Army families share childcare challenges

Following the Government’s commitment to childcare support for the Armed Forces, we ran a survey asking families to share their views about the unique childcare issues they face as an Army family. We heard from spouses and partners, Service personnel and dual serving families.

Childcare can be a challenge for civilian families, but Army families face extra challenges due to the mobile nature of Army life.

Unique challenges

In total 84% of families told us that the most significant challenge they faced was the fact that the soldier was unable to regularly help with childcare.

One family told us, “Childcare is not at the forefront of the military mindset. I feel that the military believe that as the spouse, we should be the ones looking after the child, sacrificing our careers. There is no provision from the military for the working spouse.”

Lack of family support

A large proportion of families (82%) also faced childcare challenges because of a lack of family support locally. A large number (61%) who are not using unpaid childcare would like to but do not live close enough to those who can help.

Effect on spousal employment

The survey found that provision of childcare had a negative impact on the ability of spouses and partners to secure and maintain employment.

A family remarked: “Due to moving and lack of childcare support, I have had to remain junior in my profession while people I have trained are now more senior than me.”

Cost is a barrier

The survey found that cost is a significant barrier to childcare with 38% of families saying this was their top reason for not using paid childcare.

One parent said they “left the military due to childcare costs. We were both serving.”

What’s next?

We found that help with the cost would help Army families to access childcare. We also recommended that serving personnel have as much notice as possible of their posting location so that families have time to plan their childcare arrangements.

AFF is working with the chain of command and the MOD and our next job is to make sure those at the very highest levels of policy-making listen to your views and engage with families.

Take a look at our brief to Army command.

See the autumn edition of Army&You magazine for more information.



    Having read up more on this, it appears to me as though this scheme was not really thoroughly thought through as there is a lot of whole and problems with this;

    1. Most military partners work on zero hours contract as we are usually based in the middle of nowhere and employers are not willing to take anyone on for a permanent contract due to the unpredictability of the working hours they can commit to – with their spouse being away on exercises or deployment or guard shift / late night working. So, with most spouses only being to get zero hours contracts, this is making it impossible for people to be eligible for this scheme, this will in turn make a class divide within the work force.

    2. Your scheme is only lasting for 18 months after the pilot (ends July 2022) so by the time people have become comfortable in their jobs and new way of life, they will struggle to then go find this wrap around childcare which was previously paid for. It seems as though this is just a recruitment drive for a year, and once those places have been filled by false promises you’ll discontinue the scheme and soldiers and their partners will struggle, probably leading to one of them having to leave their jobs.
    See for reference – Sudexo Childcare Vouchers, Help to Buy, and Retention Bonuses.

    3. This scheme also points to a very sexist view on the role that women and mothers play in society, believing that its only the women who provide the childcare. Women have a lot more to offer in society, plenty of army wives have had to leave their well paying careers because they’re the ones expected to provide the childcare for the soldier. If the soldier then needs any time off work, which will happen with your scheme only lasting a year, they get held back in their careers due to needing to be their for their families and having to leave work early for their children, if their partner has a job too. The army never pays a military spouse compensation for uprooting them out of a permanent job, or for taking 6 months out of work at a time to support the deployed soldier.

    The scheme is term time only, which still leaves a large bill for the family to pay – unless they work a term-time only job.

    This scheme does not support military spouses who are in education and require childcare costs assistance, as Student Finance England will not support them because of the income of the soldier.

    Thanks for your comments on the MOD’s wrap around scheme, which will allow us to feedback families’ comments and concerns to the MOD.

    Excellent news, real progress based on need & evidence. Flexible wraparound childcare is both a need & want, after school & holiday provision is often lacking for working parents.
    Looking forward to this being rolled out overseas too where support from family & friends is lacking.
    You are doing an amazing job & challenge old cultures to move with the times, well done & keep doing what you do.

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