed nine cubic metres of belongings to take with us, so we had to carefully sort out which items would go into storage - paid for at public expense. According to the paperwork that was given to us by our packers, our storage items were insured up to £35,000, but we were told we also needed our own storage insurance. So we divided our existing policy with our long-standing insurance company, Abacus, to part home insurance (for the items we had with us) and part storage insurance.
After two and a half years we returned to the UK, and arranged for our storage items to be delivered to our new house. Imagine my shock, when the items turned out to be mouldy and broken, with all the boxes soaked in water. Our house smelt so bad that we had to live with relatives for a week. Unpacking them was heart-breaking! Items that were damaged included things we’d had for years from weddings, births and birthdays, to broken children’s bunkbeds. The mattresses were mouldy and our vacuum cleaner and lawn mower were gone. What was not lost or broken was rusty, mouldy and in such a poor state that the only thing we could do was throw it away.
We decided to take all the wet and mouldy items in to the garden, since the storage company did not offer any help, saying they had no knowledge about it and that the container was dry when checked. Abacus’s inspector came two weeks later. He took photos (I already had 94) and asked me for a list of items, which I sent him within a few days. In the meantime, we discovered that the original storage company had been taken over about a year into our contract. We had around ten to twelve boxes from the new company, so it was obvious that the items had been repacked, therefore why were they not aware of the damage?
With my husband about to deploy to Afghanistan, we had to get rid of the rubbish as I couldn’t physically do it on my own. Four weeks later, we were informed by Abacus that they would not pay out anything, because mould, loss and accidental damage were not covered. So my question is, what is covered? The claim went to the storage company, but they said that the hangar was dry and, because we discarded all the items, they did not have a chance to inspect them.
Although many of our items can never be replaced, the estimated cost of the damage was £14,000. Eventually, the storage company accepted liability and offered us just £7,500. We are considering accepting this poor offer just because of the amount of stress and heartache it has caused but we feel cheated. Click here to show response
Response from Service Insurance and Investment Advisory Panel (SIIAP): This is a really complex issue. The basics are that insurance policies do not cover ‘gradually operating causes’ such as rot, fungus or mildew however, if the items are stored correctly then they should not have been delivered in that condition.
The storage company’s insurance not having the opportunity to inspect is not necessary as they had been inspected by reputable third parties. The main problem is that the storage company’s liability under law is only for the value of the items taking into account age and condition, which is why the lower amount may have been offered.
The cover offered under the various policies from SIIAP members for storage does vary as to scope of cover and basis of settlement. The best advice in terms of insurance we can give to Army families who may have to put their belongings into storage on posting is to shop around and understand what is being offered.
My final tip would be to take video or photos of the items going into storage and keep it safe. If a claim occurs at least you can show what condition the items were in when they were entrusted to the removal company.
Stop press: AFF is happy to report that since we referred this case to SIIAP, the family has been offered and accepted a much more favourable settlement. At the time of going to print, we are awaiting a response from the storage company. Look out for an article on this topic in the next edition of the Journal..
From the autumn 2012 edition:
Pay freeze or pay cut?
I am disgusted that the MOD is removing the London allowance from senior NCOs. The current rate is £1,400 a year. It is intended to compensate for factors which make serving in London a less attractive posting for Service personnel. By removing it, I believe this is a case of indirect discrimination, defined as ‘when a working condition or rule disadvantages one group of people more than another.’ My husband, a Sergeant, is now £452 worse off than a Corporal – surely part of the incentive for gaining promotion is also financial reward.
The Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) report does not endorse the changes. It states that the AFPRB has been unable to review the Recruitment and Retention Allowance (London) (RRA(L)) because of insufficient evidence from the MOD. On visits to London, the AFPRB said that they heard strong views from Service personnel, who considered this a divisive measure and unfair, as all ranks faced the same issues. Some of those who lose RRA(L) will also be affected by other allowance reductions such as Home to Duty Travel and Food and Incidentals Allowance, resulting in a significant total reduction in disposable income. The AFPRB report also notes that the change will cancel out much of the five per cent pay increase on promotion from Corporal to Sergeant, and that the change may make it harder for the MOD to attract high calibre personnel to staff positions in central London.
The MOD can dress it up as an allowance and not part of your annual salary, but the fact remains that as a Sergeant, my husband now has a £72 per month reduction in his salary. The Strategic Defence and Security Review proposed a two year pay freeze, not a pay cut. Click here to show response
Response from Maj Andrew Griffiths, SO2 Allowances, PS10: RRA(L) seeks to contribute to the higher costs encountered during a posting to London and compensate for the reduced quality of both the living and working environment. The allowance recognises the stress of commuting, the higher cost of food and beverages in Central London, the lack of Service sporting and recreation facilities, the lack of a Service Mess, and extra travelling time to and from medical and dental appointments.
The MOD was required to reduce expenditure on Service allowances amounting to some £250m per year, some of which will come from changes in allowance eligibility criteria and rates.
Since the change to RRA(L) was announced and implemented, the MOD has acknowledged that the savings measure has created an undesirable anomaly with London-based remuneration. To help inform the AFPRB’s deliberations for the 2013 Pay Award, the Army is in the process of conducting a comprehensive review of the current RRA(L) arrangements, to determine the justification, rationale and eligibility for a future Londonbased allowance.
I would urge you to guard against making direct comparisons between your husband and other Service colleagues due to the differing pay bands based upon cap badge, trade and rank, and the differing types of allowance that an individual may receive based upon their individual circumstances. Whilst your concern regarding your husband’s reduced monthly income and with the Government imposed public sector pay freeze are understood, since 2009 a minimum pay increase of 5% has applied to those promoted to Sgt – a considerable incentive towards promotion. In addition, this increase is pensionable whereas allowances are not. That said, the reduction in your husband’s monthly income is acknowledged.
During these financially challenging times, hard decisions had to be made in order to help reduce the nation’s deficit. I can assure you though that the Army’s comprehensive review of RRA(L) will seek, where possible, to make recommendations to the AFPRB that will address the current anomaly with London-based remuneration.
From the summer 2012 edition:
Consider our finances
As a family of three we usually get by with just enough money each month – although there’s nothing left to save. Recently, my husband had to go to Germany on exercise with the squadron; a number of whom are in the same situation as us with no money to spare on ‘extras’ – one guy went with the last £50 his family had.
The squadron leaders organised a ‘knees up’ and day out to a water park, which all the soldiers had to pay for themselves. My husband refused to go to the water park or go out drinking because my baby and I were at home with just enough food to last the rest of the month. Whoever is in charge of these ideas is pushing families into their overdrafts! Army command doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea of how much of a struggle it has become. They are so eager to collect ‘squadron funds’ of £60 a year, and yet soldiers end up paying for a day out themselves!
We need more information and consideration about when they will be going on exercise and having squadron days out, so that as a family we can make sure that there are sufficient funds for us to live on for the month.
Click here to show response
Response by Col Army Welfare, AD PS4: I am sorry to hear about this. Most of us appreciate how difficult managing the family finances can be, particularly at the moment, however sometimes this can be overlooked in the rush to organise a ‘fun’ activity. We have reminded the chain of command about this in our quarterly welfare newsletter. Don’t forget that your soldier should be claiming MOD allowances and UK state benefits if eligible. Should your soldier want to seek advice, or if they feel that they have been bullied, harassed or if they want to complain, the following might also be useful:
- Your soldier talking to their chain of command or their Equality and Diversity Officer
- Army Welfare Service – Confidential information and direction on any welfare problem call 0800 032 6443, mil 94344 5975 or 0044(0) 1980 615975
- Army’s Bullying/Harassment and Discrimination Helpline – 01264 381922
- Royal British Legion – Benefits and money advice including debt support, call 0044(0) 203 207 2153 or visit www.britishlegion.org.uk
- Service Complaints Commissioner – call 0203 178 7634 or visit http://armedforcescomplaints.independent.gov.uk
From the spring 2012 edition:
Overseas and out of pocket
I feel very let down by the decisions the MOD has made with regard to children as dependants. My husband’s next posting is to Kenya; a fantastic opportunity for our family and one which we did not consider lightly. I have to give up my job and income, and it means leaving two thirds of our family in the UK, but the time we could spend as a family during the holidays would make it worthwhile.
We are told the Army no longer recognises my son who is at university as our dependant and therefore will not afford him any flights. He will also not be entitled to health cover whilst visiting us in his family home. He no longer has a UK home base, yet when the university year ends, he’s expected to vacate his accommodation and go home! His student loan covers his tuition fees, but falls short of covering the accommodation (for nine months) provided by the university. He would be unable to work during the holidays as he has nowhere to live.
His twin brother, who is currently taking a gap year, will come to Kenya with us from March until September when he too will go to university, and as our dependant will be entitled to flights and healthcare whilst in Kenya.
My husband will serve his country in Kenya, but we will pay the price! We will not have my income, and we may not be able to afford for our boys to come home to us whilst they are at university. I am so frustrated and very concerned and I just don't know who to approach. This is only one very small (but important) point, one of many that the Armed Forces has recently changed to cut costs. It is unlikely we would consider an overseas posting in future. Click here to show response
Response from Lt Col Matt Fensom, SO1 Allowances: In order to achieve the Government mandated £250m reduction in annual expenditure on allowances, some very difficult decisions had to be made. The substantial impact of the changes to the allowances package for Service personnel, particularly for some who live abroad, are well understood however, all the changes were agreed (albeit reluctantly) by the Principal Personnel Officers and Service Chiefs.
It was within this climate that it was considered that dependants aged eighteen years or older who have finished A Levels are deemed to be adults and it is therefore inappropriate to continue to provide public funding for their travel. After the review of Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) conventions, dependants also cease to be eligible for LOA once they have finished A Levels or reach the age of 18 (whichever is later) if they choose to live with their parents overseas.
It is worth noting that your son who is currently attending university will be entitled to healthcare when he visits you in Kenya, even if he has not travelled to Kenya at public expense. You should also be aware that while the MOD will fund a flight out to Kenya for your son who is on a gap year (as he is at this time still classified as a dependant), when he returns to start university, his flight back to the UK will not be paid for by the MOD unless he is moving with the family on assignment or has an entitlement to a Get You home (Overseas) flight (ie has a minimum of twelve months in Kenya).
I know this won’t be the news you wish to hear but I can assure you that the chain of command is fully aware of the potential impact these measures may have on willingness to serve overseas and the position is being carefully monitored.
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