Latest News & Information
On this page:
26 Apr - Securing your right to vote, wherever you’re posted
12 Apr - Families overseas to see changes to chip and pin services at Forces Post Offices (FPOs)
11 Apr - Latest AFF report details Army families’ concerns
06 Apr - Are your dependent children registered on JPA?
31 Mar - New improved mail service to help your family keep in touch
30 Mar - Family focus for successful Scotland roadshow
28 Mar - Forces pay increase announced at just one per cent
23 Mar - Did you know broadband and media packages are now fairer for your family?
Concerns over FAM gain wider coverage
Are you leaving the Armed Forces in the next 10 months?
Families’ feedback to help shape AFF Scotland roadshow
Plans for new CarillionAmey (CA) housing portal put on hold
Training and career opportunities for military community
Exceptional support for Army families
AFF receives MOD response to loss of e-bluey
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
New Year, new career: FREE employability sessions for Army spouses/partners in Wiltshire
AFF responds to Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution’s announcement concerning tax rates in Scotland.
AFF responds to ‘Army 2020 Refine’ announcement
AFF and the other Families Federations add families’ view to Covenant Annual Report
AFF launches FAM Manifesto on behalf of Army families
AFF director among 2017 fellows of Clore Social Leadership framework
Armed Forces children in Wales share their experiences through short films and digital stories
AFF awarded Libor money for vital research into Army family life
AFF discovers the secret to success for working Army spouses and partners
Service families to benefit from CMI membership
Spouses in business was order of the day at AFF’s latest roadshow
Covenant commitments: ensuring your future
AFF Specialist receives commendation for community work
Future of defence estate announcement
FREE accounting courses for Army families
AFF Big Survey 2016 - the future of military housing
AFF Annual Report 2015/2016 published
Forces in Mind Trust welcomes AFF Chief Executive to its Grants and Commissioning Committee
Making the Armed Forces Covenant more worthwhile
Army to trial flexible working
The General Election, which will be held on 8 June 2017, will decide how the country is run and it is vital that you and your family have your say. Read more
As an organisation, AFF is determined that, as per the Armed Forces Covenant, all eligible families are able to vote and exercise their democratic rights, which your soldier helps to defend.
The Your Vote Matters website provides useful information on how Service personnel and their families can vote and we would encourage everyone to read the information and register how they wish to vote, whether in person, by post or by proxy, as a matter of urgency.
We are aware that families overseas do have concerns around their postal votes and that they might not reach the UK in time due to the short timescales of this election. Equally, many families do not view proxy voting as a viable option for them, again, due to the short time scales of this election and the fact that many do not have a suitable candidate to nominate as their proxy. This was highlighted in the command brief we produced following the 2015 elections.
We share these concerns and since the decision to hold an election was announced, we have been in daily contact with a range of people from the MOD and the Electoral Commission to seek urgent clarity on the situation so that we can provide you with as much information as possible to make an informed decision on how you would like to vote.
This is our number one priority at the moment and we will continue to push for clarity until we have a suitable response. As soon as we have more information, we will share this with you.
In the meantime, if you have any concerns, please do contact your local AFF Co-ordinator, whose details can be found here.
From 1 May, there will be changes to the amount British Forces Post Office (BFPO) customers overseas can withdraw using the chip and pin facility. AFF has been in contact with BFPO HQ to understand the rationale behind these changes and you can find out more by clicking here.
Sarah Baade, Chief Executive of AFF, said,
“We understand these limits have been imposed to comply with directives imposed by HM Treasury and we are now working to understand and monitor how these changes will affect families in overseas locations. I would encourage anyone who has concerns to contact their local AFF Co-ordinator so that we are able to collect evidence to help us understand the issues further and raise any concerns up the chain of command.”
AFF dealt with 9,374 enquiries in 2016, from Army families across the globe. Our latest edition of Families’ Concerns is out now and reports upon the issues and actions we’ve taken in the last year in support of the families who contacted us. Read more
We’re here to support your family
Your evidence is invaluable in supporting our ongoing proposals for change and improvement, and this report encompasses the wide-ranging challenges you face.
Your largest area of concern remained ‘how we live’, namely, the maintenance of your Service Families Accommodation (SFA). Please be assured that this remains a firm focus for AFF, especially in light of recent developments around the Future Accommodation Model (FAM).
Getting families’ issues to the top
Our report is used as a document of influence and is circulated to a variety of stakeholders and decision makers including MOD, MPs, local authorities, charities and others who we believe have an impact upon Army family life.
We’d love you to have a read as, aside from covering the work we have done throughout 2016, it also sets out some of our priorities for 2017.
Read AFF’s report
Read our report here.
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
Defence Minister Mark Lancaster has announced a new electronic mailing system for friends and family to send letters to personnel serving around the world. Read more
The new contract with Neopost will enable you to send FREE hard copy, secure mail, including photos, to your serving loved ones. The new imail INtouch system replaces the old e-bluey system on 1 April with no break in service.
With imail, you’ll be able to send up to eight pages, including high definition photographs and official documents, compared with the e-bluey system, which only allowed a single page and did not support HD photos.
With around 4,000 personnel on over 20 operations around the world, communication with your serving person remains vital, especially for those who do not typically use electronic communications.
The MOD’s new contract is set to offer around half a million pounds worth of savings, which will be reinvested into welfare services like improved internet and Wi-Fi provision around the world.
By offering both secure internet calls, emails, a letter and parcel service, as well as the imail INtouch service, there is now a range of ways to keep in touch during deployments.
Sara Baade, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation says, “It’s good news that this service is being rolled out and there will not be a gap between e-Bluey ceasing and the new contract with Neopost beginning. Communication with families whilst on operations is vital for morale and it is encouraging that this service will offer a raft of ways for families to stay in touch with their loved ones.
“We will monitor this contract to make sure it is offering families the best service possible and we eagerly await news of how the reinvested money will be used to support Army welfare services around the world.”
For more information and to download a ‘quick start guide’, click here
It was great to see both the sun and families out in force for the AFF Scotland roadshow with people travelleing from as far as Glasgow and Penicuik. Read more
Stands from Donna McCartney, Parent Support Officer Scotland, Barry Nichols, Armed Services Advice Project, Kinloss HIVE and more proved popular, as did our AFF specialists who spoke with many of you to discuss your issues and concerns. In particular, our Foreign & Commonwealth Specialist Katherine Houlston drew soldiers from Inverness to access her expert knowledge.
Answering your questions
Colonel Charles Wallace, Deputy Commander HQ 51 Brigade and HQ Scotland, and AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade chaired our formal Q&A session. This lively debate tackled your questions about various local issues including the removal of the bus service for families in Kinloss and Inverness, education in Scotland and possible issues for F&C soldiers if Scotland becomes independent.
Wider issues such as the future accommodation model (FAM) were also raised and our panel responded to all questions from both a military and family perspective. Children were very much welcome and had the chance to enjoy our craft tables while their parents listened and took part in the debate.
Education, education, education
The main issue of the day was education and this mirrored the feedback you gave us in our recent Scotland survey. School places, curriculum differences and the later starting age for children in Scotland were among the points raised – we plan to look at this issue, along with all of your questions, in more detail.
A family focused day
There was luck in the air for three of our attendees who each won an Amazon voucher in our prize draw - congratulations to the lucky winners!
We were thrilled with the noise in the room over lunchtime, a sign of the many conversations that were taking place between AFF staff, families, chain of command and stallholders.
We’d like to thank the welfare team in Kinloss for their support, as well as those families who attended – many of whom stayed for the whole morning – for making this such a successful family event.
Find out more
Keep an eye on our website and social media for further updates on the issues that were raised. If you would like to discuss family life in Scotland in more detail, please contact our Scotland Co-ordinator Zoe Teale at email@example.com
The Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body has released a report detailing their recommendations on military pay, allowances and charges from April 2017. Read more
Their recommendations include an increase in the rate of basic pay by 1%, a rise in the Northern Ireland Resident’s Supplement of 1%, compensatory allowances and Reserve bounties to increase by 1%, SFA charges to increase by 1% including those in Germany still on the four-tier grading system and an increase in the cost of SLA.
Responding to the announcement from the Armed Forces Pay Review Board, Sara Baade, Chief Executive of AFF said, “Whilst we understand that the fiscal picture of Defence currently is extremely tight, we are disappointed that serving personnel will only receive a 1% pay increase. Whilst some would suggest an increase of any kind is positive, when you factor in that inflation is set to rise to 2.8% by 2018, and the 1% increase in the cost of SFA, it is feasible to assume that many serving personnel and their families could actually be worse off as a result of this announcement. This, coupled with potential changes to other elements of the offer, specifically, how we access housing, of course means that many families are rightly concerned about their economic future.
“We will continue to work with the MOD to highlight our concerns and to understand the implications of today’s announcement. We’ll also continue to listen to families’ worries and pass these up the chain of command so that the Army family voice can be heard and acted upon appropriately.”
To read the report in full, click here.
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.
AFF is conducting research into the experience of families when their soldier leaves the Army. We are looking for families who will be transitioning (planned or unplanned) out of the Army no later than February 2018. Read more
Why are we doing this?
We know that the families’ role in the transition process is vital, and are working with the Naval Families’ Federation and the RAF Families’ Federation to gather evidence on what families experience when they leave the Forces, so we can see what support is needed, and when.
If your family is due to leave the Army, we’d love to follow your transition journey, and a period post-transition, to understand how it works (or not!) for you.
We’ll ask you to complete an initial questionnaire, and will then contact you periodically to find out how your transition is going.
If you are willing to share your experience with us, or would like to find out more, please contact Rosie Buxton at firstname.lastname@example.org
AFF recently ran a short survey of Army families in Scotland to learn more about Army family life there and to help shape our upcoming Scotland roadshow in Kinloss on 23 March. Read more
329 of you completed the survey from more than 30 locations in Scotland. 62% of respondents indicated that if they were able to, they would choose to settle in Scotland.
The main emerging issues included:
- 45% of respondents said it was difficult or very difficult to see families and close friends, compared to postings outside Scotland.
- 45% of respondents indicated that they had difficulty finding childcare places.
- 65% of families felt that they were not receiving enough information regarding possible future movement of Army units.
26% of respondents reported problems with working due to difficulties finding employment or lack of childcare. However, you highlighted that the short school day has an effect on employment opportunities and childcare needs.
The main challenges identified by families included differences in education, Issues with public transport in some areas and being so far from wider family support. The differences in children’s education provision in Scotland were also a concern for some of you, particularly when moving between education systems. AFF believes information ahead of postings and support when moving between UK education systems is crucial for families.
Your positives of a Scottish posting included easy access to a doctor and dentist, the opportunity for outdoor activities and, for those originally from Scotland, being so close to family.
Using your views
AFF found differing views expressed by Scottish families and those families from outside Scotland. While families highlighted many positive aspects about living in Scotland, a number of issues and concerns were also raised. View the full results of our survey here.
AFF will highlight the themes raised in our survey with the relevant stakeholders at our upcoming roadshow, for more details click here.
If you can’t attend on the day, please submit your question in advance to Annabel Ingram, AFF Regional Manager North, at email@example.com
Over the last few weeks, CA has been testing the new portal for SFA applications with the families’ federations, DIO and other stakeholders and, as a result of issues and new ideas emerging from the tests, CA has decided to put the launch of the portal on hold.
Any families wanting to apply for SFA should continue to use the existing e1132 system as normal. If you have any questions, call 0800 7076000 and select option 3 .
AFF will continue to keep you updated.
Covenant signatory Amazon Web Services (AWS) have pledged support for the military community, including military spouses, with the launch of their AWS re:Start programme, which aims to provide training and potential employment opportunities in computing technology. Read more
Their four-week training course focuses on cloud computing and networks; no previous IT, cloud computing or network experience is required. Training is provided by QA, AWS’s training partner, free of charge - participants will simply need to fund their own accommodation and travel.
Support from employers
A number of companies, including Amazon, EDF Energy and Tesco Bank, have already agreed to support the programme by offering work placements to those completing the courses, depending on performance and potential. Participants may also wish to carry on training to achieve AWS Associate level certification.
There will be a pilot intake commencing March 27 2017, in Manchester. If successful, they hope to run further courses in other locations.
For more information, or to register your interest, visit aws-restart.com
Congratulations to Audrey Nealon, AFF London Co-ordinator, on receiving a commendation from the Commanding Officer at Northwood Headquarters. Read more
Captain Kevin Shaw, Royal Navy, presented Audrey with the award for outstanding service to Northwood Headquarters, in recognition of her assistance in local engagement and supporting families with housing and other issues.
Her profile and determination in reaching the many patches across North London has been particularly appreciated.
“Approachable, extremely capable and hardworking, she has been a superb representative for AFF in London and a champion for the Northwood community.”
AFF is delighted that Audrey has represented AFF and military families so exceptionally well and that she has received this formal recognition. Well done Audrey!
To contact AFF’s co-ordinators in your area, click here.
Following the news that the e-bluey service will end on 31 March, families have voiced their concerns about the loss of this simple-to-use service. Read more
AFF has sought clarification from MOD as to why this decision was made, and while this has come as a blow to many, we are encouraged to learn that the service will be replaced by improved Wi-Fi signal to help those deployed keep in touch more easily. Redistribution of funds will also see an overall improvement in the deployed welfare package.
Here is the MOD response we have received…
“The Ministry of Defence has announced that the e-bluey service will be ending on 31 March 2017.
The British Forces Post Office (BFPO) would like to reassure all concerned that the BFPO remains fully committed to ensuring that those deployed on operations are able to keep in touch with their families and friends.
It is regrettable that SuperLetter, the company that provide the e-bluey service, announced the cessation of the e-bluey before the BFPO could launch its own communications to inform our valued customers.
Please be assured that we understand and take their concerns seriously, and that the importance of the services provided by the BFPO is recognised and embedded within the Armed Forces Covenant, as well as the Terms and Conditions of Service of military personnel.
Why has this decision been made?
Since the draw down from Afghanistan in 2014, and the continued growth of Wi-Fi and mobile data-based technologies, the e-bluey has become much less popular as a way for Service personnel to stay in touch.
Usage has fallen by 97%, with numbers declining significantly from 100,000 in 2007 to under 3,000 per month in December 2016. As a result of this rapid decline in usage, and changes in the way people are staying in touch with each other, the decision has been made to terminate the e-bluey service.
What will happen now?
The MoD has decided to reinvest all of the funds used for the e-bluey service into further improvement of deployed welfare packages. The rationale behind this is that, while the e-bluey service is only used by a small number of people, a reinvestment of funds can provide improvements in Wi-Fi- based services that can benefit, and are more relevant to, a larger number of Service personnel, their families and friends.
Our parcel and letter services will remain unaffected by the end of the e-bluey.
Please be assured that there will remain a way for all Service personnel and their loved ones to stay in touch with each other,while they are deployed on operations, wherever they are in the world, through these services.
Hand-written correspondence can still be sent free of charge via a FFAL (Forces Free Air Letter), which can be obtained from Post Offices. Eligible Service staff will also still be able to receive parcel size packages of up to 2kg, at no cost to the sender, under the Enduring Families Free Mail Service (EFFMS) Scheme.
An update on the improvements that will be put in place once the e-bluey service ends will be published on the BFPO page on the GOV.UK website once announced by Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in March 2017.”
While AFF is pleased to learn that the loss of the e-bluey system will lead to improvements to the deployment welfare package, AFF believes that the distress and worry caused to many families could have been avoided with better communication around the issue from the outset.
If your soldier is due to deploy, please be assured that the ‘bluey’ system is unaffected by this change.
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 is proud to announce our latest campaign in support of spousal employment. We’ve teamed up with workforce experts Manpower to bring Army families accessible, family-friendly employability advice and support, at a local level. Read more
It’s FREE to drop in
We’ll be holding sessions every other Thursday at the Beeches Centre in Bulford, Salisbury, for spouses and partners to drop in, free of charge and access a range of support and guidance. If successful, we hope to be able to roll these sessions out to other areas in the future.
Sessions will take place during the regular weekly coffee morning at the centre, which will continue as normal. We are keen to make these sessions as inclusive and family friendly as we can – so feel free to bring the children along with you.
A range of support
Sessions will feature:
- CV support
- Coaching and mentoring sessions, both one-to-one and group
- Transition advice
- Guidance on approaching the job market
- Career profiling
- Access to live jobs
- Interview techniques
- Writing Covering letters and application forms
- Access to training & upskilling through use of PowerYou (Manpower’s training portal)
For some time, you’ve told AFF about the difficulties you face when seeking rewarding employment appropriate to your skillset and experience, due to aspects of Army life such as mobility and separation.
At these sessions, we’ll have consultants, Manpower trainers and AFF staff on hand to help give your career and skills the kick-start they need.
Don’t miss our launch
Our launch event takes place on Thursday 9 February between 9.30am and 12.30pm; all are welcome, including children, whatever stage you’re at in your career.
Follow up sessions will be held on:
- 23 February
- 9 March
- 6 April
- 27 April
- 11 May
- 25 May
At the Beeches Centre, Bulford, between 9.30am and 12.30
Find out more
To find out more about the employment and training support AFF can offer you, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Commenting on the Army 2020 Refine Announcement, our Chief Executive, Sara Baade said: “Following previous announcements on the Future of the Defence Estate, we know that families already have some concerns around potential moves and yesterday’s announcement around Army 2020 Refine will doubtless create more concern. We would like to reassure families that a key focus of AFF’s work in 2017 will be to look closely at the impact these moves may have on families. We will be working closely with chain of command and other organisations, including local authorities, sharing our evidence and recommendations and ensuring that families are communicated to and engaged with in the run up to, during and after moves to ensure that the impact of re-basing can be kept to a minimum.
“If families do have concerns, we would recommend they contact their Unit Welfare Officer who should be able to offer clarity around these issues. AFF’s local co-ordinators are also on hand to offer support, so families should visit our contact us page to find out who their local contact is.”
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.
Congratulations to AFF Policy and Research Director Louise Simpson who has been awarded a Specialist Fellowship from social change charity, Clore Social Leadership. Read more
Support from the Forces in Mind Trust
Louise will undertake a Military Health Specialist Fellowship, supported by the Forces in Mind Trust, and will be one of the first to be trained in Clore Social Leadership’s Social Leaders’ Capabilities Framework, which outlines the attributes, behaviours and skills emerging leaders need to become successful.
Fellows will participate in tasks and challenges that will help them to become proficient in the framework and with applied learning at its heart, Louise can then bring what she has learned back to AFF and the Army family community.
Keeping families at the heart of AFF
Louise said: “This fellowship is not only extremely exciting for me personally, but also professionally, it will be hugely beneficial to AFF as it will allow me to engage with and implement gold standard working practices, helping AFF to support Army families in the most appropriate, innovative way, ensuring families’ needs are always at the heart of our work.”
Find out more
The 12-month programme starts in January 2017, look out for more news on Louise’s progress. For more information, including a full list of the 2017 Fellows, click here.
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 delighted to have received a substantial LIBOR grant to conduct two new pieces of research into Army family life. Read more
The money, which comes from banking fines and is used to support Armed Forces and emergency services charities, and other related good causes, will allow us to explore:
- The real and perceived barriers to employment and training for Army spouses, and which ones are unique to Army life.
- How the Covenant supports Army families posted overseas.
AFF has investigated the barriers to employment for Army spouses and partners for some time. Although we have amassed a great deal of evidence, this funding will allow us to support our evidence with robust research to provide us with a full picture of the issues many of you are facing.
Amongst other areas, our research will look at which barriers are linked to Service life, what the impact of transition or the likely impact of the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) on your family is if the non-serving spouse is not working and how other countries support Army spouses in employment and training.
A meaningful Covenant
There has remained a Covenant thread through AFF’s work during the last 12 months and our second piece of research will build on this, exploring the impact of the Covenant on those of you posted overseas.
We are extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to conduct this research, which we hope will further empower Army families to improve the quality of their life. We will also be able to more confidently approach decision makers including MOD and local and central government with a more detailed picture and emerging causes of disadvantage.
Look out for more updates on our website and social media as our project gets underway.
AFF recently ran a survey to discover how Army spouses are making work ‘work’ for them and their family. We wanted to learn about the secret to their success. Read more
657 working spouses and partners took part telling us how determination, positivity and flexibility are key, as well as being open to different types of employment.
We learned that the majority of our respondents were in admin or secretarial work, while teaching and education, health and charity were also highly ranked.
The majority of working spouses/partners who took our survey feel working is worthwhile – not just for financial reasons but also for a sense of identity and independence. However, they do face some significant challenges.
We were concerned to learn that 39% of respondents said their soldier’s workload or hours mean they are unable to help, even on an occasional basis – this was more apparent in spouses of other rank soldiers. Unsurprisingly, those who said their soldier was able to offer support felt more strongly that working was ‘worth it’.
Challenges in maintaining employment
The top four challenges identified by working Army spouses and partners were:
- 55% cost of childcare
- 49% lack of appropriate childcare
- 48% frequent postings
- 47% lack of family support
Whilst flexible working is available to some soldiers, AFF believes the MOD and Army should promote it more widely. Modern families now require a fairer division of childcare and this is something that AFF will continue to push for.
Find out more
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
Catterick Leisure Centre was a hub of activity when AFF’s employment fair took place on 15 November. From cakes to cards, scarves to sports massage – spouse businesses were out in force to show off their wares and showcase their services. Read more
We were delighted to see so many attending this community event and to have so many wonderful stands run by local enterprising spouses. Together, they helped make this event a success and created a great atmosphere.
Thank you to our support stands: RBLI, Civvy Street, FEN HUN, ABF The Soldier’s Charity and the HIVE. Their presence at the event offered families and stallholders alike, practical support and guidance on getting back into work or running a small business. The feedback we’ve received from stallholders so far has been very encouraging with one inspired to attend an RBLI course to increase her confidence in promoting her business.
Employers also attended to highlight current vacancies and one person, who had recently trained as a teaching assistant, told us she had signed up with one of the organisations there, who will now help her to access a position in the local area.
More on employment
Our next roadshow will take place on 23 March 2017 in Scotland. We’re working hard to make sure we once again bring you a great mix of information, guidance and interest. More details to follow.
In the meantime, if you are currently seeking employment, or looking to boost your employment skills, check out our dedicated website pages.
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.
Huge congratulations to Laura Lewin, AFF’s Employment, Training, Allowances and Money Specialist, on receiving a commendation from the Bovington Garrison Commander for her dedication to the Bovington military community. Read more
Laura’s work in support of the families of Bovington Garrison community includes:
- Setting up voluntary organisation ‘Bovitots’ with two other wives, which provides social support and a focus for wives that may not be able to afford or travel to other support networks.
- Setting up a running club, a circuits club and a netball club for wives. The latter has been incredibly successful, with notable success in local leagues.
- Following the Fiji disaster this year, Laura set up and co-ordinated a consolidated garrison response including a fundraising netball match that raised £355 for the disaster relief.
All of this, alongside her paid work as an AFF co-ordinator has helped to tackle isolation amongst Army spouses in the area.
Passion, vision and incredible support
On receiving her award, Laura was told, “Her unwavering dedication and drive (sometimes in a contested environment) has absolutely contributed to the quality of life for wives and mothers across Bovington Garrison. For her passion, vision and incredible support she deserves public recognition.”
AFF is extremely proud of Laura’s efforts and is delighted her hard work and dedication has been properly recognised. Congratulations!
Laura’s role at AFF
To learn more about Laura and her role as an AFF Specialist, click here.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made an announcement on the future of defence estate in the Commons yesterday.
Commenting on the announcement, our Chief Executive Sara Baade said,
“Whilst the announcement may raise some concerns amongst our families, it is important to remember that many of these moves are not imminent and will be taking place as far off as 2032, giving us time to ensure that the process of rebasing for families is as smooth as possible.
“We will be working with chain of command and other organisations, including local authorities, to make sure families are communicated to and engaged with in the run up to, during and after moves to ensure that the impact of re-basing can be kept to a minimum.”
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 email@example.com
It is important that you state you are part of an Army family who saw this promotion on the AFF Facebook page.
If you were one of the 8,322 people who took part in our 2016 AFF Big Survey, you may be wondering what we’re doing with the information you provided us with.
Over the summer, we’ve identified key themes and emerging trends, which we are now in the process of raising with chain of command, senior politicians and decision makers to ensure families are properly considered if the changes proposed by the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) are implemented.
Click here to read our report, which details our findings and will act as an important tool for AFF when discussing the proposed changes to your housing provision with chain of command and MOD.
Thank you once again to all those who took the time to get involved.
AFF is the independent voice of Army families and passionately represents our unique community; Regular or Reserve, wherever they are based, whatever the make-up of their family. Throughout the UK and overseas, AFF provides essential links between families, the Army and government. We discuss, we challenge and we persevere to achieve policy change and progress in favour of Army families, as well as offering advice and guidance on all aspects of Army life, confidentially and in an easy to digest way. If you're interested in the figures and stories behind our work this year, take a look at our Annual Report.
AFF is delighted to announce that our Chief Executive, Sara Baade, has been welcomed onto the Forces in Mind Trust’s Grants and Commissioning Committee. Read more
AFF is excited to announce our latest campaign, ‘Did you know…’ that seeks to share the latest Covenant facts and ensure your family is getting the most from the Armed Forces Covenant.
Did you know that the Covenant is a promise by the nation to our service families to be treated fairly by the society they serve? Read more
As part of a renewed commitment to ensure the Covenant means something to families in real terms, the PM and his Ministers are hosting a series of roundtable talks, including one with the British Banking Association, and will tackle key issues raised by the Families Federations.
Keeping you informed
AFF is determined to keep our Army families fully informed of any Covenant progress and will bring you up-to-date alerts on how your family can benefit from Covenant policies.
Sharing knowledge and achievements is so important and we want to recognise the good work of those who support the Covenant - we’ll be thanking those who do and championing their work to encourage others to do more.
Listening to families
As ever, we are also keen to capture your views and experiences, which we will feed back to government, local authorities and corporations to ensure decision makers are fully informed of what is working and what changes are needed.
Only you, our families, can provide an accurate and honest evaluation of the Covenant and what difference the increased commitments make.
That is why, alongside our ‘Did you know…’ campaign we will also be asking ‘Have you ever…’ to give you the chance to share your views and make your voice count.
Pushing for change
Families can rest assured that AFF will continue to lobby for change where needed for the benefit of Army families everywhere. With your evidence, we will continue to ensure that the issues facing Army families are discussed and tackled at the highest level.
Look out for our ‘Did you know…’ campaign on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
For a long time, Army families have told AFF that the often unforgiving work schedule of the Service person/s creates added strain to family life and causes many soldiers to consider leaving the Army in favour of a better work/life balance.
AFF is delighted to announce that the MOD has listened to these concerns and has decided to run a trial of flexible working.
The following is a Q&A covering the basics you need to know... Read more
Why is the Army offering more flexible working?
The demand for flexible working is significant and predicted to increase. Already common in the civilian sector, flexible working helps to improve the health and well-being of employees, reduces absenteeism and increases productivity.
HQ Army is offering this in response to the views of military personnel, and their families, raised through the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey (AFCAS) and the Families Continuous Attitude Survey (FAMCAS).
What does flexible working look like now?
The flexible working initiatives that are available now include:
- Non-standard working hours – including variable start and finish times, compressed hours and home working.
- Additional paid leave options – including a call forward of leave, transfer of leave between spouses/civil partners where both are serving and enhanced leave of 50 days in lieu of annual leave.
- Revised unpaid leave – including a career intermission
The trial is being conducted by HQ Army from 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016 to test the benefits of Less Than Full Time (LTFT) working on a limited number (50) of Regular personnel.
Full details of the trial can be found in 2015DIN01-200 and ABN 136/15.
The flexible duty trial offers two levels of reduced Regular service:
- FD1 - Soldier remains liable for standard regular work but with limited deployed duties away from the home unit.
- FD2 – Soldier is employed at a limited level of deployability (as in FD1) but also works LTFT. This is not being paid and not liable for any tasking, work or duties for 31- 93 days over the 12 month trial period. In real terms the soldier may work between a three and five day week.
Is the chain of command on board?
Commanding officers/line managers must consider all requests fairly and support flexible working applications whenever possible. However, applications may not be supported or delayed during periods of high operational readiness, or if the soldier is in a role where the specified outputs make it impractical.
If your application is refused, the decision will be fully explained.
How can I/my soldier take part in the trial?
Applications to take part in the Flexible Duty trial should be made via the soldier’s chain of command to the Army Personnel Centre (APC) using form Annex A to 2015DIN01-200. Only applications that are approved by the soldier’s Commanding Officer will be considered by APC.
Applications to take part in the trial must be received by APC no later than 30 October 2015.
To find out more, your soldier can contact D PersCap-SO2-PlansB on:
- Military – 94391 7528
- Civilian – 01264 381 528