Army&You - Winter 2019

Page 1

&You Winter 2019

{for everyone with a soldier in their life}

ing n n a pl ty P roper

Check out the housing options open to you


PILOT PRACTICALITIES What next year’s Future Accommodation Model pilot means for Aldershot families

ACROSS THE POND Meet the army families living their own American dreams

WIN: BRITISH ARMY’S BRILLIANT NEW BRAINTEASING BOOK A hotel stay, event tickets and more also up for grabs in our winter giveaways



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{for everyone with a soldier in their life}

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for military families. There’s a look at home education on pages 42-43 and we also explore the benefits of becoming a school governor. We’ve also got some great giveaways on pages 54-55, a brilliant book club (page 52) and families’ views on our BlogSpot pages (57-58). There are always lots of other stories about army family life on our website, so don’t forget to check and follow us on social @armyandyou. Wishing all our readers a safe and peaceful festive season. See you in 2020!

a big part of what AFF does. In this edition, our health & additional needs specialist, Karen Ross, has written about domestic abuse – it’s a sensitive but important topic, exploring who to talk to, how to keep safe and what specific support is available


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Posts generously sponsored by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity

Welcome to the winter Army&You housing special. With changes on the way for how accommodation is delivered, we hear from those of you living in your own homes and those who wish to remain mobile. Our Q&A shares the ins and outs of the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) pilot in Aldershot and our main feature (pages 16-17) looks at your short and long-term housing options. We hear from the ‘Mrs Hinches’ of the forces community on how to keep your home sparkling and two service spouses show us how they’ve used their interior design talent to turn their quarters into something special. Overseas, we explore just how diverse postings within the USA can be, as three families share what it’s like to live in New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado, plus there’s a postcard from Washington. Back in the UK, we hone in on forces family life in the South West. There’s much to celebrate across the region, from a thriving choir to a collaborative community garden. Over in Colchester, families have come together to transform a graffitied underpass into a celebration of military life (page 36). Making sure families know who to turn to is


winter 2019 Army&You 03


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Don't forget to fol low us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for lots mo re news and features – details on page three WINTER 2019


THE POWER OF CREATION bags to making From modifying ammo Neil Stace is Lt Col wedding dresses, a you can get with about as handy as The ‘Sewing Soldier’ needle and thread. the final of the shot to fame by reaching Bee and since Sewing British Great BBC’s creative projects then, he’s been inspiring u caught up Army&Yo country. across the more… with him to find out stationed in on the go. “I was EIL’S love for late nineties Dortmund in the textiles dates back in fits and – my hobby went in people to his childhood starts. In the summer, Kong when, gowns and I’d seventies’ Hong would need ball against lunatic, then I as a remonstration be working like a policy, he for ages. In his primary school’s wouldn’t do anything club. go on exercise joined the sewing those days you’d into but even “They allowed girls in Germany for months, so a friend team, football the then, I’d be knitting. for 15 hours – it was as midnight – filming but no and I protested – “I got stick for sewing it was about in Afghanistan, women’s recalled. and I realised that simple as that,” he to anyone else. When suits. I sent it different underwear and ski clothes making a TV programme. in 1998, I and within “I remember making I deployed to Bosnia a thousand off for a bit of a laugh I still have “They could find dress for my for my action men. a phone call made a wedding they needed 20 minutes I got quality sewers, but thought somewhere.” them was making it driver. The soldiers who could asking whether I family a group of people just ‘what I He hails from a ‘crafty’ that sewing was had a bit of a all up!” summers interact, and who me to and always spent Lots of them asked did’. canal back story. they could on his grandparents’ gelling, so make curtains so his sisters “The group needed areas in the boat where he and a rugby cordon off their little After a rigorous selection two I started with day hats for on bobble blocks.” a crocheted accommodation together process which included scrum to get them Neil something to do. he describes I’d end When he got married, sewing test which the banter started. admits his dresses, As a teenager, he was given a and Neil the bridesmaids’ made g across the as ‘horrendous’, served him up leopard-crawlin Kate who stitching prowess and it was his wife psychiatric interview. to chatting up room to help others. to apply for the I’d ever well when it came encouraged him “I was asked whether parties and I’d “There were six episodes, Bee. girls. “We’d go to situation, Great British Sewing challenges, been in a stressful fashion and each one had three it,” he having talk to them about “I hadn’t even watched of 18, so which sounded barking clothes,” he and I won nine out tours, offer to make them assumed that there “I’d said. operational twisted that I been on to knit Aran I’m still bitter and be good explained. “I used you need it, was no way I would but looking back – but the didn’t win!” he joked. I’m self-taught. jumpers for girlfriends reality TV enough because it was because the whole lasted long Neil admitted that makes relationships never I’m an engineer that his thing is pretty brutal. finish them!” satisfying to know so if you first enough for me to things out of material, show had “I went along to the appearance on the of seam to as long as I get ask me what type the military, episode thinking, inspired others in up in the and don’t use [throws his hands feedback from through the weekend knitting having received I’ll be fine. Sitting in the clubhouse air] I don’t know.” like an idiot, then on their newlyto look Neil soldiers for young form asked was a useful method seven in the “The application to give it a go. I was picked up at rugby matches found confidence I was able calm down after get back until what I’d made and morning and didn’t joined the @ArmyandYou sniper suits like too, and when he things put to had a project army, he always


a child in front “When you put e it’s oF a sewing machin of level amazing, their I is fantastic. n’.”

concentration of creatio call it ‘the power




18 Pilot Practicalities Your Future Accommodation Model questions answered 22 Home Adaptations Taking the stress out of finding suitable SFA 25 The Big Move We find out how army families have settled on Salisbury Plain 27 A Postcard From... A snapshot of life in America's capital city 28 Across The Pond The pros and cons of a posting to the United States 42 Educating From Home Is home schooling a viable option for your children?


16 Property Planning Buy, rent or remain on patch? We explore the options 20 Time To Make It Shine Top tips from spouses on how to make your home sparkle 23 Putting Your Stamp On It How design can compensate for magnolia walls 30 No Defence For Abuse Highlighting avenues of help for victims of domestic abuse 33 Robert's Story A former soldier shares his story of surviving abuse 34 The Power Of Creation We thread a needle with the 'Sewing Soldier', Neil Stace


06 Our Experts Find out what AFF’s team have been up to this quarter 09 A Word From... AFF's chief executive Sara Baade 10 AFF In Action Discover the latest news affecting army families 52 Book Club Young readers' verdicts on You Won’t Believe This 54 Giveaways Win a two-night luxury break on the North Devon coast 57 BlogSpot You share your experiences of army family life

spearheaded Stace has , Lt Col Neil Thanks project of nds the Flags er thousa g togeth which will bringin ure flags of miniat be made into s eventually ss veteran homele quilts for

selling what would spring up, worked with of Afghanistan, he they’d made.” of Thanks’ teams to has spearheaded ‘Flags female engagement Knowing how sewing charity for and for the homelessness set up sewing workshops benefited both adults together small villages. that Neil is Alabaré, bringing Afghan women in children is something out of thousands of miniature as he turns his “I had to stand almost keen to harness for an sewing the army. handmade flags sight with a hand-wound attention to life after will eventually a female exhibition. They child in machine, instructing “When you put a for then going be made into quilts US Marine, who was sewing machine a of front who was homeless veterans. level of through an interpreter, it’s amazing, their on military It was a Neil’s workshops fantastic. I call it teaching the women. concentration is clubs and in he said. patches, in kids’ challenge. ‘the power of creation’,” have made filmed veterans’ shelters, army, I want to “I wish it had been “When I leave the of mental have a big impact in terms that.” because it would do something with isolation. see how it health and tackling been magical to been to sit and Since then, Neil has as they grew “It’s just being able empowered them 100 Hearts Follow Neil on Twitter learning a involved in SSAFA’s week three have a natter whilst look for in in confidence. By @sewingsoldier, project, running workshops as multi-coloured new skill,” he explained. on Instagram they’d appear in pin cushions #FlagsofThanks learning In schools to make & In some instances, and blue burqas. the leggings for visit or been lifea mark of remembrance odd store to sew has even some villages the 35 Neil’s last tour First World War. winter 2019 Army&You changing. During More recently, he’s

rub off However, this didn’t “They on his own two boys. by were totally embarrassed he explained. the whole thing,” show aired “Except when the school and their boarding in pizzas cancelled prep, bought sat and and all the children weeks the watched – for six boys were very popular.”


ACROSS THE POND Revenue due. The Internal you’re there. and help and their experiences Service (IRS) is complex STHER has been differences for non-US identify common can cause issues HEALTH of: learning case-byyou need to be aware is residents. For some, healthcare case, which has and not to provided via insurance meant frequent referrals Whilst COST OF LIVING EMPLOYMENT Staff (BDS) through the US military. the British Defence and Everyday life is expensive, GP visits, Jobs are limited “We’re it may cover regular phone are based in Washington. from groceries and employment conditions with A&E and other pre-approved out. working in partnership of employers contracts to days may be skewed in favour improve treatments, there Allowance and BDS (US) to help holiday Local Overseas well woman with a lack of paid n with no provision for the US two-way communicatio spouses try is standard across things are sick leave. Most pleased to in check-ups. Lots of families and we’re consulate their at despite huge variations as prework find to excluded or regarded see that a new information as costs from state-to-state. to provide under a local contract has been existing, so it’s vital portal ( liability and on your there’s no US tax disclosure full said. a she with created,” EXTRAS it comes therefore no interaction lot to offer, health forms. When in tips The States has a / You need to factor the IRS. to finding a doctor/dentist In New not least the opportunity and local sales taxes. shop around Maj Martin optician, you can tips are to travel, but as York City, standard who is DRIVING in-country using an app to see Graham, head of be as much 20 per cent on everything. insurer, Car insurance can explained, contracted with your sales support BDS (US) you’d pay Instead of VAT there’s provide and d as as five times what what services they specific. it’s not as straightforwar be paid tax which is state/city elsewhere, and must “With lots of how they are rated. you might think: built up states anyone over upfront. Once you’ve personnel In some an adult so families and Service start to 12 is considered a credit history fees for a US WELFARE AND CULTURE etc are keen to volunteer entrance fees, haircuts Petrol (gas) is much an Englishin decrease. manage being to Despite rates. posting, it is critical UK, however. all charged at adult many cheaper than the speaking country, expectations. the locals US isn’t families feel like “Service life in the BANKING AND ADMIN ELECTRICAL GOODS can on a different language. and always simple and electrical speak Banking isn’t free families Be prepared to buy stress on Other British service as occasion place great different. may surprisingly, not items – voltage is and familiar infrastructure UK. If it’s a families.” advanced as the As prices are higher, your not be close at hand. you’re So, it’s best to do you’re employed, good idea to arrival. As tax return homework prior required to file a to look we’ve all taxes part of AFF’s research, every year and pay to share asked army families



and husband Andrew Lynda, soldier Romilly (14) daughter

to live abroad as a family “Having the opportunity time together and spend some much-needed and some unaccompanied following a busy period exactly opportunity came at time is a blessing. This as a family.” the right time for us

foreign. both familiar and totally “Life in New York is year, school for half of the With Romilly at boarding of a loose adjust. I feel at a bit it’s proving slower to and being part of the UN end without a job, but some enabled us to have UKMIS community has people.” and meet wonderful amazing experiences

THE MOVE from London was a challenge, Moving to a small town of There was a huge amount but it has been amazing. charged £2,500 for excess paperwork and we were this. we challenged and resolved storage in the UK, but SCHOOLING as attend local schools Both Annabelle and Nicholas the full American experience. we wanted them to have above. were put into the grade We requested that they and the teachers seem excellent Class sizes are smaller, the children are happy.

children George and Liv, soldier Iris and Buck

POSTED TO Now back in the UK.

Fort Carson, Colorado.

a thing was being such “The most frustrating my social so long applying for ‘dependant’; it took time come through by the security that it still hadn’t balance make up for it, so on we left. The memories if you enjoy a posting to the USA I would recommend adventure and exploring.”

DOING THE HOMEWORK we did a overseas assignments, Being experienced in the different neighbourhoods lot of research on what grocery shopping, commuting offer, from housing to Andrew’s role, Due to the nature of times to airport runs. spouse training courses. I was able to attend some

THE UNKNOWN New in the posting from frosty A last-minute change and little pre-deployment York state to sunny Colorado take. Cohard knowing what to advice meant it was large three car seats, and ten ordinating three children, then, Washington, Denve suitcases via taxi to Heathrow Colorado, was a challenge. and finally arriving in

SETTLING IN Americans usual to adjust – even It can take longer than observations. posted here make similar

FINDING A HOME We found school catchment areas. The main factor was very useful. the army housing website KEEPING BUSY fortunate to secure work As a reservist, I’ve been take Many other spouses through the British Embassy. a or to study. Through the opportunity of a sabbatical The can access free courses. local college spouses a great be very active and there’s community seems to on offer For spouses there’s lots youth service on camp. to name but a few. – hiking, tennis, biking MEDICAL CARE Annabelle and is very efficient. It’s provided on camp a week. and was seen within needed physical therapy TRAVEL all the international families As part of our welcome, with the students to Philadelphia were invited to travel We were taken to a baseball and to Washington DC. in Park (think Alton Towers game and to Hershey to the USA. excellent introduction chocolate) – it was an

MAKING FRIENDS vibrant place, but New York is a fascinating, It alienating and overwhelming. complicated. It can be US culture connect with people. can be difficult to really anywhere I’ve been posted. is as foreign as that of

OVERCOMING BARRIERS I didn’t have the authority I found it frustrating that I felt including nursery places. to apply for anything, m was all about living through I lost my identity as it to Euro job. He had to fly back husband’s rank and his I join To preserve my sanity, 15 times in the first year. of the military community a running group outside

EVERYDAY LIFE social life revolves around During term time our volunteer on a community Andrew’s work, and I time holidays it’s about family committee. During school We low-key life in the suburbs. and enjoying a more as it’s very expensive. tend not to eat out often EMPLOYMENT for anyone place, with little time It’s a pretty cut-throat with an let alone a military spouse over the age of thirty, are few and far between. erratic CV. Opportunities EXPLORING lots of much yet as we’ve had We haven’t travelled things to do in and around visitors and have found being close taken advantage of New York, but we did holiday enjoyed an unforgettable in Jamaica.

to the Caribbean and

CATCHING UP was school on camp, which The girls attended a but they had to repeat incredibly accommodating, still catching up. academic year and they’re

ISSUES ENVIRONMENT a thin find that recycling isn’t We were shocked to from living less than a mile the USA and, despite to drop off and pick u school, everyone drove

MILITARY CULTURE c played the taps (bugle Loudspeakers on camp and s an entire camp stop times a day. Watching something. 5pm every day was quite

ABOUT GETTING OUT AND you can go with dogs. There are few places huge expense, we often bringing them over at them. find people to look after

winter 2019 A

Forces Help to Buy users Deb and Wayne Hall with son Leo (below left); Corinne Spencer and family in Gibraltar (below right)

another weren’t moving to you ever wish you the walls any for a move-out, do where you can paint To take When you’re preparing your own house living on the patch. dream of buying in town instead of quarter? Maybe you dation (SFA) is you’d rather rent Family Accommo colour you like. Perhaps accommodation though, Service reports… changing. Jill Misson advantage of subsidisedonly option. However, times are family’s down to discuss your usually your family’s and nights each year.”

plans for over 80 short-term housing preferences these life because specific for in the AFF acknowledges what you’re aiming HE 2015 Strategic right cannot be supported. positive steps in the long-term. of FAM will be Defence and Security a word “The key benefit Housing the direction but there’s The Joint Service Review committed choice about housing is geared greater personal of caution from AFF a career in the Advice Office (JSHAO) live. Some of “The MOD to making how you want to enquiries about specialist Cat Calder: compatible rules up for incoming stay next to armed forces more you may want to living in a changes to the cohabitation life. The FAM from anyone some may unless with modern family your base in SFA, also hosts are welcomed, however, n Model pilot area. The team private rental Future Accommodatio site, you’ll only choose to live in help you make posted to a pilot in a threepresentations to n and others in housing. (FAM) is being tested surplus housing to accommodatio future be eligible sites. The trial decisions about year pilot at three your own home.” home “We advise all cohabiting starts on 31 with information on would period in Aldershot taking up Eligible personnel schemes and ways couples considering ownership contribution January 2020. you are able is leaving receive a financial SFA to ensure that assistant to save. If your soldier mortgage. Colonel Jim Taylor, back into the towards rent or a get support to afford to move services, the forces, you can on your head army personal Rather than only considering although private rental market will be to find social housing and rank, explained how FAM relationship status limited and next posting if necessary.” “While availability is always emphasis on fairer and more flexible: there will be more for guaranteed. attractive for is never eligibility the current offer need, widening the Planning ahead of not. outlined: “It will piece many, for some it’s SFA, as Col Taylor SFA is like any other are longKeeping mobile bought “As a result, the benefits to hand it include those in established Slater military kit, you have This can Army spouse Emily and those with leaves unevenly spread. but term relationships back when your soldier out of service a house as an investment to be lead some to opt a child who is anticipated so it’s worth sitting army, the while others are n, @ArmyandYou serving parent accommodatio resident with the on family forced to compromise


SFA. chooses to live in and She said: “It’s affordable For my we can all live together. living so husband it’s handy It’s a close-knit close to his office. for kids community with activities

and a nursery. wire feels “Living behind the a pain having very secure but it’s and it isn’t well to sign in visitors transport, so connected by public everywhere.” you have to drive to escape For those wishing of life on the the goldfish bowl may be the new model and and Deb patch, a private rental pe photography business are points what our service unbearable of army appealing. There quarters have been feels that the aspirations would their families think. can make to bear in mind that and if our children families have changed. Cat Calder “Only once the pi as good SFA, from are differ for life and have a r She said: “Most spouses responsibility friends complete and the worth to back explained: “It’s your education that’s definitely working now compared it may be analysed will a dec stayed to pay the bills and a duff quarter.” in the day when they done. taken by the MOD harder to get repairs single salary at home. It was a ability to roll out FAM.” quarters “There’s still limited Choosing stability coming in, and married is working c may not be AFF you the and on decorate cheap. The Hall family got were deliberately lack of security the FAM Cell and the Forces stock allowed pets. The property ladder using “The military housing you could have to keep you upda which of tenure means have lived in Help to Buy scheme, is ageing and we was put pilot through brie afford a bigger to move if the property quarters, so enabled them to some disgraceful media and Army& they now have up for sale.” a better house. Although if families can afford remain to need more spend n, why Some families more stability, they standard of accommodatio Continuity of Useful info postings. mobile to receive the choice?” time apart due to shouldn’t they have l Read our FAM Education Allowance. Deb Hall said: “Married and not pages 18-19. The would not be “I have to move around unaccompanied Your decision FAM does worry me information at go as well be of having any roots my choice. I may Choice is at the heart the essential l JSHAO: emai it’s like but CEA is one of project which a single parent and but it’s a complex job,” said JSHAO-0Mailb without the allowances of the Col Taylor a continual tour, needs to be tested, who is currently or call 01252 78 Corinne Spencer, of the patch.” pilot will allow confirmed: “The while her support l Housing pag living in SFA in Gibraltar any issues with Settling in one location us to understand school in for her children are at boarding winter has been positive our of “None the UK. She added:

2019 16 Army&You winter

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The Strachan-Hayes Family Lily,


POSTED TO Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The Army War College,

2019 28 Army&You winter


Where will your soldier place their boots in the future? We explore some of the housing options open to army households (page 16-17).

The Higgs Family

The Hewitt Family

and husband Charlie Emily, soldier (10) and Nicholas (8) children Annabelle

an increase in Thomas, has seen r overseas, Esther . And as she’s AFF’s regional manage s from families assigned to America same… the number of enquirie two postings to the States are the goods once for second-hand discovered, no



2019 34 Army&You winter

winter 2019 Army&You 05


Our experts

Our team provides families with trusted, expert knowledge and here we find out about their key pieces of work over the last few months. Turn to page three to get in touch.

Laura Lewin

Katherine Houlston

Cat Calder

Jilly Carrell

Karen Ross

Claire Hallam

Employment & Training

Foreign & Commonwealth


Education & Childcare

Health & Additional Needs

Money & Allowances

Claire has recent ly taken over as AFF’s money & allowances specialist alongs ide her role as the East Anglia co-ordinator. Some of you who are in receipt of Continuity of Education Allowance have previously told us that you’re worried about the 90-day accompanied rule for service partners and how it affects your ability to be employed if your job takes you away from the family home for a certain number of days. We have obtained clarification and helpful advice from the army’s allowances team. You can find full details on our website or get in touch with me at employment

We’ve received a number of enquiries from soldiers whose spouses or children have been refused visas to the UK because of missing documentation. We understand that this can be upsetting and potentially costly. UK Visas & Immigration is under no obligation to contact you to ask if you can provide the missing documents, and will refuse the application, asking you to apply and pay again or wait a year to argue your case at a tribunal – even if the application is missing something as simple as a bank statement. Our webpages have guidance on the supporting documents required, so read this carefully and contact us if you’re in any doubt.

The FAM pilot is fast approaching, with the army pilot site in Aldershot going live on 31 January 2020. Take a look at our FAQs article on pages 18-19 and, if you’re already living in Aldershot or you’re posted there soon, do ensure that you know what your options are by looking at the FAM page at I would really like to hear from anyone who is impacted by the pilot – both the good and the bad – so please contact me at to let me know your experiences.

There’s lots of discussion around whether service children really are more resilient than non-service children, and if that resilience is a gift of service life. Dr Michael Hall at the SCiP Alliance, of which AFF is a member, has been examining the evidence and concluded that resilience is complex. While service life offers opportunities for children to develop character and resilience, Dr Hall suggests that it would be a mistake to consider resilience something all service children possess. Instead, it’s something they have to develop as a result of their parents’ service. To read the full brief, visit

We are very pleased that King’s Centre for Military Health Research is undertaking research into perinatal mental health in service spouses. It’s something that I have been interested in for some time and I’ve been invited onto its advisory board. Once the final ethical approval process is agreed, the next stage will be to recruit participants for the study. AFF will be supporting this recruitment, so keep a look out for updates on our website. If you’re interested in this research and would like to know more, or want to share your experience of perinatal depression, contact me by emailing additionalneeds

I’m pleased to see an update for families who have been affected by the withdrawal of the unaccompanied minors service. Families should not be financially disadvantaged by this commercial decision taken by some airlines. Revised guidance states: “It’s a parent’s responsibility to research airline UNMIN provision to their specific location as each airline has different age restrictions. It’s the MOD’s responsibility to advise on alternative MOD funded travel options.” Where no airline offers an UNMIN service to/ from an overseas location or to the closest UK airport, your soldier should email

What's your favourite room?

What's your favourite room?

What's your favourite room?

What's your favourite room?

What's your favourite room?

What's your favourite room?

My living room – recently renovated from the 1980s, it’s now modern and relaxing

The bathroom. Relaxing in the bath with a book and a glass of wine is my idea of heaven

My bedroom. It’s where I do my yoga and where I sleep – what’s not to like?

My bedroom – it’s where I escape from the family and spend quality time

My garden is my tranquil space and is bordered by a wood

My bedroom. As a working mum whose husband is often away, I crave sleep.

06 Army&You winter 2019


SIE RR A. A L PH A . VI C TO R. ECH O. We ’ r e p r o u d t o o f f e r c u r r e n t a n d f o r m e r m i l i t a r y p e r s o n n e l s a v i n g s o n s e l e c t e d v e h i c l e s.† Search: Ford Militar y Sales

† Selected vehicles only. Eligibility criteria applies. See for more information.

Model shown is a Fiesta ST-3 3-Door 1.5 200PS Manual Petrol with optional Full LED Headlamps. Fuel economy mpg (l/100km): Combined 40.4 (7.0). *CO 2 emissions 136g/km. Figures shown are for comparability purposes; only compare fuel consumption and CO 2 figures with other cars tested to the same technical procedures. These figures may not reflect real life driving results, which will depend upon a number of factors including the accessories fitted (post-registration), variations in weather, driving styles and vehicle load. * There is a new test used for fuel consumption and CO 2 figures. The CO 2 figures shown, however, are based on the outgoing test cycle and will be used to calculate vehicle tax on first registration.

Helping you make the most of your money Financial products and services exclusively for those who support and serve in the army and their families. Forces Mutual understands the needs of the Armed Forces and we’re here to help you make the most of your money. Kit & Personal Possessions Insurance

Mortgage Advice

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My Sovereign Investment (ISA)

Life Insurance

My Sovereign Investment (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited.

Call Us: 00 800 00 01 02 03 0044 (0)345 658 1140 Forces Mutual is a trading name of PMGI Limited (‘PMGI) and Mortgage Excellence Plc (‘MEX’). PMGI and MEX are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. PMGI (registered no 1073408) and MEX (registered no 03527577) are registered in England & Wales. The registered office for both is Alexandra House, Queen Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS13 6QS. Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) - local connection charges may apply, please check with your telephone provider. Calls to 03 numbers usually cost no more than to geographic numbers (01 or 02) and are usually included in call packages, please check with your phone company if they are included in your package.


of the pilot will show. What we do know is that the MOD recognises – as AFF has pushed for all along – that SFA is an important part of the accommodation mix. It will be one of the four options – alongside Single Living Accommodation, renting or buying a property – that the pilot will test. I personally think it’s instrumental to the success of FAM. We’re still waiting to gauge the impact of moving from a ‘rank-based model’ to a ‘needsbased model’ and will continue to seek clarification as the policy develops. We will keep you upto-date with any new information. We will also continue to work with the MOD to better understand what FAM will mean for you. Get in touch if you have any comments, positive or negative – @The_AFF

WHERE ARE WE WITH FAM? AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade and Major General Sharon Nesmith, Director for Personnel of the army, tell us about the Future Accommodation Model, or FAM…


HERE is no denying that FAM is emotive. It’s the area where we’ve seen the most rapid increase in our enquiries. The uncertainty of what’s to come is high and the information up until recently has been sparse which, understandably, has made many of you nervous, writes Sara. So is FAM all bad, and does it mean that all our Service Family Accommodation (SFA) will be removed? Those are the two of the most common questions we are asked and the answer to both is no. FAM isn’t all bad and it will not mean that all the SFA will go, despite what some people say. FAM will provide more flexibility for you to choose how you would like to live. If you’re not married, you will have the opportunity to live together and it will also support those of you

See our FAM Q&A on pages 18-19 for more details.

AFF Chief Executiv e Sara Baade

who want to buy your own home. So, there are some good elements to FAM, but there are also areas that we are still waiting for clarification on and the pilot will hopefully help to flush these out. How many SFA will be

ONE of our biggest challenges remains communicating FAM, so we really welcome the continued dialogue, writes General Sharon. FAM is an exciting opportunity to both widen eligibility beyond those married or in civil partnerships and provide greater choice for all, but I recognise there are also some genuine and heartfelt concerns. So, what’s happening now? The army pilot will run in Aldershot from 31 January

2020 and we’re working hard to ensure this enables well-informed decisions to be made ahead of further FAM roll-out in the UK – this will not be before 2023. If you live in Aldershot now you will not need to move accommodation, unless you wish to. If you’re assigned to the Aldershot area after 31 January, you will need

retained? Will SFA be a true option for all as it is today or will it be limited? General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence People, recently outlined that whilst no SFA will be sold as part of the pilot we don’t yet know what the results

to submit your preferences; unit HR staff will be able to help complete the required action on JPA. FAM briefings will be delivered in Aldershot throughout January prior to the go-live date. I recommend that all service personnel and families attend if you can. Alternatively, you can contact the FAM Cell directly if you have any questions by emailing people-

Contact AFF @The_AFF on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or via You can find out more via Discover My Benefits ( to see what future accommodation choices look like. You can also find signposts to more information, which brings to life the implications of respective choices. I hope that this comprehensive information pack will both answer your queries but also allay any growing concerns. & winter 2019 Army&You 09

Concerns e Families' Check out th te si e AFF web report on th








Karen Ross, AFF health & additional needs specialist, attended the Armed Forces Chronic Conditions and Disabilities in Defence (CanDID) Network Conference. The CanDiD Network has been set up to support service personnel with chronic conditions and/ or disabilities as well as serving carers. It plans to break down barriers by influencing, educating and helping individuals know how they can challenge and what their rights are. AFF is invited to the network’s meetings to highlight the issues that families have with chronic conditions and disability experience. CanDID will be holding the chain of command to account on policy and Covenant commitments. Email

After linking up with Bournemouth and Poole College, AFF’s South West coordinator Jenna Richardson, with support from the local chain of command and welfare team, is helping families to access adult distance learning courses. The college has already held an event in Bovington, which was a great success with lots of families enrolling on the fully funded courses. She’s now planning to set up a similar event in Blandford to highlight what’s on offer. “I’ve had so many offers of support in terms of time, resources, venues and advertising,” said Jenna. “This is a great opportunity and hopefully families will benefit from it.” Look out for info in your local Facebook group or HIVE. Read more about a posting to the South West on pages 50-51.

The key findings of AFF’s ‘Listening to our service children’ survey have been presented to the chain of command. It’s part of AFF's collaboration with the Service Children's Progression Alliance – a one-year programme of activity consisting of research, briefings and events to capture the voice of service children in education. The findings include:


KEEPING TABS Signing up for regular email updates from AFF means you’ll never miss all-important info

on army family life. Head to the home page at to register your name and email.

➡ Some families are considering whether to leave the army due to the impact of service life on their child. ➡ Army children are experiencing gaps in learning with a lack of consistent support. ➡ The impact of service life on children can result in significant difficulties with their wellbeing. ➡ The effective use of the Service Pupil Premium is inconsistent. ➡ Service children have developed unique strengths as a result of service life. ➡ Boarding and the provision of Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) provide necessary mitigation to the impact of service life.


FAMILY FACTS AFF’s latest Families’ Concerns report is out now. It brings together all your enquiries and important evidence from the first half of this year. We dealt with more than 7,000 queries in the first six months of 2019. Housing continues to be our biggest area of enquiry at 29 per cent of the total. To see how we’re effecting change, read it online at

The programme’s final report is due in April 2020 – visit for updates.


HEALTH HELPERS Along with the other families federations, AFF met with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and the devolved administrations to discuss issues relating to service families and NHS care, and there have already been positive outcomes. Our health specialist, Karen Ross, talked about families’

10 Army&You winter 2019

lived experiences with transferring NHS waiting lists and ongoing healthcare, based on your evidence. “This meeting is unique because it involves representation from the devolved administrations, so all locations where NHS provision may be problematic are covered,” explained Karen.

“We discussed providing guidance to staff about mobility and separation, good practice examples and what’s working well, and current initiatives such as using online patient records and creating information sheets for families.” Some of this work is already underway – see AFF’s health pages at





FFJ IN NUMBERS Looking for a job? Register at Forces Families Jobs to access thousands of roles from employers who have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and made a pledge to support the service community. At the time of going to print, there are:



JOBSEEKERS 521 REGISTERED VIEWS OF THE TRAINING 943 & CAREER PAGES Go to forcesfamiliesjobs. to make your next career move, find out more on page 39 and follow the hashtags #forcesfamiliesjobs #ffj





AFF has helped with two successful appeals at immigration tribunals for visas refused due to the minimum income requirement. One of the cases was successful under the exceptional circumstances provision because the judge decided that separating the serving soldier from his wife and child would lead to unjustifiably harsh consequences. The other was granted because the judge ruled that the benefits received by a soldier, such as subsidised housing, can be taken into account when calculating the salary received by a serving person. Unfortunately, these outcomes haven’t led to any changes in policy or guidance, but AFF has been liaising with the Home Office’s armed forces policy unit on this. The migration advisory committee is currently looking into this along with other issues surrounding income thresholds and will report back in January. Check for updates.

A new study led by Andrew Selous MP is examining support available to military families across health, employment, childcare and education, accommodation, dual serving households and non-UK nationals. It’s also looking at how communication with families can be improved. The report, which includes input from AFF and the other families federations, will assess whether current support on offer is meeting the needs of spouses, partners and children, and will make recommendations that should make a tangible impact for families. Look out for updates on AFF’s social media.

“Carry on the great work you are already doing! Without AFF I would have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the army!” AFF’s new-look annual report featuring case studies from families who have received help from us is out now. Have a read at


ROYAL BOOST AFF was delighted to be included on @sussexroyal’s list of Instagram accounts to follow in November. Thank you to Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex for their support.


BREXIT ESSENTIALS If you’re based in an EU country or Sovereign Base Area, or you’re an EU national, take a look at the latest information about Brexit – including actions to take on immigration, passports, driving, tax-free goods and vehicles, Kindergeld, privately owned weapons and travelling with pets – via

winter 2019 Army&You 11


Charity founder Nikki Scott with 3her children

EASE THE TRANSITION British Forces Resettlement Services is a social enterprise created to help with the transition into civilian life, whether you are a service leaver, partner or family member. Why not pop along to next year’s careers fairs? Aldershot: 30 January Catterick: 23 April Oakham: 16 July Tidworth: 17 September Catterick: 26 November. l Interested? Find out more at






Dog owners in Northern Ireland must by law have a valid dog licence, which should be renewed annually. A fixed penalty of £80 could be issued if you’re found without a licence, or a fine of up to £1,000 if convicted. Dog licence tags are no longer issued with licences, but you must still attach your name and address to your dog’s collar on a plate or badge.

Know someone who could benefit from reconnecting with the military after the loss of a serving family member? Scotty’s Little Soldiers could help. The charity has launched the #Reconnect campaign after finding that three quarters of bereaved families who have lost a serving member feel disconnected from the military. It has released a video featuring the 10-year-old daughter of Cpl Lee Scott, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. The charity honours Cpl Scott’s memory and runs programmes to support bereaved children.

The Families Continuous Attitude Survey is due out in January 2020. It’s an opportunity for you to express your views on a range of issues that affect your life as a service family. The evidence is a vital source of information that assists the army in developing future policy. If you’ve been selected to complete it, your serving spouse/civil partner will receive a paper survey and an email invitation to an online version. If you’ve not been included in the sample, you’ll still be able to leave feedback.


l For more information, visit


l See

12 Army&You winter 2019


l Look out for more on AFF’s social media or email ArmyPers-Strat-APRC-Survey@

If you’re struggling and in need of support, Big White Wall, an online mental health and wellbeing resource, is available to anyone in the armed forces community aged 16+. Once registered, you’ll have 24/7 access to a community of members who help each other through challenging periods. In addition, you can contact one of the ‘wall guides’, who are trained clinicians. You can take self-guided courses, tests, and read through information about what you’re experiencing or use art therapy to creatively express how you’re feeling. The service is anonymous. Both the community and clinical team are experienced in supporting a wide range of topics including stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, bereavement, PTSD and loneliness. l To join the BWW community for free, register at bigwhitewall. com and select the armed forces option. @ArmyandYou

Available from Subject to availability

o A top 25 co-ed Boarding School* o Great location o Pay no more than 10% our fees o Probably the best boarding accommodation in the UK * - Top co-ed Boarding Schools by A Level

Combining outstanding teaching with excellent examination results, some of the best boarding accommodation in the UK and a great location midway between London and Cambridge, Bishop’s Stortford College enables pupils to reach their full potential. Forces families, qualifying for CEA are required to pay no more than 10% of fees for full boarding places. Come to an Open Morning or arrange a private visit. We look forward to welcoming you.

Building Confidence for Life.

14 Army&You winter 2019

+44 (0)1279 838604






Army spouse Erin Scarfe has set up MillyTree, an online directory for businesses run by the military community. You can search by location and see firms offering a military discount.

The new MOD guide for military parents of LGBT+ children is a great place to find advice. It features case studies raising awareness of LGBT+ issues, particularly the unique pressures military children face such as changing schools. It also covers common myths around having an LGBT+ child.

If you’re living in Wales, you’ll now have access to extra support from a dedicated service children school and community engagement officer. Sarah Court has been in education for 26 years, including 11 years in service children’s education in Germany. She will be building on networks already in place and developing resources and training in schools to support forces families.

Good news for mums and dads-to-be in Dorset – a new online county-wide guide to pregnancy and birth has been launched. Find out about different birthing options and what’s available locally by typing in your postcode. As well as general information, you can find contact details for the midwifery services, home birth and health visitor teams and maternity events in Dorset.

l For more information, see

l Visit maternitymattersdorset.


l More details at



NEW UCAS GUIDANCE Following collaboration between the MOD, UCAS and the Service Children’s Progression Alliance, UCAS has released a new information and advice page for students from a UK armed forces background. It covers advice for service children, veterans and spouses/partners.

l Search for ‘Guide for parents of LGBT+ children’ at



l Visit

The school is so welcoming and understanding of someone from a military background, I quickly felt part of the community. Student

We are a co-educational, non-selective independent school set in a 56 acre campus in Somerset. Nursery to Sixth Form. Forces families pay from £499 per term (Years 3-4) up to £867 per term for full boarding in the senior school, plus CEA. POTL and R&R Flexibility.


NURTURE Follow us @TauntonSchool


winter 2019 Army&You 15



When you’re preparing for a move-out, do you ever wish you weren’t moving to another quarter? Maybe you dream of buying your own house where you can paint the walls any colour you like. Perhaps you’d rather rent in town instead of living on the patch. To take advantage of subsidised accommodation though, Service Family Accommodation (SFA) is usually your family’s only option. However, times are changing. Jill Misson reports…


HE 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review committed the MOD to making a career in the armed forces more compatible with modern family life. The Future Accommodation Model (FAM) is being tested in a threeyear pilot at three sites. The trial period in Aldershot starts on 31 January 2020. Colonel Jim Taylor, assistant head army personal services, explained how FAM will be fairer and more flexible: “While the current offer is attractive for many, for some it’s not. “As a result, the benefits are unevenly spread. This can lead some to opt out of service accommodation, while others are forced to compromise on family

16 Army&You winter 2019

life because specific preferences cannot be supported. “The key benefit of FAM will be greater personal choice about how you want to live. Some of you may want to stay next to your base in SFA, some may choose to live in private rental accommodation and others in your own home.” Eligible personnel would receive a financial contribution towards rent or a mortgage. Rather than only considering relationship status and rank, there will be more emphasis on need, widening the eligibility for SFA, as Col Taylor outlined: “It will include those in established longterm relationships and those with a child who is anticipated to be resident with the serving parent

for over 80 nights each year.” AFF acknowledges these positive steps in the right direction but there’s a word of caution from AFF housing specialist Cat Calder: “The changes to the cohabitation rules are welcomed, however, unless posted to a pilot site, you’ll only be eligible to surplus housing. “We advise all cohabiting couples considering taking up SFA to ensure that you are able to afford to move back into the private rental market on your next posting if necessary.”

Planning ahead SFA is like any other piece of military kit, you have to hand it back when your soldier leaves the army, so it’s worth sitting

down to discuss your family’s short-term housing plans and what you’re aiming for in the long-term. The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) is geared up for incoming enquiries about FAM from anyone living in a pilot area. The team also hosts presentations to help you make decisions about future housing with information on home ownership schemes and ways to save. If your soldier is leaving the forces, you can get support to find social housing although availability is always limited and never guaranteed.

Keeping mobile Army spouse Emily Slater bought a house as an investment but @ArmyandYou

chooses to live in SFA. She said: “It’s affordable and we can all live together. For my husband it’s handy living so close to his office. It’s a close-knit community with activities for kids and a nursery. “Living behind the wire feels very secure but it’s a pain having to sign in visitors and it isn’t well connected by public transport, so you have to drive everywhere.” For those wishing to escape the goldfish bowl of life on the patch, a private rental may be appealing. There are points to bear in mind that would differ from SFA, as Cat Calder explained: “It’s your responsibility to pay the bills and it may be harder to get repairs done. “There’s still limited ability to decorate and you may not be allowed pets. The lack of security of tenure means you could have to move if the property was put up for sale.” Some families need to remain mobile to receive Continuity of Education Allowance. “I have to move around and not having any roots does worry me but CEA is one of the essential allowances of the job,” said Corinne Spencer, who is currently living in SFA in Gibraltar while her children are at boarding school in the UK. She added: “None of our

Forces Help to Buy use rs Deb and Wayne Hall with son Leo (below left); Corinne Spencer and family in Gibraltar (below rig ht)

quarters have been unbearable and if our children can make friends for life and have a good education that’s definitely worth a duff quarter.”

Choosing stability The Hall family got on the property ladder using the Forces Help to Buy scheme, which enabled them to afford a bigger house. Although they now have more stability, they spend more time apart due to postings. Deb Hall said: “Married unaccompanied would not be my choice. I may as well be a single parent and it’s like a continual tour, without the support of the patch.” Settling in one location has been positive for her

photography business and Deb feels that the aspirations of army families have changed. She said: “Most spouses are working now compared to back in the day when they stayed at home. It was a single salary coming in, and married quarters were deliberately cheap. “The military housing stock is ageing and we have lived in some disgraceful quarters, so if families can afford a better standard of accommodation, why shouldn’t they have the choice?”

Your decision Choice is at the heart of FAM but it’s a complex project which needs to be tested, Col Taylor confirmed: “The pilot will allow us to understand any issues with

the new model and to listen to what our service personnel and their families think. “Only once the pilot is complete and the results analysed will a decision be taken by the MOD whether to roll out FAM.” AFF is working closely with the FAM Cell and will continue to keep you updated during the pilot through briefings, social media and Army&You.

Useful info l Read our FAM Q&A on pages 18-19. There’s also lots of information at l JSHAO: email or call 01252 787574 l Housing pages at & winter 2019 Army&You 17

PILOT PRACTICALITIES F YOU’RE posted to Aldershot on or after 31 January 2020, the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) pilot will apply to you. It has been designed to offer more choice in how you want to live, whether on the patch or in a home that’s in a


convenient location for your family. Here, Cat Calder, AFF housing specialist, answers some of your questions… The pilot will test the new policy, the way it’s delivered and what accommodation options you prefer. A decision will then be made about whether to roll

FAM QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IS MY FAMILY ELIGIBLE FOR FAM? l Yes, if your soldier has more than four

years’ service l You’re married, in a civil partnership or in a long-term relationship l They have a report for duty date at Aldershot after the 31 January l Or you’re already posted there and your soldier has more than a year to go when the pilot launches.

18 Army&You winter 2019

it out across the UK after it’s complete. If you’re already in Aldershot, you don’t have to change your accommodation choice unless you want to. Different housing options include Single Living Accommodation (SLA), Service

WHAT ADVICE IS THERE ON OUR OPTIONS? There’s a training package online to help with all your questions – see the link above right. You can also to speak to the FAM Cell in Aldershot and your welfare team.

WILL WE GET TIME OFF TO SOURCE PRS? You will get up to seven days’ leave.

HOW DO WE APPLY? Fill in an accommodation preference form via JPA. If you want to buy a home after 31 January, you don’t need to fill in the form – just take your legal paperwork to your unit HR.

Family Accommodation (SFA), Private Rental Sector (PRS) and home ownership. There will also be a change in entitlement from rank-based to needs-based and those who are in an established long-term relationship will be entitled to accommodation rather than eligible for surplus.

HOW DO WE APPLY FOR OUR DEPOSIT ADVANCE? Use the Discover My Benefits Tool (details can be found above right) to see how much you’re likely to need and then apply via JPA. There are timelines and set criteria for repayment, so do read the FAM pages on

WHAT WILL THE FAM PAYMENTS BE? It depends on your choice of accommodation. l

If you choose SFA your rent will be


Further information

ation Model’ at Search ‘Future Accommod M at onment – search for FA vir En ing rn Lea ce fen De - discovermybenefits.m Discover My Benefits

ment at play equip Children’s Centre ld o w Cots the Services

Consult JS P 464 it or vis Contact Cat Calder at hot - People-FAMCell-A ders Al at l Cel M FA Speak to the

deducted from your soldier’s salary as usual l If you move into your own home more than 50 miles from Aldershot, living unaccompanied, you will get a core payment of £125 per month l You also get the core payment if you buy a property on posting to the pilot site after 31 January l If you choose to rent (PRS) in Aldershot, you’ll receive the core payment plus a geographic payment which is dependent on your family size and how expensive it is to rent in the area l If you’re already renting, from 31 January you’ll receive the core payment, and if you are renting within 50 miles of Aldershot, you’ll also receive the geographic payment. Under PRS, you’ll also pay a personal contribution, and if you opt for a larger/ smaller house you’ll contribute more/less. For example, it could cost £1,097.50 for a family with two dependent children to rent within 50 miles of Aldershot. You would receive £125 core payment plus £750.15 geographic payment (total £875.15). Your personal contribution would be £222.35 plus council tax, water rates and household bills.

I ALREADY OWN A HOUSE WITHIN 50 MILES OF ALDERSHOT, CAN I GET THE FAM CORE PAYMENT? No, if you currently own your own house in the Aldershot area you will not be entitled.

WHAT ABOUT COUNCIL TAX IF WE CHOOSE PRS OR OUR OWN HOME? Your soldier will no longer have CILOCT deducted from their pay, so don’t forget to budget for council tax. Your FAM payment includes an adjustment, so you won’t be out of pocket if you have to live in a higher than average council tax area.

AND WATER RATES? You pay water rates as part of your CAAS charge in SFA. Under FAM, if you choose to rent or buy, you’ll pay the water company directly.

WHO WILL PAY OUR RENT IF MY SOLDIER IS SHORT-TOURED AND WE HAVE TO MOVE? The MOD will cover these costs and you’ll be able to apply for Early Surrender Relief (ESR) via JPA.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF MY PRS LANDLORD DOESN’T RENEW THE TENANCY? You’ll be able to apply for accommodation again and will be able to opt for another rental property or SFA.

WILL WE GET REMOVALS PAID FOR? Yes, when you move on an assignment order to Aldershot. If you’re already living there and opt for a change of accommodation, you’ll not get removal costs.

WILL I HAVE TO TAKE A SMALLER HOUSE THAN I’M CURRENTLY ENTITLED TO? FAM will be needs-based. However, to protect those who would see a reduction in the accommodation offer, you’ll be eligible for transitional protection (TP). This means that you’ll be eligible for the same type of SFA at the pilot site as per current policy. If no SFA is available, you’ll get a payment for the PRS which will enable you to rent a property broadly in line with your current SFA entitlement. TP is only available if you opt for SFA – if you choose PRS you will only get the new FAM entitlement.

WE’RE WORRIED THAT LANDLORDS WON’T ACCEPT PETS... AFF has been reassured that a good percentage of rental properties will accept pets – let AFF know if you experience issues.

WE CLAIM TAX CREDITS/UNIVERSAL CREDIT. WILL THE FAM PAYMENTS IMPACT ON THIS? We have been assured by the Department for Work and Pensions that the calculations for these benefits will not be impacted by FAM payments.

A MEMBER OF MY FAMILY NEEDS HOUSING ADAPTATIONS, CAN I OPT FOR PRS? It’s unlikely that a private landlord would allow significant adaptations. SFA will always be available to you as an alternative.

TEMPORARY HOME FROM HOME The Services Cotswold Centre offers short-term accommodation for varying situations, whether you have a welfare issue and need temporary accommodation, you’re between postings, or your soldier is leaving the army or recuperating from injury. If you’re going through any form of marital separation or breakdown and need to leave your SFA in the UK, you can apply to stay at the Centre for up to six months. Experienced welfare staff will support you in your search for a new home. It’s a secure and peaceful 25-acre site in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside offering 60 fully furnished three- and four-bedroom self-catering chalets which include kitchen equipment, towels and bedding. There are nursery, primary and secondary schools nearby and storage is available. Community support development workers are on hand to provide activities. For more details, visit the SCC pages at or call 01225 810358.

RETENTION EXTENSION SEVERAL families have approached us having received a letter from Amey saying that as the serving person’s posting doesn’t match their current SFA location, they need to move and, if they are more than three months from the start date of the new posting, they won’t get removals or disturbance expense. We found that in most cases the soldier was on a course which was less than 11 months and the family had assumed that they could stay in SFA as it met the retention criteria. Retention is an extension of current entitlement, so it must be agreed to before your next posting. Being on a course/posting for less than 11 months is a valid reason, however, you must still apply for retention before the course starts. Retrospective permission for retention isn’t possible. Retention may affect allowances, so discuss this with unit HR before applying. Where there’s enough empty SFA, Amey has allowed families to remain on a surplus licence however, in some instances it’s affected allowances and removals entitlement further down the line.

winter 2019 Army&You 19

Elina omex @militaryhouse2h

Sammie eatno22 @armyquar terlif

e in h s it e k a m o t e Tim

We’re big fans of Instagrammer Mrs Hinch’s tips on how to make your hom e sparkle. We recently discovered that there are also many military spouses out the re blogging about their best cleaning hacks, so we ask ed a few of them for some handy hou sehold hints… Elina, 23, lives with husband Dan and dog Bella, in Aldershot after returning from Cyprus.

Sammie, 27, has been married to her soldier for seven years and lives in Catterick. They have a five-year-old son and two dogs.

“Dan spent most of his childhood living in SFA, but to me it was all brand new. I didn’t know what to expect, but we’re in a beautiful area surrounded by lovely people. I’ve always had a cleaning obsession – it relaxes me and makes me very happy.”

“Cleaning helps me relax and take my mind off things that I would normally stress about. I blog to show others quick and easy tips on how to keep on top of your home when you’re a working mum. It can be hard to juggle tea, bath and bedtime after a full day’s work.”



We had a party for my husband’s birthday and the next day our carpet was covered in all sorts. It’s one of those standard, light beige carpets that you get in quarters and I couldn’t help but panic. We tried everything until we came across Vanish carpet foam. All we had to do was let it work its magic for an hour and then hoover it up!

The oven in this quarter was awful when we moved in. To get it to a point where I could use it, I had to give it a deep clean. For this I used Astonish oven and cookware paste with hot water and a Scrub Daddy. After about 15 minutes the oven looked nearly new.



I swear by Elbow Grease and use it pretty much for everything. Our front door when we moved in was covered in marks that I couldn’t get out with other sprays, but Elbow Grease did wonders.

Mould is unavoidable in some homes due to a lack of ventilation. I use Astonish mould and mildew spray on my bathroom tiles once a week. I leave it to soak for ten minutes and then use an old toothbrush to scrub in between the tiles.



To make the house smell amazing I use Zoflora. I always go for fresh linen scent, but recently I discovered tropical twist and it smells insane. I normally use two caps in a spray bottle topped up with water.

I use my Shark Lift Away True Pet vacuum cleaner for all surfaces, so that it removes any dog hairs and large dust build-ups. It prevents the cloth and polish spreading the dust around.



Asda car window cleaner for our glass dining table. I used to struggle to get it smear free, but one day after cleaning my car windows I thought why not try it on the table and I was amazed. Now it’s my must have for windows, glass and mirrors.

To remove grease from kitchen grout, use Pink Stuff spray and an old toothbrush. This eats away at the grease and stops the grout from going yellowy. I do this at least once a month.

20 Army&You winter 2019


Sarah @sinclairhousehol d




Sarah and her soldier are in their first quarter in Aldershot, they’ve been married for two years. “I love cleaning, blogging and also volunteering. If I can help someone else make their life a little easier when all seems a little too much then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.”


FORGET FILTHY FLOORS Vanish or Doctor Beckmann carpet cleaner pull up stains really well. If you don’t have a product like that to hand, washing up liquid and warm water will work but make sure they’re mixed together well. A nail brush or floor scrubber normally does the trick.

COOK UP SOME SHINE Always wipe your cooker after every use to avoid build-up. If things get a little out of hand – which they do because we’re all human – either a Scrub Daddy or Minky with Astonish oven cookware cleaner leaves a lovely clean oven.


SMEAR FREE WINDOWS This might sound strange, but I love using ironing water and a glass cloth. It leaves a lovely smell and is smear free. Just add the iron water to an empty spray bottle and off you go.

DUST BUSTING Damp dusting is a great, cheap way to dust. No need for special polish but invest in some decent cloths as it will make the job a lot easier. I always start by hoovering around the edges.

SUPER HACK Focus on one room a day and rotate around. By the weekend, you won’t have much to do and it won’t feel like a ridiculous mountain that never ends.

47-49 QUEENS ROAD, ALDERSHOT, GU11 3JE TEL: 01252 337171 winter 2019 Army&You 21

HELP ON THE LADDER GREAT news! The Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme, which can help you to buy your own home, has been extended for a further three years until the end of 2022. The scheme allows your soldier to borrow an interest-free deposit of up to half their annual salary and has already helped more than 18,000 people get on the property ladder since it was introduced in 2014. “I wouldn’t be sat in my own house if it wasn’t for this scheme,” said army spouse Lynsey Smitheringale. “I’d definitely recommend it to others 100 per cent.” Zoe Vdz, who’s moving into her own home before Christmas added: “Without it, we couldn’t have done it. It’s such a great scheme for getting service families on the property ladder.”


ADAPTING THE HOUSE FOR YOU AFF understands that moving is stressful enough, particularly when it involves returning from overseas, but it can be even more so when you require additional needs and disabled adaptations to your Service Family Accommodation (SFA). To reduce the stress, Karen Ross, AFF health & additional needs specialist, shares her tips…

So that the most suitable SFA is identified, inform Amey occupancy services team on 0800 707 6000 or email occupancyservices@ as soon as you can An occupational therapist (OT) report or medical professional’s report will be required when you submit your e1132 housing application If the adaptation requires moderate to high level work, an OT may assess you in your current and/or the new SFA If you’re returning from overseas you may be entitled to a publicly-funded return trip to visit the SFA and meet the OT Due to waiting lists, acquiring an OT can take time. It’s best to contact the local authority (LA) as soon as you can to request an assessment. Visit find-local-council to find your nearest

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Don’t book your removals or a moveout date until you have a confirmed date for move-in. The process can take some time and unforeseen problems may occur If you require a move before the confirmed move-in date, seek advice from your unit welfare officer or chain of command Your soldier can look up more details in JSP 464. There’s also further guidance at – search under Service Family Accommodation. I will continue to work on and monitor the adaptations process along with Cat Calder, AFF’s housing specialist. We would welcome hearing about your experiences so that we can feed any issues directly back to Amey and DIO. If you are due to or have recently requested adaptations, contact me at &

FORWARD PLANNING AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade welcomed the news: “This gives army families plenty of time to plan their future and buy their own home.” The FHTB loan, which has to be repaid over ten years, is capped at £25,000. It can also be used to cover other costs such as removals and estate agent fees. FIRST STEPS Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said: “The extension of the Forces Help to Buy scheme is fantastic news for all those wanting to take that first step on to the property ladder. The scheme helps to provide stability for our armed forces personnel and families, as a thank you for their commitment to their service for this country.” To find out more, contact the Joint Service Housing Advice Office at

COUNCIL TAX TEASER IF YOU’RE posted abroad and you own a home back in the UK, which is vacant but furnished, you’re no longer entitled to the second home council tax reduction. AFF has become aware of a few families being charged more than 100 per cent council tax on an empty property, which has been vacant for more than two years, known as the ‘empty homes premium’. In England, Scotland and Wales, the empty homes premium cannot apply to homes that are empty due to the occupant living in armed forces accommodation for job-related purposes. There’s no stipulation that the SFA must be in the UK and AFF has approached the MOD’s covenant team for clarification on this point. They said: “Where the service person is overseas and the council is seeking to charge a levy of 200 per cent, then this is contrary to the guidance on and should be challenged.” Appeal to your local council but also let us know at


Putting your stamp on it Many of us long for the day when we finally move into our forever home and can start decorating to our taste – which usually doesn’t involve magnolia walls! But what if you’re in Service Family Accommodation? Army&You spoke to two military spouses who’ve used their interior design talent to turn their quarters into something special… Samantha


Married to Wayne, with three children – Sophia, Amelia and Henry. In their ninth house in 13 years.

Married to Paul, with a son Alex and a cat Ethel. Currently living in their sixth quarter.

Don’t forget to check the rules on decorating your quarter at

Interior design – a long-term passion or new hobby?

has been key so finding and adapting pieces to make them work for us as a family has been fun. For our latest move the children wanted very different themes – rainbows and unicorns, space and Star Wars and something grown-up for our eldest. We have a toy and teddy rotation system and a ten-minute tidy each night before bed, which earns them some pocket money! My eldest finds it hard letting go of items, maybe due to all the moves, but memory boxes to keep souvenirs in, are a great idea.

Interior design – a long-term passion or new hobby?

My style

Advice to others

My style

I love the Scandinavian midcentury modern mix and a space that’s functional and bright. I’m a big believer in re-using and recycling and have found some great pieces of furniture over the years. In most of our quarters, storage

Be prepared for changing walls back to magnolia. We had a blue bathroom and it took five coats of paint. Small changes can make a big impact too. Changing lights and curtains, adding a rug and accessorising to your heart’s content.

I take inspiration from everywhere and spend hours researching online. I’ve never painted a quarter, it’s too much hassle in my eyes, so I bring loads of colour through artwork and soft furnishings. I constantly rotate trinkets

I love interior design and making each house a beautiful and fun place to be. It’s our home for as long as we live there, so I like making it feel like ours. I read a report that said decorating a child’s room can help ease anxiousness with moving and help them settle quicker. We’ve found that by giving the children their own identified space it has helped; they seem happier and more at ease. The children’s rooms are always tackled first.

I thought my love for interior design started when Paul and I got our first house together, but my mum pointed out that I used to do it in my family home too. Whilst my mum was at work, I would move furniture and rearrange pictures and trinkets. It’s important for me to make our quarter feel like a home quickly. We move so often, meeting new people and starting new jobs, that having a base makes you feel settled and centred.

and cushions for different looks. People would always compliment my home and say how it didn’t look like a ‘normal’ quarter. I wanted to share how I do it, so I started a YouTube channel called Vanilla & Canela and I got amazing feedback from other military wives, which has spurred me on. I’m the mastermind and my husband is actually the executor. I can’t cut anything in a straight line and get frustrated quickly, so I count on Paul to help me. I’ve recently Fabloned my kitchen counters. I tried on my own and wrecked half a roll before he intervened.

Advice to others Go for it! It’s your home, you should feel comfortable in it. You can do amazing things on a budget. Command tape, Fablon and tile stickers should get you started. winter 2019 Army&You 23


THE RIGHT TO HOUSING There has much been much talk about future housing in recent months and the changes to the cohabitation rules, but what does this mean for non-UK national families? Do you have the same eligibility as UK nationals or does your visa status affect your choices? Katherine Houlston, AFF F&C specialist, has been finding out…

ELIGIBILITY You may be unsure about the rules surrounding eligibility for Service Family Accommodation (SFA) if you’re a non-UK family. Essentially a soldier can apply for SFA up to 16 weeks prior to the expected date of arrival of their spouse in the UK – there’s no requirement for any visa documentation to be shown during the SFA application process. Ideally a soldier will be given an offer of a quarter and can use the address for the visa application. However, to occupy the property, they’ll need to have evidence that you’ve been issued a visa or entry clearance, which is valid for more than six months – not a visit visa. As no one has responsibility for checking visa status prior to move-in, you could end up unknowingly occupying SFA when you’re not entitled to it. We’ve been raising this issue with policy teams at Army HQ for more than a year and we’ll continue working with them to seek a resolution.

COHABITATION RULES In April this year, the MOD’s policy on cohabitation in SFA in the UK changed. If your soldier has served for four or more years and can demonstrate they’re in an established longterm relationship, they’ll now be eligible to apply to cohabit with you in surplus SFA, where it’s available. But does it apply to non-UK partners? The answer is yes, as long as you have a valid visa for the UK. It’s possible to apply for a visa to enter as an unmarried partner

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as long as you can demonstrate that you’ve lived together for two years. The two years doesn’t have to have been completed immediately before the date of application if you can demonstrate why you’re not currently living together. If you need information about the type of evidence to provide, contact us.

PRIVATE RENTAL The ‘right to rent’ scheme, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of tenants, was introduced in England in 2016. Landlords can be fined for allowing people without a right to rent, to occupy their property. For information on how you can prove your eligibility or if you’re having problems accessing private rental because of your immigration status, contact us or visit the F&C pages at

as these people are able to access public funds. We’ve been contacted by soldiers on discharge who are being told that their families aren’t eligible to be housed with them, but it also appears that local authorities interpret the rules differently, so be careful that you’re not breaching your conditions if you’re allocated a house. One soldier had been offered a two-bedroom property for himself and his British daughter. His wife and two other children were deemed as not eligible, so the offer of accommodation did not include them. However, when he applied to different

authority, they were all included on the housing allocation and were given a house to suit their needs. We approached the NRPF Network, who explained that the rules relating to homelessness assistance for mixed households are very complex. The following links may help but do seek advice if you’re faced with this problem on your soldier’s discharge. l l (search mixed households) l (search non-EEA/EU nationals)

SOCIAL/COUNCIL HOUSING You’re not eligible for council housing in the UK if your immigration status means you have ‘no recourse to public funds’. Soldiers on discharge who have been granted indefinite leave to remain (ILR) are eligible but unfortunately if you or other family members don’t have ILR, then the local authority has no legal obligation to house you. Family members have to spend five years on a dependant visa before they can apply for ILR, even if the soldier discharges during this time. You can only legally occupy the house if tenancy has been granted solely to the person with ILR or British citizenship,



Salisbury Plain was bustling with removal lorries over the summer with the arrival of families who’ve been part of the huge rebasing programme. Hopefully by now all your boxes have gone, the family has visited, and you had time to enjoy a barbecue or two before the autumn weather set in. So, what’s next? Amy Pearson, former AFF rebasing co-ordinator, has been finding out…


OR some of you, rebasing was the easy bit as you now have your soldier away on deployment. Whilst saying goodbye is always tough, deployment can bring service communities together and give you time to get to know the families going through the same as you. Our advice is to get to know your welfare teams. They’ll be putting on family days, trips away and lots to entertain the whole family. It’s a great way to meet people and get that extra support whilst ‘doing it alone’. One spouse agreed: “Join the welfare Facebook page and set an alert so you know when a new event is being planned. Then you know you can fill up your weekends, which makes counting down so much easier.” Coffee mornings and parents and tots are

a great way to get to know new friends who understand the unique pros and cons of being a service family. If you get a chance, go along. Another spouse said: “My friend from Germany dragged me to parents and tots, I really didn’t want to go but now I go along as much as I can. “The kids love it and I have caught up with some old faces from Germany plus made new friends. It has really helped.” If you’re looking for work, Forces Families Jobs (, the tri-service employment and training platform run by AFF, is a good place to start (see page 39). There are also lots of careers fairs in the area that can help you get to know what’s available. If you’ve been busy settling before finding work, don’t forget about using an online benefits calculator to check

“I have caught up with some old faces from Germany plus made some new friends.” what you are entitled to, even if you have come from overseas, there might be some help that you didn’t know about. Try

SETTLING IN Across Salisbury Plain schools have been planning for rebasing for some time and understand the extra pressure that you might face, so if your child is struggling after starting at a new school, talk to their teacher. Don’t forget AFF is here to support too and our education & childcare specialist, Jilly Carrell can help – email her at If you haven’t already, find your medical centre and

register as soon as you can. The shortage of NHS dental spaces is an ongoing issue and something our health & additional needs specialist Karen Ross is aware of. To find availability, contact NHS England on 0300 311 2233 or visit

HERE TO HELP If you need any rebasing advice, contact AFF’s new rebasing co-ordinator, Carole Rudd at – some of you may remember Carole from her time working as the regional manager at AFF Germany. There’s also lots of information at or try your local HIVE (salisburyplainhive. &

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Key to getting your keys Whether buying or selling, we find out why seeking legal support is vital to those navigating the property market... CONFOUNDED by conveyancing or confused about the consequences of being in a chain? If your family is considering stepping onto the private property ladder for the first time, the chances are the legal aspects of the homebuying process will be alien to you. We quizzed the team at Batt Broadbent Solicitors to help shed some light on what you can expect before collecting the keys to your property. What role does a conveyancer have in the home-buying process ? A conveyancer can be a Solicitor or a Chartered Legal Executive or can be licensed through the Council of Licensed Conveyancers. A conveyancer will help you through the process of buying or selling property. They prepare the legal documents for the sale of a property and, in a purchase, they will check that the legal title contains no onerous conditions or restrictions. Your conveyancer will also prepare the documents which legally transfer the property to you on completion and pay the purchase monies to the seller. They will act for your mortgage lender in releasing a mortgage over a property you are selling or securing a mortgage over a property being purchased. After completion, your conveyancer will ensure that your ownership of the property is correctly recorded in the Land Registry records. In brief, it is your conveyancer’s job to manage your sale and/or purchase from beginning to end. What are some of the common issues we may expect to encounter ? We all want conveyancing transactions to proceed without anything unusual cropping up but this rarely happens. It might just be a query about who is responsible for maintenance of a particular boundary fence or it might be something more complicated such as whether the property benefits from a legally enforceable right of way to the front door. At Batt Broadbent we have probably encountered most types of conveyancing transaction and come across most selling or purchasing pitfalls. If you instruct our firm to help you with your conveyancing, you can rest assured that your matter will be handled by a properly qualified person whose experience

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“It is your conveyancer’s job to manage your sale and/or purchase from beginning to end.” not only enables them to identify important title issues but which also gives them the skills necessary to advise you and, where necessary, suggest practical solutions before you legally commit to purchase. How long does the legal process take ? A general guide would be for an exchange of contracts to take place within about eight to ten weeks of receiving a draft contract on a purchase or sending out the contract papers on a sale. If no particular issues crop up then this may be achievable, however, a conveyancer’s job involves many third parties – local authorities, lending institutions, surveyors etc – and the longer the chain of transactions, the more third parties there are. The length of the chain also makes a difference to timings as it is inevitable that the first-time buyer is the first person to identify a property to buy, followed by their seller and then their seller and so on up the chain. Where there are many links between bottom and top, the parties at the top of the chain might not identify a property to buy until several weeks after the first-time buyer’s offer has been accepted and this does, of course, have an impact upon how quickly the various transactions get off the ground. We always encourage clients to let us know if there is a particular date that they wish to meet or avoid so that we have an idea of our clients’ own completion requirements and, of course, we try our best to achieve their goal but there often has to be a degree of flexibility over dates put forward at the outset.

How can having a partner in the army impact on the process? It goes with the territory that members of the armed forces often have an unpredictable work pattern or can be deployed overseas without much, if any, warning. However, we are fortunate in that technology has improved communication vastly. The pace of work flow can be quite rapid in conveyancing transactions and, where possible, we use email as often as we can so that our correspondence reaches clients quickly. Of course, there are times when only postage will do – when sending documents out for signature etc – but even then email can be useful. When we act for clients who live overseas, we often email documents to them for printing out at their end. They are then able to sign the hard copy documents and return them to us in the normal post. Alternatively, a client who is about to be deployed overseas and who would find it difficult to deal with documents sent by email, could ask a relative to be their attorney for the purposes of that single conveyancing transaction. The documentation can be prepared quickly before the client travels overseas and, thereafter, the legal paperwork can be signed by the attorney. The only time that this might prove difficult is in a purchase transaction where a mortgage deed needs to be signed. Lenders are often unwilling to allow attorneys to sign their mortgage deeds. @ArmyandYou

c d n o t g n i wash

A POSTCARD FROM... Amanda, Mark, Abigail (11) and Tom (10) Foote tell us about army life in the US capital, Washington DC… How long have you been an army family? 15 years.

Time in Washington? Since August 2018.

How many other military families live in Washington? There are many other families here in DC, tri-service as well as embassy staff.

What’s your quarter like? We live in a furnished, rental property on the outskirts of DC where many other defence families settled. Properties tend to be larger than UK quarters.

Are there any employment/ training opportunities? Those looking for work will

have to complete some paperwork and wait a short time for authorisation from the State. Once approved, you can seek employment on the open market and join the spousal pool at the British Embassy. I work at the Australian Embassy and love it! On the downside, some professional qualifications are not accepted in the States.

What about schools and childcare? Like the majority of military kids here, Abigail and Tom attend a local state school. The curriculum and teaching methods are very different to the UK and it can be a difficult transition for some. The school day is long with fewer breaks but there are also opportunities

for sports and clubs. If you’re coming over here with school age children, I’d advise you to do your research.

Where do army families meet and who supports you? Meet-ups such as book club, sewing club and walking group happen routinely and there’s also a Facebook page, an embassy welfare team and volunteer service reps. Outside of the military community, we’re spoilt for choice as DC is always buzzing with activities.

How do you find the cost of living there? Initially the outlay to move stateside was substantial, having to buy two cars,

additional furniture, garden items etc – it soon added up. Having some savings helped make those first few months more manageable. The cost of living is high, Local Overseas Allowance helps but many spouses opt to have a job.

What’s the best thing about living in Washington? The opportunity to travel is by far the best thing about living here and we’re having a wonderful time! We’ve already visited some amazing places in our first year and have ambitious plans for future trips.

Would you recommend it as a family posting? Yes – for independent families looking for adventure! &

Want to share your experiences of army family life? Get in touch by emailing

winter 2019 Army&You 27

ACROSS THE POND AFF’s regional manager overseas, Esther Thomas, has seen an increase in the number of enquiries from families assigned to America. And as she’s discovered, no two postings to the States are the same…


STHER has been learning case-bycase, which has meant frequent referrals to the British Defence Staff (BDS) based in Washington. “We’re working in partnership with BDS (US) to help improve two-way communication with families and we’re pleased to see that a new information portal ( has been created,” she said. The States has a lot to offer, not least the opportunity to travel, but as Maj Martin Graham, head of in-country support BDS (US) explained, it’s not as straightforward as you might think: “With lots of families and service personnel keen to volunteer for a US posting, it’s critical to manage expectations. “Service life in the US isn’t always simple and can on occasion place great stress on families.” So, it’s best to do your homework prior to arrival. As part of AFF’s research, we’ve asked army families to share

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their experiences and help identify common differences you need to be aware of:

due. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is complex and can cause issues for non-US residents.

COST OF LIVING Everyday life is expensive, from groceries and phone contracts to days out. Local Overseas Allowance is standard across the US despite huge variations in costs from state-to-state.

EXTRAS You need to factor in tips and local sales taxes. In New York City, standard tips are 20 per cent on everything. Instead of VAT there’s sales tax which is state/city specific. In some states anyone over 12 is considered an adult so entrance fees, haircuts etc are all charged at adult rates.

EMPLOYMENT Jobs are limited and employment conditions are skewed in favour of employers with a lack of paid holiday and sick leave. Most spouses try to find work at their consulate under a local contract as there’s no US tax liability and therefore no interaction with the IRS.

DRIVING Car insurance can be as much as five times what you’d pay elsewhere, and must be paid upfront. Once you’ve built up a credit history fees start to decrease. Petrol (gas) is much cheaper than the UK, however.

BANKING AND ADMIN Banking isn’t free and surprisingly, not as advanced as the UK. If you’re employed, you’re required to file a tax return every year and pay all taxes

ELECTRICAL GOODS Be prepared to buy electrical items – voltage is different. As prices are higher, it’s a good idea to look

for second-hand goods once you’re there.

HEALTH For some, healthcare is provided via insurance and not through the US military. Whilst it may cover regular GP visits, A&E and other pre-approved treatments, there may be no provision for well woman check-ups. Lots of things are excluded or regarded as preexisting, so it’s vital to provide a full disclosure on your health forms. When it comes to finding a doctor/dentist/ optician, you can shop around using an app to see who is contracted with your insurer, what services they provide and how they are rated.

WELFARE AND CULTURE Despite being in an Englishspeaking country, many families feel like the locals speak a different language. Other British service families and familiar infrastructure may not be close at hand.


The Hewitt Family

The Higgs Family

The Strachan-Hayes Family

Emily, soldier husband Charlie and olas (8) children Annab elle (10) and Nich

Lynda, soldier husband Andrew and daughter Romilly (14)

POSTED TO The Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


POSTED TO Fort Carson, Colorado. Now back in the UK.

“Having the opportunity to live abroad as a family and spend some much-needed time together following a busy period and some unaccompanied time is a blessing. This opportunity came at exactly the right time for us as a family.”

“Life in New York is both familiar and totally foreign. With Romilly at boarding school for half of the year, it’s proving slower to adjust. I feel at a bit of a loose end without a job, but being part of the UN and UKMIS community has enabled us to have some amazing experiences and meet wonderful people.”

“The most frustrating thing was being such a ‘dependant’; it took so long applying for my social security that it still hadn’t come through by the time we left. The memories make up for it, so on balance I would recommend a posting to the USA if you enjoy adventure and exploring.”

DOING THE HOMEWORK Being experienced in overseas assignments, we did a lot of research on what the different neighbourhoods offer, from housing to grocery shopping, commuting times to airport runs. Due to the nature of Andrew’s role, I was able to attend some spouse training courses.

THE UNKNOWN A last-minute change in the posting from frosty New York state to sunny Colorado and little pre-deployment advice meant it was hard knowing what to take. Coordinating three children, three car seats, and ten large suitcases via taxi to Heathrow then, Washington, Denver and finally arriving in Colorado, was a challenge.

THE MOVE Moving to a small town from London was a challenge, but it has been amazing. There was a huge amount of paperwork and we were charged £2,500 for excess storage in the UK, but we challenged and resolved this. SCHOOLING Both Annabelle and Nicholas attend local schools as we wanted them to have the full American experience. We requested that they were put into the grade above. Class sizes are smaller, the teachers seem excellent and the children are happy.

SETTLING IN It can take longer than usual to adjust – even Americans posted here make similar observations.

FINDING A HOME The main factor was school catchment areas. We found the army housing website very useful.

MAKING FRIENDS New York is a fascinating, vibrant place, but complicated. It can be alienating and overwhelming. It can be difficult to really connect with people. US culture is as foreign as that of anywhere I’ve been posted.

KEEPING BUSY As a reservist, I’ve been fortunate to secure work through the British Embassy. Many other spouses take the opportunity of a sabbatical or to study. Through a local college spouses can access free courses. The community seems to be very active and there’s a great youth service on camp. For spouses there’s lots on offer – hiking, tennis, biking to name but a few.

EVERYDAY LIFE During term time our social life revolves around Andrew’s work, and I volunteer on a community committee. During school holidays it’s about family time and enjoying a more low-key life in the suburbs. We tend not to eat out often as it’s very expensive.

MEDICAL CARE It’s provided on camp and is very efficient. Annabelle needed physical therapy and was seen within a week.

EMPLOYMENT It’s a pretty cut-throat place, with little time for anyone over the age of thirty, let alone a military spouse with an erratic CV. Opportunities are few and far between.

TRAVEL As part of our welcome, all the international families were invited to travel with the students to Philadelphia and to Washington DC. We were taken to a baseball game and to Hershey Park (think Alton Towers in chocolate) – it was an excellent introduction to the USA.

EXPLORING We haven’t travelled much yet as we’ve had lots of visitors and have found things to do in and around New York, but we did taken advantage of being close to the Caribbean and enjoyed an unforgettable holiday in Jamaica.

Liv, soldier George and children Lily, Iris and Buck

OVERCOMING BARRIERS I found it frustrating that I didn’t have the authority to apply for anything, including nursery places. I felt I lost my identity as it was all about living through my husband’s rank and his job. He had to fly back to Europe 15 times in the first year. To preserve my sanity, I joined a running group outside of the military community. CATCHING UP The girls attended a school on camp, which was incredibly accommodating, but they had to repeat an academic year and they’re still catching up. ENVIRONMENT ISSUES We were shocked to find that recycling isn’t a thing in the USA and, despite living less than a mile from the school, everyone drove to drop off and pick up. MILITARY CULTURE Loudspeakers on camp played the taps (bugle call) four times a day. Watching an entire camp stop and salute at 5pm every day was quite something. GETTING OUT AND ABOUT There are few places you can go with dogs. After bringing them over at huge expense, we often had to find people to look after them.

winter 2019 Army&You 29


NO DEFENCE FOR ABUSE t Domestic abuse is not easy to discuss. The army lifestyle can affect families seeking suppor because there’s often a fear that it will impact on their housing, their support networks, their entitlement to remain in the UK, their employment and their financial dependence on their serving partner. Our health & additional needs specialist, Karen Ross, has been exploring who you should talk to, how can you keep safe and what specific support is available…

I’m a victim of a violent domestic incident, what should I do? If you are in immediate danger or your life is being threatened, you should call 999. All domestic abuse calls are considered high priority. The MOD police or RMP may also attend if you are living in Service Family Accommodation (SFA).

What will the army do? Many victims are reluctant to report abuse because of the potential impact on the perpetrator’s career and therefore family. Be reassured that command follows clear guidance and any decisions about your quarter, children’s education, finances or employment will be made with the appropriate agencies there to support you.

Coercive, controlling and threatening behaviour is a crime. You can seek support from the Army Welfare Service. Its staff support victims regardless of rank, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The MOD takes domestic abuse very seriously and does not condone any form of domestic abuse. It set up a working group and in 2018 published a domestic abuse strategy ‘No Defence for Abuse’. Here at AFF, we have representation in this working group, which ensures that we are kept well informed on policy and the specific support available.

My partner is becoming very aggressive and controlling, what should I do? Coercive, controlling and threatening behaviour is a crime. You can seek support from the Army Welfare Service (AWS). Its staff support victims regardless of rank, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. They understand the complexity of domestic abuse, its often-

hidden impacts and the unique difficulties that military life creates for those who want to seek help. You may feel apprehensive or even ashamed about seeking assistance but AWS will always work collaboratively and confidentially with you to achieve safety. If there’s no immediate danger but you are concerned for your safety, call 101 and ask for the police safeguarding team that deals with domestic abuse – this option should be considered if you have children.

I want to leave an abusive relationship, what are the first steps? This is one of the most difficult decisions to make, particularly if you have children. The most vulnerable and volatile time in an abusive relationship is

Domestic abuse includes violence, controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour as well as psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse between those aged 16 and over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. 30 Army&You winter 2019


around separation, therefore additional services should be considered to ensure the safety of the adult wishing to leave the relationship. If it has been disclosed to AWS that domestic abuse has occurred in a household where there are children, they have a professional and legal obligation to share information to safeguard you. AWS will discuss options with you around keeping safe, whether you wish to remain in the relationship or not. If you want to separate, safety will be a key consideration. Stepping Stones Homes exist for women and children with a military connection who need temporary accommodation, whether as a result of homelessness, marital breakdown, moving house or compassionate reasons. The two homes offer a safe environment and staff are trained to support families with welfare, finance, immigration and emotional issues. Referrals and enquiries can be through unit welfare teams, AWS, SSAFA caseworkers or direct via SSAFA. The Services Cotswold Centre is also available to those needing temporary accommodation.

I think my neighbour is a victim of domestic abuse, what should I do? If you think they may be in immediate danger or there’s a threat to life you must call 999. If not, they

should be encouraged to seek help through any of the organisations listed right. If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of a child, you have a duty to report your concerns to Children’s Services or AWS. Showing that you care is important and you could help by offering someone a safe place to come to use the internet or telephone and help them to contact organisations that can provide support.

domestic abuse in the UK or overseas. AFF’s F&C specialist will do all the substantive work required to make applications, including collating all evidence, completing forms and writing letters of representation. There’s further information at You can also contact us directly at but we would prefer that you are referred to us via your local AWS or SSAFA caseworker.

I am a spouse of a F&C soldier who is abusing me, is there any specific support available?

I am living overseas, so what support is available to me?

Often spouses of F&C soldiers struggle with the immigration and practical issues created by leaving their abusive partner because if the spouse does not have indefinite leave then their visa is only valid if the marriage is subsisting. AFF offers a special service funded by Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund for F&C victims of abuse who need help with their visas to remain. AFF can provide practical one-to-one support to F&C families dealing with

It can be more difficult to seek support, particularly when you are away from close friends and family. There are organisations that can provide you with help, listed in the worldwide support section of the ‘Domestic abuse: guidance and support for the Armed Forces community’ webpage at ● King’s Centre for Military Health Research has been carrying out a research project into domestic violence and abuse among military spouses and partners, which is due to be published later this year. Bristol University and the Forces in Mind Trust have also recently published their report (Domestic Violence and Abuse in Military Families: Improving Signposting to Specialist Support). Further information on these research projects can be found online. &

WHERE TO GET HELP AFF Domestic abuse: guidance and support for the Armed Forces community JSP 913 AWS Intake and Assessment Teams 01904 882053 or 882054 Aurora New Dawn Stepping Stones Homes National Domestic Violence helpline 0808 2000 247 or nationaldomestic Wales Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 80 10 800 or Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland 0800 802 1414 or Scotland (support for male and female victims) National Centre for Domestic Violence 0844 8044 999 or Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327 or Mankind Initiative 01823 334244 or Broken Rainbow 0800 999 5428 or ChildLine 0800 1111 or Perpetrator programmes and support Up2U – creating healthy relationships Stalking is a serious crime and should be reported to the police. Avenues of support: AWS National Stalking helpline 0808 8020300

winter 2019 Army&You 31

Girls and Boys, Day and Boarding, Nursery to Sixth Form

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32 Army&You winter 2019 @ArmyandYou



OBERT joined the army at 18 and served almost 13 years in the Royal Military Police. After leaving, he ran his own security business, working as a close protection officer in many challenging environments. He

would never have considered himself to be the type of person to become a victim of domestic abuse. However, he learned through his own experiences, that ANYONE can become a victim of this terrible crime.

Ten years on, he’s opened-up and has become an advocate, sharing his experiences in the hope of helping others. His recent talks have included audiences with the police, armed forces and service charities. He explained: “Things have changed over the last ten years and the tide is finally turning, with men now being recognised as victims of domestic abuse. If you are suffering, male or female, please reach out to someone, the support is there for you and the police will listen. “I met my partner (let’s call her Sarah, not her real name) through a close friend. I knew that she was a bit of a party animal but that was one of the things that attracted me. Looking back, I was a fool, because I sensed trouble but ignored it. “I discovered that Sarah was married but separated and had sent her young son to live with his father’s grandparents in Scotland. She had found herself unable to look after him, due to a drink and drugs issue, which had sent her into a destructive spiral. “All the red lights were there but I also discovered something

“I didn’t realise it at the time but over the coming months, I was carefully manipulated into a position of isolation.” horrific from her childhood. It was enough for me to want to stand beside her, to love her and to try to show her that not all men were scumbags. “I didn’t realise it at the time but over the coming months, I was carefully manipulated into a position of isolation, especially as I have no real family in the UK. Once isolated, things became volatile and a pattern emerged when she was drinking. She would become spiteful and unpleasant, then the fists would come out. “I gave up my home and my job after she announced that she wanted to move closer to her family and start afresh. Within days of moving, she attacked me, punching me so hard in the face that she broke her hand.” Robert described how Sarah gained more power and control: His name wasn’t on the rent agreement, he had no car and they lived in a small village miles from anywhere, he took a low paid job and surrendered his

bank card so he had to ask her for money if he needed it. Whilst the abuse stopped during pregnancy, it soon worsened when their baby daughter was born. Following another attack, social services got involved and eventually Robert broke free from the relationship. Months, and many bumps in the road later, he finally began to get his life back together. Ten years on, he now sees his daughter at weekends and in school holidays, and has used his experiences to launch his domestic abuse support business. “My life is now full of laughter and adventure and I’ve never been happier. I want to use my experiences to help others. “Life is definitely worth living, so never give up.”

Find out more at or read Robert’s full story at & winter 2019 Army&You 33

THE POWER OF CREATION From modifying ammo bags to making wedding dresses, Lt Col Neil Stace is about as handy as you can get with a needle and thread. The ‘Sewing Soldier’ shot to fame by reaching the final of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee and since then, he’s been inspiring creative projects across the country. Army&You caught up with him to find out more…


EIL’S love for textiles dates back to his childhood in seventies’ Hong Kong when, as a remonstration against his primary school’s policy, he joined the sewing club. “They allowed girls into the football team, so a friend and I protested – it was as simple as that,” he recalled. “I remember making clothes for my Action Men. I still have them somewhere.” He hails from a ‘crafty’ family and always spent summers on his grandparents’ canal boat where he and his sisters crocheted bobble hats for something to do. As a teenager, he admits his stitching prowess served him well when it came to chatting up girls. “We’d go to parties and I’d talk to them about fashion and offer to make them clothes,” he explained. “I used to knit Aran jumpers for girlfriends – but the relationships never lasted long enough for me to finish them!”

JOINING UP Sitting in the clubhouse knitting was a useful method for Neil to calm down after rugby matches too, and when he joined the army, he always had a project

34 Army&You winter 2019

on the go. “I was stationed in Dortmund in the late nineties – my hobby went in fits and starts. In the summer, people would need ball gowns and I’d be working like a lunatic, then I wouldn’t do anything for ages. In those days you’d go on exercise in Germany for months, but even then, I’d be knitting. “I got stick for sewing but no different to anyone else. When I deployed to Bosnia in 1998, I made a wedding dress for my driver. The soldiers thought that sewing was just ‘what I did’. Lots of them asked me to make curtains so they could cordon off their little areas in the accommodation blocks.” When he got married, Neil made the bridesmaids’ dresses, and it was his wife Kate who encouraged him to apply for the Great British Sewing Bee. “I hadn’t even watched it,” he said. “I’d assumed that there was no way I would be good enough because I’m self-taught. I’m an engineer that makes things out of material, so if you ask me what type of seam to use [throws his hands up in the air] I don’t know. “The application form asked what I’d made and I was able to put things like sniper suits

“When you put a child in front oF a sewing machine it’s amazing, their level of concentration is fantastic. I call it ‘the power of creation’.” in Afghanistan, women’s underwear and ski suits. I sent it off for a bit of a laugh and within 20 minutes I got a phone call asking whether I was making it all up!”

ON SCREEN After a rigorous selection process which included a sewing test which he describes as ‘horrendous’, Neil was given a psychiatric interview. “I was asked whether I’d ever been in a stressful situation, which sounded barking having been on operational tours, but looking back you need it, because the whole reality TV thing is pretty brutal. “I went along to the first episode thinking, as long as I get through the weekend and don’t look like an idiot, then I’ll be fine. I was picked up at seven in the morning and didn’t get back until

midnight – filming for 15 hours – and I realised that it was about making a TV programme. “They could find a thousand quality sewers, but they needed a group of people who could interact, and who had a bit of a back story. “The group needed gelling, so on day two I started with a rugby scrum to get them together and the banter started. I’d end up leopard-crawling across the room to help others. “There were six episodes, each one had three challenges, and I won nine out of 18, so I’m still bitter and twisted that I didn’t win!” he joked. Neil admitted that it was satisfying to know his appearance on the show had inspired others in the military, having received feedback from young soldiers on their newlyfound confidence to give it a go. @ArmyandYou

earheaded Stace has sp , Lt Col Neil ject ro p f Thanks the Flags o sands u o th gether bringing to ich will re flags wh of miniatu to be made in eventually terans ve omeless quilts for h

However, this didn’t rub off on his own two boys. “They were totally embarrassed by the whole thing,” he explained. “Except when the show aired and their boarding school cancelled prep, bought in pizzas and all the children sat and watched – for six weeks the boys were very popular.”

WHAT NEXT? Since then, Neil has been involved in SSAFA’s 100 Hearts project, running workshops in schools to make pin cushions as a mark of remembrance for the First World War. More recently, he’s

spearheaded ‘Flags of Thanks’ for the homelessness charity Alabaré, bringing together thousands of miniature handmade flags for an exhibition. They will eventually be made into quilts for homeless veterans. Neil’s workshops on military patches, in kids’ clubs and in veterans’ shelters, have made a big impact in terms of mental health and tackling isolation. “It’s just being able to sit and have a natter whilst learning a new skill,” he explained. In some instances, learning to sew has even been lifechanging. During Neil’s last tour

of Afghanistan, he worked with female engagement teams to set up sewing workshops for Afghan women in small villages. “I had to stand almost out of sight with a hand-wound sewing machine, instructing a female US Marine, who was then going through an interpreter, who was teaching the women. It was a challenge. “I wish it had been filmed because it would have been magical to see how it empowered them as they grew in confidence. By week three they’d appear in multi-coloured leggings and blue burqas. In some villages the odd store

would spring up, selling what they’d made.” Knowing how sewing has benefited both adults and children is something that Neil is keen to harness as he turns his attention to life after the army. “When you put a child in front of a sewing machine it’s amazing, their level of concentration is fantastic. I call it ‘the power of creation’,” he said. “When I leave the army, I want to do something with that.” Follow Neil on Twitter @sewingsoldier, look for #FlagsofThanks on Instagram or visit & winter 2019 Army&You 35

Pictured (from top): Paige, Lolly and Amy; Zak and Joe Gold; Tommy soldiers, referencing The Strood on Mersea Island



HEN Lolly StewartThomas’s young son asked what the obscene graffiti scrawled over the local underpass meant, she decided it was time to do something about it. But despite putting in a complaint and hearing that Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) was already on the case, it was tricky to establish who was responsible. As a secondary school art teacher, army spouse and former reservist, Lolly had a vision of how the space, leading to a military patch in Colchester, could be improved, and 18 months later she finally got the project off the ground. “It upset me that my son had read such things, and others felt the same,” explained Lolly. “There were a couple of ventures that didn’t quite happen, then my husband received a round-robin email requesting artists. “I put my name forward with my design, and along with Tina

Denmark from DIO, we started to lead the project.”

Drumming up support Lolly recruited two more artists, Paige Brandon and Amy Sparkes, and a number of other volunteers. “We had a joint goal and the kudos of being involved in something so available for public appreciation spurred people on to help.” Volunteers came in many forms: “A family friend looked after my two youngest children whilst I painted which was a huge part of the logistics,” said Lolly. “And people brought us snacks and drinks to keep us going.” The project involved both military and civilian families, something that Lolly was keen to reflect in the design. “I spoke with military and civilian children about what they would like from the space to make sure we set the tone right. During the community painting day, we

WORTHY WINNER Lolly is our winter Community Champion and wins a Monty radio and Bluetooth speaker (RRP £99.99), one of VQ’s latest releases and the winner of a Which? Best Buy Award. Designed in the UK and featuring a real wood case, our 36 Army&You winter 2019

had contributions from civilian and military families, all making their mark. Local counsellors and our MP contributed too – it reached quite a wide network of interest!”

A big difference Colchester Garrison supported the project form the outset, funding some of the materials, while paint was provided by Trade Paint Colchester, Kent Blaxhil and CLC. Four sets of railings, specially treated by 8 Field Company to include Tommies and poppies, were added to finish it off. Army spouse Angie Eaves said: “It makes the dog walk and school runs more pleasant; we don’t avoid the underpass now.” “I’ve had so many lovely comments,” added Lolly. “People don’t mind walking their children through there now and it’s a talking point – people feel proud of this little bit of art. It’s been a lot of fun for the whole community.” &

winner will have five different finishes to choose from. Monty is an acoustic dream with a powerful 10W speaker providing room-filling sound with unparalleled audio quality. VQ has offered a £30 saving specially for Army&You readers, just visit and use code MONTY30 at checkout. @ArmyandYou


#OurArmyFamily Whether married or single, parent, partner, cousin or child of a soldier, we want you to tell us all about your army family. Follow @ArmyandYou on social for more stories Meet the Rutherfords: Miranda and Scott and their twins Warwick and Bronwyn (3). Miranda tells us how they blend army and family life…

We feel the army isn’t just a job for us, it’s a calling. I was born and raised in the USA by parents who had military careers. I swore when I left for university that nobody would ever tell me where to live or what colour my walls would be. Then I fell in love with a British soldier. My family are in the US and Scott’s siblings

also live abroad. This means our support network is mainly friends, not family. We’ve built our own village, near and far, who support us. It’s important to maintain life outside, even when you live behind the wire. In Catterick, I got a job at a castle, sang in the original WAGS choir and even published a book. Since being posted to Preston, our twins Warwick and Bronwyn are in nursery 15 hours per week, thanks to funding for military families. Scott has an

allotment near the patch and is now growing our own fruit and veg. I joined the local amateur dramatics society. Being a mother of twins presents my greatest challenge due to Scott’s constant absence. When they were only six weeks old, he was away for a month. They’ve just turned three, and in their lives, Scott has been away as much

as he has been home, including an 11 month stretch starting on their first birthday. His long absences have shaped the way I parent and the way we work as a family. Army life puts both positives and negatives in sharp relief. I love the fresh horizons and new challenges as much as he does. When it’s hard, it’s very hard, but when it’s good, it’s unbeatable. It’s the only life for us. &

GET INVOLVED: Do you and your loved ones want to share what makes up your #OurArmyFamily? Send your details to

winter 2019 Army&You 37



Get in touch Your evi dence is key, so have be if you en aske d to re matern t u rn your ity pay , email employme L a ura at nttrain ing@aff

Taking maternity or adoption leave may not be as straightforward as it sounds if you’re posted before you are due to return to work. Some army spouses have been asked to pay back their maternity pay when they haven’t been able to fulfil their contract. Laura Lewin has been on the case…


FF HAS worked closely with some local authorities to help them understand the unique challenges that army life presents. Cambridgeshire County Council has already made a change to its HR policy in support of its employees and Suffolk County Council has also agreed to consider issues on a case by case basis. After we intervened, the council recently waived maternity charges for army spouse Katie, who is a health visitor. She said: “I was massively surprised with the outcome. I really appreciate AFF’s help as I was told I had to pay it back. It has taken away the stress of where I will get the money from as I have not yet found work.”

BETTER UNDERSTANDING Cambridgeshire County Council regularly reviews its employment policies to reflect its commitments under the Armed Forces Covenant. Anna Syson, from the council’s human resources department, explained: “We are open to ideas and suggestions that could better support those who serve and their families. “We work closely with Vikki Barr, our Armed Forces Covenant development officer, and have undertaken a survey to ask people about their experiences so that we can better understand what’s helpful. “We recognise that there are

circumstances where an employee begins maternity or adoption leave and is subsequently advised that their spouse or partner has a new posting, which will take the family to another location. In those situations, we would not require the individual to repay their contractual maternity/adoption pay.” As a military spouse herself, Vikki advised that it’s best to keep the lines of communication open with your line manager and HR team: “If you’re in a situation that requires support, just ask your employer what’s available. “Even if there are not specific policies, there may be ones you can utilise to support your situation.” &


Tel: +44 1276 678867 E-mail: Web: 38 Army&You winter 2019

NSC has a proud history of supporting the British Army through the provision of simulation, visualisation and training design expertise. As the provider of UBVT, a key Army Collective Training system, we bring the training to your soldier negating the need for travel and reducing time spent away from their loved ones.


or Liz co-ordinat AFF Canada milies troduces fa Ellwood in milies Jobs to Forces Fa

FOR JOBS. FOR TRAINING. FOR SUCCESS. In September, we launched our employment and training platform, Forces Families Jobs (FFJ), alongside our partners from the Naval and RAF families federations. The website was designed as a direct result of our research with Warwick University, which recommended that you needed a one-stop-shop to support all your employment needs. Employment & training specialist Laura Lewin tells us more… AT OUR launch at the House of Lords, Jess Sands, who runs the InDependent Spouse and is a military spouse, spoke to a packed audience. “As spouses, we have access to some great initiatives to help our businesses and employment – but as a community we are spread over the country and the world, so it’s difficult to find this stuff – until now. “Forces Families Jobs has created a place for us all to access. By supporting the spouse with employment and training, you will be helping our serving personnel do the best job that they can. “By giving partners their own identity through employment, you allow a spouse to financially

contribute, freeing up the pressure on the serving person. By providing access to develop the skills they’ve already used during their working lives, you help a spouse retain their identity and their mental health. “By providing access to inspirational role models and an online virtual network, you’re showing partners that they’re not alone or isolated in this military world. “And by helping this community, we will never turn to our partners and ask them to leave a job they love, because our own sacrifices are too much to bear.” Suzy Ives is head of finance at Balfour Beatty and a military spouse. She said: “Forces

Families Jobs is all about empowerment. “It’s about giving a community tools to enable them to reach a potential they never knew they had. It’s about the employers being part of their success story and benefitting from it too.” Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, spoke passionately about why the platform was so needed and followed up by tweeting: “Spousal employment sits alongside other top priorities for me – some seriously talented spouses, and a skills market that needs them.”

POSITIVE FEEDBACK We’ve been promoting FFJ all over the world, from Wiltshire

to Canada, and feedback has been positive: “It is great to have something where families are at the heart of it; it’s about us and our careers; our futures and helping our families. I love it,” said army spouse Becky. Sarah, who is currently posted overseas, concluded: “It makes me want to look at training courses and things I can do to get ready for when we move back to the UK.” You can sign up wherever you are in the world and start utilising support from the training section until you’re able to secure your dream job. If you source employment through FFJ, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at & winter 2019 Army&You 39

Helping them see beyond their expectations For information on upcoming open days and to book your place please visit or call 01344 882770


Discounts available to Armed Forces and Diplomatic families.

Contemporary Catholic Co-educational 3-13 Boarding & Day

Come and see us…

Farleigh in a Morning (small group tours) Friday 28th February 2020 and Saturday 14th March 2020 10.00am-12.00pm Senior Schools’ Exhibition (meet representatives from leading senior schools around the country) Saturday 29th March 2020 10.00am-12.00pm To arrange a visit please contact Sarah O’Rorke

“Here I was given the best possible start in life.”

Red Rice, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 7PW 40 Army&You winter 2019



FA ST FAC T S You don’t need experience as training is provided You do need to be over 18, committed to the role and be prepared to ask questions As well as attending meetings and visits, there’ll be reading to do

BECOME THE GUV’NOR EVER thought about going back to school? Not as a pupil but as a school governor? It might not be something you’ve thought about, but this voluntary role can be a great way of keeping your skills upto-date and gaining new ones. Major John Symmons is a governor at Mount Street Infant and Junior Schools in Brecon, Wales. He grew up as a military child and now works with army engagement, giving him links to many sectors of Welsh society and government: “It enables me to ensure that service children’s issues are represented and are kept in perspective. I try to ensure that the positive sides of being a service child are not overlooked. The life experiences that they bring to a school can be huge.”

INSIDE TRACK John feels part of the school and has gained a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. “I get the chance to see the children developing,” he explained. “I see

INTERESTED? Inspiring Governance, a free, online governor recruitment service, funded by

the teachers and other pupils almost daily as my children go to school here. “Most important is that the school understands its links to the military community and how to access support. Having a service family member on the governing body is really useful in achieving that. We’re lucky to have an arrangement with a local unit who routinely provide a Nepalese governor.” In Brunei, Jutta Morford volunteers as a parent governor at Hornbill School. As well as being an army spouse, she’s an early years teacher and a mother of two. “As Hornbill is an MOD school they understand the needs of service families very well,” said Jutta. “On the governance committee, we draw on our knowledge and experience to support the headteacher and staff; for me this is in early years. We contribute to the strategic direction of the school, looking at aims, targets and policies as well as the school’s budget and expenditure.”

the Department for Education can help you find a school. It’s created a dedicated partner page on its website for you to find out more information and register.

You may be involved in headteacher performance management, resource allocation and hold the school to account for the attainment and progress of its pupils

Left: Jutta M orford; Right: John Symmons and his child ren


Even though it’s a big responsibility, being a governor is fairly straightforward and John encourages families to get involved. “If there are issues at the school your time may be called upon a little more, but I have developed a really in-depth understanding of how a school operates and this has (I hope) led to my children gaining better support at home. The tenure of a governor here is four years which could seem a barrier to service families however, this is not a hard and fast rule.” And Jutta agrees that representation of service families is crucial: “I think if Hornbill wasn’t an MOD school it would be even more important to help communicate service specific issues such as frequent moves and parents being away on deployments. If you have the time, an interest in education, leadership, business or management, being a part of a school’s governing body is very rewarding.” &

Once placed, you’ll receive a support and training package for your first year in the role. Go to for details.

A typical governor spends around five to eight hours a month on the role You might sit on panels for pupil exclusion, headteacher appointments or staff disciplinaries You’ll gain experience in a board level environment and skills in strategic thinking, teamwork, communication, finance, data analysis and project management You’ll address a range of education issues including disadvantaged pupils, those with special needs and staff workload In return, you’ll feel part of the community and know that you are making a real difference.

winter 2019 Army&You 41


EDUCATING FROM HOME Have you thought about home schooling your children? It can be a positive choice but it can also be a huge adjustment for the whole family. Jilly Carrell, AFF education & childcare specialist, has been looking at the options… ELECTIVE Home Education (EHE) is legal throughout the UK. It can be a good shortterm solution if you’re moving between areas, for example, or when your child is on a waiting list. You may decide to look at home education if your child has a period of ill-health, is unhappy in their current school, being bullied or for other social reasons. Sometimes poor academic achievement in the face of high mobility and parental deployment, a lack of support or the stress of testing and targets can prompt parents to opt into the EHE approach.

DO YOUR RESEARCH Taking the leap to home schooling can be stressful and you’ll need to be certain you feel you can teach and support your child. The longer your

42 Army&You winter 2019

child has spent in traditional schooling, the harder it can be as it can take time to adjust. You may have to make difficult financial decisions, moving from two incomes to one or exploring working from home options.

REGIONAL DIFFERENCES In England and Wales, you can choose EHE at any stage of compulsory education and are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority. You must inform your current school, accept full financial responsibility and ensure suitable full-time education is provided. Search home education at or visit In Scotland and Northern Ireland, visit uk and

OVERSEAS EHE can present risks for service children overseas, particularly if your child has Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND) and/or where you may be unable to access appropriate or sufficient support. As part of the MOD’s assessment of supportability, you need to state any intentions to home educate prior to an overseas posting – this helps the local overseas command to decide whether EHE can be supported for your child. If you do decide to home educate whilst overseas, you won’t be able access MOD school resources. Where SEND support is required but not accessible, EHE isn’t recommended. Following the release of a new Directorate of Children & Young People’s directive on home educating

overseas, you’ll need to: l Tell your child’s school so that they’re removed from the admissions register l Inform overseas command of your intent to home educate l Pay all costs incurred as a result of electing to home educate l Ensure that the education you provide your child is effective and sufficient l Ensure appropriate safeguarding l Where it’s assessed that your child’s needs can’t be met, you will have to cover all costs – including the cost of returning to the UK if it’s necessary – if you still choose home education. For further info, email the Children’s Education Advisory Service on dcyp-ceas-enquiries@, or contact me at & @ArmyandYou


CASE STUDY: THE FORREST FAMILY Willem (15) has been home educated in the UK, Germany and Turkey. Mum Natalia commented: “In some overseas locations it can be difficult as there’s often no home education community to be part of.” Whilst Paderborn and Istanbul presented challenges, now that the Forrests are based in London, Willem is enjoying a wealth of opportunities: “There’s so much for Willem to see and do as part of his learning experience,” said Natalia. “He has joined several local sports and hobby clubs and is a member

offer and Linda Kate (left) ort to p p ge of su a wide ran s ie mil military fa


“Home schooling is pretty fun – it allows me to have more freedom in my learning.” of a home education philosophy group at King’s College.” In some areas Natalia feels it can be hard to find home education groups for older children: “Think about where your child can take exams and the costs; look into any legislation and security implications of taking part in local groups and activities, in addition to any language or cultural barriers.” Willem, who is now studying four A Levels and an AS level over three years instead of two, said: “Home schooling is pretty fun. It allows me to have more freedom in my learning. I’m aiming to go to university to study mechanical engineering or war studies.”

Olivia (10), Charlotte (7) and Alexander (5) have experienced six military moves in the last eight years. The family’s home education journey started in Germany, but on posting to Canada they’ve now decided to home educate full-time. It took time for the family to prove to the chain of command their ability to home educate and demonstrate how they could integrate into the Canadian system. “We registered with a home school board and we have a facilitator who checks in on our plans, progress and issues,” said mum Hannah. The family follows the Canadian curriculum supported by accredited books and weekly online classes where the children meet with an experienced tutor. “When a family home schools in Canada, the funds that a school would otherwise receive for resources go to the family, so we have used this for educational visits, tutors and music lessons,”

THANKS to Covenant Funding, the Parent Support Service, based at The Wavell School in Hampshire, works with families whose children attend a cluster of schools in Aldershot, Farnborough and Rushmoor. It offers early intervention support and advice on parenting strategies, money management, family relationships, education issues and supporting good mental health. If you’re living in the area, there are a range of great courses available such as Triple P positive parenting programme, family links parenting puzzle, and healthy eating and nutrition for the young. Workshops include how to support an anxious child, supporting and understanding emotions, friendships and problem solving, top tips for primary age, and parenting in the 21st century for teens. There’s

“I love being home schooled because I get to choose what I want to learn.” explained Hannah. “Our strong base of family and home education provides a good sense of security for the children.” The children agree: “I love being home schooled because I get to choose what I want to learn,” said Olivia. Charlotte added: “I like being home schooled because I get the freedom to explore.”

also a bespoke four-week programme supporting you pre and post deployment. The service is run by Linda Parry, an army wife veteran and the lead parent support advisor for Aldershot and Farnborough, and Kate Wakeford, the parent support advisor for military families in Rushmoor. They both have a wealth of experience and have been supporting parents for over ten years. Linda said: “I’m lucky that my schools are constantly happy to train me and keep me informed with best practice initiatives to support families. It’s a great job that we both thoroughly enjoy, and every day is a new challenge. We can support you in your home or in our group courses and workshops. We have a close relationship with the Army Welfare Service, HIVEs, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and other agencies in the area.”

“I’ve been trained to support families in finding where their strengths are and working on finding solutions to areas that need further support. I’m putting together a tool called the Circle of Change, to help identify these,” added Kate. Parents have been benefiting from what’s on offer, with one mum commenting: “It’s an amazing service. Linda is so supportive in so many ways. I’m not sure what I would’ve done without her. I’ve got stacks of new tools to help us become more effective parents.” Another parent added: “It’s outstanding. I’ve learnt so much and it’s really helped me understand my children’s behaviour and improve my skills during a very difficult time.” To find out more, email linda.parry@wavell.hants.sch. uk or kate.wakeford@wavell. & winter 2019 Army&You 43

Discounts available for boarding Forces families limited availability

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Contact or call 01225 734210 for further information An Independent Co-educational Boarding & Day School for pupils aged 9 months - 18 years

44 Army&You winter 2019




Once considered more bleurgh than cordon bleu, school dinners have enjoyed a remarkable transformation thanks to celebrity intervention from the likes of Jamie Oliver and a greater general awareness of good nutrition. But what are the staples of modern menus? We asked a selection of Army&You’s supporters to give us a flavour of what their pupils find on their plates... GORDON’S SCHOOL


N any given day, the

encouraging its students to make

breakfast through to the evening

menu reads like one in a

healthy choices.

snack. They are planned after

pie but a nice dish from Malaysia

good restaurant. Sea bass

discussion with students and there

or Thailand gives them a better

and samphire mingle alongside

been set at reducing sugar by 20 per

is a food committee that meets

education”, he says. “If we do it

Asian style salmon with pak choi

cent by 2020, the levels at Gordon’s

regularly with Paul as part of their

right and cook well, they will eat

or roasted root vegetable risotto

School have been cut by almost 70

student council duties.


and butternut squash complete

per cent.

with a parmesan crisp. Inevitably there is homemade

While Government targets have

“It’s all very well doing cottage

With a background in Michelinstarred restaurants and director’s

In addition, all students are

The school menus are seasonal

invited to complete weekly surveys

and run through from October

on what they are served.

half term with a Winter menu to

soup and meals are topped off with

dining rooms, Head of Catering

“All the meals are healthy and

yoghurts, fresh fruit and and cheese

Paul Hopkins brings a wealth of

balanced with particular regard to

menu until Easter and the Summer

and biscuits.

experience to the dining room.

vegans, vegetarians and allergies,”

offerings. They are colour coded

says Paul, adding that each one is

and feature the GDA [Guideline

But this isn’t a restaurant, it’s a

He and his team serve up nearly

the February half term; a Spring

school dining room! Gordon’s School

2,000 weekday meals at the school

meticulously planned so ensure

Daily Amount] so each diner is

in West End, Woking, rated as one

to hungry students and staff (that’s

the right balance of protein and

aware of the fat, saturates, sugars

of the top residential and day state

as well as providing for match teas;

carbohydrates. Superfoods; oily fish

and salt and content of what they

boarding schools in the country, is

ad hoc barbecues; black tie dinners;

and grains are very much a part of

are putting into their mouths.

also educating palates.

formal lunches and weekend grub

his menus too.

And the school is leading the way in reducing sugar, salt, portion sizes and its carbon footprint. It is also

for residential boarders). During the school day, all meals are taken in the dining hall from

While the teachers plough

They aren’t what would typically be described as ‘school dinners’ and

through the curriculum, Paul sees

are a far cry from the food served up

his job as educating pupils’ palates.

in the early 1900s. In the early days

winter 2019 Army&You 45

EDUCATION ADVERTORIAL of the school, which was built at


the insistence of Queen Victoria as the national memorial to General Gordon, there were no cooked breakfasts and lunches were rabbit pie, soup made from shin beef and plenty of cabbage. While Paul is prepared to occasionally pander to the typical teenage diet of burgers, chips and pizzas, the burgers are handmade using good quality beef and the pizzas are also homemade using “as many vegetables as possible” in the tomato sauce topping with quality mozzarella. The steak night, popular with the Residential Boarders provides them with the finest beef. And while cakes and desserts feature, the brownies will contain beetroot and the muffins are filled with carrot


ased on the outskirts of a picturesque

hall, each of the ten single-sex Senior School Houses,

market town, Bishop’s Stortford College

which form the backbone of the College pastoral

is one of the UK’s top 20 performing

system, are equipped with kitchen facilities including

independent co-educational day and boarding

a microwave, toaster and kettle whilst those that also

schools for 4-18 year olds. As three schools in

take boarders also have an oven and hob to facilitate

made as are the smoothies

one, the College is large enough to provide an

cooking at weekends – something some boarders like to

and bread. Everything is fresh,

exceptional range of opportunities, whilst each

do for themselves. Senior School pupils therefore have

nothing frozen.

part is small enough for pupils to be known, valued

the independence to make themselves snacks and hot

and nurtured as individuals.

drinks throughout the day if they wish; toast is always

and courgette. The yoghurts are also home-

Evening meals are based around street food and

When it comes to food, the College is committed to

a favourite.

contemporary cuisine to

providing a varied and healthy eating programme for

make food more interesting.

all pupils and staff. Meals are made on the premises

consideration. A Dining Hall Committee of pupil

To this end, students might

using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients from suppliers

representatives from each Senior School House, and

expect Mexican, Thai and West

who share the same commitment to providing the best

from the Prep School meet with the Catering Manager

African cuisine on the menu.

quality food with the highest standards of accredited

and other College staff to discuss standards of service,

health and safety. The College Catering Team has

menus and to suggest new dishes. One committee

are educated about dining

won a Gold Continuous Advancement Programme

meets to specifically discuss lunches, whilst another

room etiquette to cut down on

(CAP) Award for continuous improvement for the last

focuses on members of the boarding community and

waste. “Waste has been greatly

eight years – a scheme which also sets the highest of

their options for breakfast and supper.

reduced” says Paul.

standards – setting a new record for excellence.

New students to the school

“We talk to them about only

Bishop’s Stortford College was the first school in

Pupils’ views on healthy eating are taken into full

Pupil tasting sessions; an opportunity to taste and score potential foods for future menus, also take place

taking what they can eat and

the UK to retain the prestigious Gold CAP Award,

and help steer food choices. Menus are rotated on a

not to be wasteful because

promoting healthy eating, good practice and hygiene

weekly basis and updated each term with new dishes

children in other countries of

awareness in the kitchen and dining areas. Ian Jackson,

using seasonal produce.

the world are not as fortunate

Managing Director of the CAP Awards, said: “It’s clear

as them.”

that the school has made significant investments in

Manager ensures specific guidelines are followed. Fresh

Paul has ambitious plans for

When compiling menus, the College Catering

catering, demonstrating the importance that they

fruit is always available, rice or pasta frequently feature

his team of culinary wizards.

put on the food provided to the pupils. The pupils

at lunch and fresh chicken and fish make regular

They will enter a team in the

themselves rated the food and the service very highly,

appearances on the menus.

Salon Culinaire, competing

which is as good an endorsement as you can get!”

against the best chefs in the

The three core meals of breakfast, lunch and supper

College pupils are active, growing children and young people who require plenty of wholesome food and

country and he is moving

are served in the College dining hall to encourage good

regular meals to fuel their learning. The College believes

forward with the kitchen

table manners and healthy eating habits. A selection

a balanced, healthy diet combined with regular exercise

garden so vegetables can be

of hot and cold foods is available at each mealtime

benefits all pupils, both in terms of their academic

grown in the school.

ranging from scrambled eggs, toast or yoghurt at

advancement and general welfare. An effort to provide

breakfast to soup, salad or jacket potatoes, amongst

well-balanced menus alongside an awareness of the

the culinary department at

many other hot and cold dishes, at lunch and supper.

dangers of excessive use of preservatives, colourings

Gordon’s on the map,” he

A daily vegetarian option is always on the menu and

and flavourings is a top priority of the Catering


individual diets relating to medical or religious needs

Manager who recognises the clear link between

are catered for wherever possible. As well as the dining

nutrition, learning and wellbeing.

“We are aiming to get

46 Army&You winter 2019


The Dyslexia School since 1910

CLEARSHORE INTERNATIONAL Independent school selection and placement services for British military families

Clearshore International is an established and experienced company, providing guidance to national and overseas pupils wishing to study within the British independent school sector. With an in-depth understanding of the UK independent system and with excellent relationships within schools, we help military families navigate through the often daunting selection and application process – supporting the family through every step. Our bespoke school selection and placement service is impartial, transparent and trustworthy, providing accurate guidance to military families and tailored specifically to the needs of the child. Please contact The School Placement Team to discuss your family’s requirements by email, phone +44(0)207 859 4260 or post: Clearshore International Ltd, 45 Fitzroy Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 6EB






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winter 2019 Army&You 47



AUNTON School pupils are lucky

the chefs with the best ingredients to cook with

fresh pulled pork ciabatta rolls to roast dinner

enough to have access to a first-rate

but more importantly provides the children

to fish and chip Friday with fresh bread rolls

in-house catering facility.

with the best finished product.

and tartare sauce.

We are one of the only schools in the region

“We take pride in the quality of our food, safe

not to have outsourced its catering and all the

in the knowledge that all meat can be traced back

How often are menus refreshed?

staff have always been employed directly by

to the area and the farm where it began its life.”

The menus are refreshed weekly, with the

Taunton School. The kitchen team provides

catering staff selecting seasonal and locally

breakfast, lunch, tea and supper to pupils

Give us a taste of some of the food on offer?

throughout the year. Pupils are encouraged to

The day starts at Taunton School with a

help themselves to the food in the servery, and

full cooked breakfast with fresh homemade

from suppliers which means the school

can even sample different meals on one plate

porridge, fresh cut fruit and Greek or natural

community enjoys a varied, interesting and

if they wish so there is no restriction on choice

yoghurt, or a mixture of continental meats and

ultimately eco-friendly menu.

or amount.

cheese, ranging from smoked salmon bagels to

There are currently two dining rooms, but the school is now undergoing a major

waffles with maple syrup as a treat. And it wouldn’t be breakfast without muffins,

redevelopment to create a brand new dining

fresh sausage flats, and eggs; poached and

facility for the whole school, to be ready in


Spring 2020. How much consideration is given to what food is served to students?

Throughout the morning at Taunton School

sourced food. The menus are created around availability

How are your school dinners received by students? Students (and parents) enjoy the extensive variety of meal choices and the freedom to choose what they eat. A student survey is

fresh fruit is available for the pupils to pop in

conducted each year for the catering team to

for if they are hungry.

respond to.

Lunch continues with homemade meals where

Voted as a favourite meal in the latest school

Head Chef Lisa Richards takes great pride in

pupils are encouraged to help themselves to

catering survey was chicken fajitas, closely

delivering top-quality food to the Taunton

either the two different meat options on offer,

followed by delicious homemade lasagne.

School community. She says: “I enjoy the

the fish choice or the vegetarian choice with a

challenge of bringing ever-changing food trends

wide selection of vegetables and a full salad bar.

What impact, if any, does diet have on

to the school community.”

And there’s always homemade fresh gluten free

students’ academic advancement?

soup every day.

Headmaster, Lee Glaser, says: “We believe that

Every food choice is carefully selected with nutrition in mind, and many different diets

A hot dessert is available with custard, or

are catered for. For example, lunchtime menus

a mixture of chilled yoghurt, profiteroles,

always include a meat, fish and vegetarian or

mousses or ice cream.

vegan option and all potential allergens are listed with the menus. All meat, vegetables, milk and cheese used by the catering team are sourced locally,

Afternoon break consists of a homemade cake… you can devour a lovely flapjack, sponge cake or chocolate brownie.

what happens at mealtimes impacts powerfully on the rest of the day. “It really is vital that we provide the very best that we can for our students if we are to expect them to reach their full potential.” Taunton School whole-heartedly agrees with

Supper consists of a full cooked meal where

Virginia Woolf’s philosophy that “one cannot

supporting local farmers and small family-run

we try to make it exciting for the boarders with

think well, love well, sleep well if one has not

businesses. Lisa adds: “This not only supplies

themed evenings and fashionable foods, from

dined well”.

48 Army&You winter 2019





VS ASCOT students have been enjoying new facilities available to them at lunchtimes after a major £820,000 refurbishment of the

dining hall.


To feature in our education advertorial, email info@

The new dining hall has suspended acoustic ceiling panels to help with sound deadening and improve conversation, and a servery that includes a theatre

The improvements made over the summer have


slimline aluminium windows.

cooking suite for demonstrational cooking.

created a much better user experience, transforming

LVS Ascot Principal Christine Cunniffe said: “We are

a standard school canteen into a high-end restaurant

continually looking to improve our facilities to provide

quality space.

the best learning environment so our students can

With meals provided by Sodexo included in the fees at LVS Ascot, and a focus on healthy nutritious eating, the dining hall is an important area of the school. A 20 per cent increase in size has been created to comfortably accommodate the 850 pupils, along with

maximise their achievements. “Last September, we opened a new sixth form centre and the unveiling of the new dining hall drew equally high praise from students. “The outstanding facilities on offer to students here

new furniture and booth seating, and an increase in

really do provide superb support to help them excel

natural lighting due to the insertion of skylights and

and develop.”


and independence developed, with

Marlborough and Sedburgh. Other

exciting school set in 35 acres of

the opportunity for pupils to board

pupils have gone on to study at

rural Cheshire countryside – the

at Terra Nova School in preparation

Eton and Oxford.

perfect place for a child to grow

for both Senior boarding schools

and develop.

and future university life. Pupils are


enjoying full and flexible boarding

Terra Nova School offers an

and values the traditions that form

from Year 3 to Year 8. There are

enviable setting for pupils, perfect

the foundations on which a fresh

currently 35-50 pupils boarding on

for learning outside the classroom

thinking approach is adopted.

a regular basis.

through the purpose-built forest

The school is steeped in history

All children in the school are

school set in our own woodlands,

encouraged to develop their talents


bespoke shooting range, all-

and realise their potential in the

Terra Nova School prides itself

purpose floodlit AstroTurf, tennis

way that best meets their needs and

on preparing pupils for the next

courts, Performing Arts Centre and

personalities. The wellbeing of every

stage in their education, through

swimming pool.

child is at the heart of the school’s

a dynamic, vibrant and engaging

philosophy, we want them to

curriculum taught by world-class

two further facilities, a state-of-

develop a genuine love of learning,

educators who have training and

the-art Makerspace to enhance our

be resilient, optimistic, confident

experience across the world. All of

Science, Technology, Engineering,

and kind people who can sustain

this is achieved making use of the

Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)

good relationships and make a

very best resources.

programme and The Hub, a new

positive contribution to society.

Many pupils leave Terra Nova with scholarships at prestigious


schools such as Shrewsbury,

Relationships are further fostered,

Uppingham, Rugby, Repton,

The school has also developed

and vibrant library and resource centre for pupils.

winter 2019 Army&You 49

From left: Lulworth Cove; Durdle Door; Jenna and Pete.


In focus: the South West The South West of England covers over 10,000 square miles, four counties and the iconic Jurassic coastline – and it’s also home to many military families. We give a flavour of what to expect from a posting to the area… A LIFELINE TO FAMILIES Although it’s a real tourist hotspot, particularly in summer season, some areas are very secluded, which can lead forces families to feel isolated and lonely as Jenna Richardson, AFF south west co-ordinator, explained. “Public transport can be quite limited, especially during the winter months, so the activities and groups offered via the

military bases in the area are a real lifeline to families.” she said. Across the region, you‘ll find thriving military communities, with frequent baby and toddler groups, health visitor clinics, wives’ choirs, cinema nights, youth clubs, exercise classes, gardening opportunities, additional needs groups and craft sessions, to name a few. “There’s so much going on and

Lulworth play area

50 Army&You winter 2019

it all helps to make people feel less remote,” said Jenna.

A SENSE OF BELONGING The Bovington Military Wives Choir attracts singers from across the region and they perform at lots of events. Kerstin recently arrived in Bovington following an overseas posting and explained how important it was to her that she could join the choir: “I started with the Paderborn MWC and I loved that I could just relax and sing my heart out. “I really missed it when we were posted to the USA, so I was very happy when I found out there was one in Bovington.” Kerstin found that it has really boosted her confidence. “I have made some really precious friends and I really feel like a part of something good in the community,” she said.

GREEN FINGERED FAMILIES Blandford is a very busy camp with community groups running most days. The latest addition is the community gardens project, which was the idea of army spouse, Zoe. When the future of the on-camp allotments looked uncertain, she set into action to save them. “I wanted to rejuvenate the gardens in order to create a space for everyone to use when they need some time to relax or de-stress. “I like to think of it as a garden of wellbeing that can help those suffering with mental health issues or anxiety,” explained Zoe. WO2 Stuart Hill, the welfare warrant officer for the Blandford Garrison Support Unit, added: “The view across the Downs makes it an ideal location for gardening and for reflection and unwinding – it’s really impressive, @ArmyandYou

Contact Jenna at southwest@aff.or

JOINING THE JIGSAW If you have a family member with an additional need, finding local support groups in a rural area can be difficult. But for families in the South West, there’s a thriving group which can help. Jenna Richardson, AFF south west co-ordinator, has been along to see what they offer…

especially at sunset. “By getting the whole community involved – families and staff – it has become something to be proud of that belongs to us all.” Zoe agreed: “There’s still much to be done: a garden never stops changing and evolving. My hope is that next year the community will come and plant seeds to grow vegetables – then stop and literally smell the roses. “We welcome any help that you can offer with cutting grass, weeding or planting. This really is a community space, run and maintained by the community.”

MAKING THE MOST OF THINGS The welfare team at Bovington and Lulworth recently secured funding to renovate the outdoor play area, and with Amey’s help, turned a concrete yard into a beach-themed attraction. Mandy Walmsley, the garrison welfare officer, told us more: “We have very few facilities in Lulworth, so we wanted to make the most of what we do have. “The area was just a wasted space, so it’s nice to make it into something for the community.” The new facilities have gone down well with families. Army spouse Ashleen said: “It’s so

nice having this – it was just a concrete yard and not really safe for the children. It’s now lovely and I’m sure it’ll get lots of use.”

COLLABORATIVE WORKING The South West is traditionally a naval area with a high number of navy families living here too. Jenna works closely with Pete Hawley, who is the Naval Families Federation community engagement officer for the area. “We both do a very similar job and cover a huge area,” explained Pete. “Working together means that we can support military families to provide a better, more effective support network.” Jenna agreed: “We’re often found at community events, such as our housing surgeries that we run for Yeoviltonbased families. They are very popular and by working with Amey, DIO and both chains of command, housing issues are being addressed and families are generally happier. Like anywhere, there are local challenges that military families face – from faulty streetlights to accessing local services – and that’s where Pete and I can help. And if we can’t, then we’ll know someone who can!” &

The Jigsaw group at Bovington offers support to anyone who cares for a child with an additional need – whether that’s physical, medical, emotional or cognitive. The group meets weekly in the welfare centre and is run by army spouse Katy. “When I first moved to the area, I was introduced to the Jigsaw group. They made me feel welcome and supported and the ladies shared their own experiences with me,” said Katy. Jenna agreed: “There’s a real sense of friendship at Jigsaw whenever I visit. I always feel so welcome. “Some of the families attending face very difficult day-to-day challenges, but it always strikes me that you can be sure of lots of laughter and a lovely welcome.”

Another lady who regularly attends said: “It’s nice to have somewhere to talk about difficulties and get information about accessing local services. “We don’t just sit around discussing additional needs – we have a good chat about life in general. “I’ve had some great Netflix recommendations and they make some great cakes too!” As well as meeting weekly, Jigsaw has an active Facebook group, where members can find support at any time. “Looking after a child with additional needs is a 24/7 job – and our support for each other is the same,” explained Katy. To find out more, search Facebook for ‘Jigsaw, helping each other through puzzling times’. &

winter 2019 Army&You 51


n a copy of You Enter our giveaway to wi Reading Force Won’t Believe This and a for entry rules. scrapbook. See page three




In this edition’s Army&You and Reading Force Book Club, our forces youngsters share their views on You Won’t Believe This, written by Adam Baron and illustrated by Benji Davies…

Paperback price £6.99, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

OLIVIA AND ALEXIS BAILEY (11 & 9) This is a mystery story about a hilarious boy called Cymbeline. It’s a very funny story in which he tries to work out who’s doing terrible things to his teacher, Mrs Martin, and Nanai, his best friend’s grandma. It was one of the best books we’ve ever read – we’d give it five out of five. Anyone aged nine to 16 would enjoy it.



The main character Cymbeline has two mysteries to solve. Nanai (grandma) has come to England as a refugee from Vietnam. Something is puzzling her and she has stopped eating and talking. It’s nice how Cymbeline discusses Nanai and we learn about her background – a fab way to learn about new cultures. You’ll not be able to put it down.

The book is a really good read and never boring. Ten-year-old Cymbeline is trying to solve a few mysteries. Somebody is playing tricks on his favourite teacher and then his best friend Veronique’s grandma becomes very ill and it seems she has a secret. Cymbeline is running out of time to solve it. I really enjoyed it and recommend it!

READING Force is the free shared reading initiative for forces families where you can share a book and talk about it, together at home or over Skype or FaceTime if separated from your soldier. You’ll receive a free book and scrapbook to fill in with your thoughts, letters, drawings and photographs. It’s a fun way to keep connected. Take part via your children’s school, HIVE, or register online at

d If your children woul s for like to review book email the A&Y Book Club, hattie@readingforce.o d ages with their names an


Cottage Where Memories are Made

Pollywiggle Cottage is a charming 3 bedroom Victorian cottage in the popular coastal village of Heacham available for short breaks and holidays. • Beach Nearby • Open Fire • 3 Bedrooms • Sleeps up to 6 • Golf Nearby • Family Friendly

• Pets welcome • Private, enclosed garden • BBQ • Free Wifi • Off Road Parking • Tripadvisor rated Excellent

Prices start from just £375 for a week and £282 for a short break. To book or check availability please email or you can find us online.

Reserve your dates with just £100 deposit

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52 Army&You winter 2019



Worry workshops

A LITTLE EXTRA FOR LITTLE TROOPERS ACCORDING to government figures, there are more than 75,000 children in UK schools who have parents connected to the military. These children experience life differently from their civilian peers, and some might need extra support. Charity Little Troopers ( has developed a resource for primary schools to support service children. The Military Child Wellbeing Course, featuring seven interactive sessions, encourages armed forces children to explore the challenges they face. Topics include how to cope with separation, deployment, house moves and living abroad, as well as the personal themes of belonging, identity and mindfulness. It’s been created by a group of experts, including a cognitive behavioural therapy specialist, creative arts psychotherapist

and play therapists, alongside Little Troopers’ founder Louise Fetigan. “Of course, many children thrive and enjoy meeting new friends, travelling around the world and embracing the opportunities that military life can bring,” she said. “But with the highs can come lows. These same children can be faced with other challenges that their civilian classmates are often not familiar with. “The aim of the course is to acknowledge that service children do sometimes need additional support and to provide a safe space in which to open up conversations and help children navigate these challenges in positive ways.” The course is designed for small groups of children aged six to 11. Each school will receive a USB with all materials included so it can be re-used.

WIN! We have five copies of the Little Troopers 2020 calendar to give away. It features military moments submitted by families from all three services, capturing the highs and lows of forces life. Enter by Sunday 8 December – see page three for entry rules. Buy the calendar, priced £7.50 (+p&p), at

In her role as the service pupils’ champion with North Yorkshire County Council, Nickie Young found an increasing number of families seeking support for anxiety in their children. It prompted her to create workshops for different age groups to help them find ways to cope. We caught up with Nickie to find out more…


ICKIE explained that the workshops have three stages, beginning with an interactive story for early years children about a little boy called Max who can’t sleep because of the worries that come into his brain. “Through the story we discuss how important it is to share worries and show the children some breathing and stretching exercises which help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety,” she said. For years four to seven, the story of Caveman Bob talks about where anxiety comes from and how it can affect your body. “It encourages children to share how anxiety affects them; this helps them understand that they’re not alone in their feelings and they’re quite normal,” said Nickie. “We also discuss how important healthy eating, sleep and exercise are in reducing anxiety.” The final workshop, for year eight upwards, considers how hormones can affect anxiety and allows them to explore the impact it can have. “We recently added workshops which we hope will help young people improve their self-esteem,” Nickie added. So far, she’s received positive feedback. “I’m so happy my daughter is getting help with her anxiety,” said a parent. “She said it was great learning techniques to overcome her fears.” One service youngster added: “I liked how

we told the truth about how we felt, and we learnt very important information in a fun way.” The self-esteem workshop revolves around being kind: “It’s key for children to recognise that the language they use towards themselves and others has an impact and we should all try to make that a positive one,” said Nickie. “I believe it’s essential for children to understand that mental health is a continuum which we’re all on,” explained Nickie. “Some days we’re good and some days we’re not so good and that’s okay. If we can give children an understanding of mental health and the ability to talk about it, they will hopefully be better equipped to deal with any issues that arise in adulthood.” The workshops have also enabled Nickie and her colleagues to identify children who may benefit from further support. They continue to be offered to schools in the North Yorkshire area – find out more at & winter 2019 Army&You 53


Click the giveaways tab at and follow the links. Entries close on 5 January 2020

One entry per household per giveaway. Closing date for entries is 5 January 2020 unless otherwise stated. See page three for competition rules. Your information will not be used for marketing purposes. Winners’ names and T&Cs are published on the Army&You website.

Enjoy luxury accommodat ion and beautiful views at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel

Home inspiration Check out the latest products not yet on the high street at the contemporary home show Grand Designs Live ( The show, which runs from 2-10 May 2020 at London’s ExCel, is for anyone wanting to learn about the world of home interiors, led by design guru and broadcaster Kevin McCloud. Whether you’re redecorating a room or just looking for ideas, you’re sure to find inspiration.

20 readers will win a pair of tickets, priced at up to £34.

54 Army&You winter 2019

SOAK UP SEA VIEWS Kick back and relax at the luxury Woolacombe Bay Hotel (, an inviting coastal retreat in North Devon where sea views are on tap. You could unwind in the newly renovated spa,

smash your fitness goals in the gym, or enjoy the latest blockbusters in the 30-seat cinema. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, take your pick of Doyle’s and The Bay Brasserie restaurants.

One reader can win a two-night B&B stay for two in a sea view bedroom with a £50 per person spa allowance (Sun to Thurs, 1 March to 30 June, exc. school holidays). Prize is open to serving regular and reserve families.


The British Army Challenge Book, by the British Army and Dr Gareth Moore, tests your mental agility with brain teasers, mind games, puzzles and challenges. This is the perfect gift for any puzzle fanatic. We have five copies to give away, retailing at £12.99 each.

Buttonly lovely Imagine having a whole year of greetings cards sorted. That’s what’s on offer from Emily Gant, a military spouse who runs Mimi + BooBoo, crafting buttonadorned cards and children’s wall décor –

Personal touch If you’re looking for personalised clothes, stickers, mugs or militarystyle bags, then look no further. When army wife Andrea couldn’t find personalised wheelchair decals for her daughter, she decided to make her own, and B’s Clothing and Gifts was born. Up for grabs are two £20 vouchers to spend at You can also claim 10 per cent off using code ARMYANDYOU.

One reader will win a year’s supply of greetings cards usually costing £60, including bespoke design.

funSign your young ones up for g ttin etro glob filled letters from n inso cat Banjo Rob

Feline friends Army children often have to deal with frequent moves, a parent away and new schools, so what better than a loyal friend who keeps in touch at all times? Banjo Robinson is a globetrotting cat who sends twice-monthly personalised letters to children from around the world, helping to inspire a love of reading and writing. We have three six-month subscriptions to Banjo Robinson to be won, retailing at £24 each.

Readers can also save 20 per cent on a six- or 12-month subscription by using code ARMYANDYOU at

Code crackers

Kindness revolution Deck yourself out this winter in an organic t-shirt or sweater from The Kindness Co-op (, launched by two mums to promote kindness to others and the environment. Tote bags, notebooks and badges are also available featuring inspirational designs. Even better, part of the profit goes to mental health charity YoungMinds. We have one adult and one child’s sweater, retailing at £38 and £26, to give away.

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10 DAYS FREE UNLIMITED TRAINING GKR Karate is excited to offer Army & You readers 10 days of free unlimited training at any of our 300+ dojos throughout the UK! Would you like to... • • • • •

Build a stronger mind and body Feel more confident and selfassured Enhance your fitness Lose Weight Improve your child’s concentration and general behaviour

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Become more self-disciplined Develop inner calm Reduce stress levels Achieve your Black Belt All of the above!

GKR Karate is an international organisation with over 2500 classes running each week across three countries. The large community of GKR Karate students creates great opportunities for positive social interaction between both children and adults.

To learn more or sign up, visit


Welcome to Army&You’s BlogSpot. Write your thoughts about army life and send them to


Destiny calls By Ceri If I’m honest, a life within the military community has always been my destiny. As an RAF child myself, I very nearly signed the dotted line a couple of times. I guess it’s inevitable if it’s all you have known. I HAVE always relished every aspect of the nomadic lifestyle and the thrill and spontaneity of never really knowing what’s around the corner. I married Darren, leaving my own home, family, friends and a company I loved and had worked hard to get to the top of. I was full of excitement for the adventure we were to embark on together. For the most part, I still very

much feel like this. I settled quickly into the pace of army life and almost immediately landed a job with the local radio station, which kept me busy and connected when Darren was away. I was pretty independent and self-sufficient. A few years into marriage I fell pregnant with our little boy, Edwyn, and weeks after his arrival, we were posted.

Filling the emptiness By Tazmin @indie.morgan

My husband has now been away for a very long 23 weeks and four days and we still have another gruelling five weeks left to go. Not that I’m counting...

So began a new experience of army life, a fully immersive one. For the first time, I found myself beginning to appreciate the sentiment I had heard about the difficulty of being a military spouse. Previously that hadn’t resonated with me at all. Whilst I’m outgoing and friendly, I found it challenging and it wasn’t quite as I had expected. My naivety caught me off-guard. I feel blessed that Edwyn will grow up a ‘dandelion’ and enjoy all of the unrivalled rich experiences and opportunities that I did. For us, the pros still far outweigh the cons. But, as I return to

IT HAS been harder than I could have ever imagined, and I have now mastered being a single parent to our fur baby, Max. However, there have been positives that have emerged from this time apart, which should not be overlooked. My new-found inner strength has allowed me to survive solitude, numerous DIY mishaps and the realisation that there’s only so much that Delia Smith can show me about cooking for one. Being a primary school teacher left me with the daunting thought of enduring an endless six weeks with

work, having spent a year feeling quite isolated, I know that the path ahead will involve much juggling with very little

support. I do feel sad that the sense of community and security I so relished growing up seems to no longer be present.

This blogger wins £75 worth of theatre tokens to spend on a show. Theatre Tokens (Gift Cards and eGifts) can be used at more than 250 venues nationwide and have no expiry date. They can also be used at TKTS, the theatre ticket booth in Leicester Square or redeemed at See more at

nothing to do, whilst being miles away from my friends and family. With time on my hands, I decided to pursue my passion for bespoke macramé crafting and ethnic/Indian accessories and so, at last, my lifelong dream of running a creative business was fulfilled. I hand-make everything from cushion and chair covers, to wall hangings, keychains, table runners and other boho accessories. Although this will never replace the emptiness that deployment brings, my little business is growing every day and gives me something exciting and positive to focus on. winter 2019 Army&You 57

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Seismic SFA By Sarah At the time of writing, monsoon season in Nepal is in full flow! The locals are telling me that it’s arrived late this year, but now it’s here, we’ve more than felt its presence. THERE have been some badly flooded areas in Kathmandu but thankfully all the Service Family Accommodation (SFA) and Substitute Service Family Accommodation housing British Gurkhas Nepal families have not suffered any major damage. There have been minor issues with leaks, fallen trees and flooded driveways but the response from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to attend and fix the issues has been fantastic.

The service that DIO provides here is amazing. I typically wait less than a week for a repair and on occasions they’ve attended the day after I’ve reported the fault. There are approximately 40 families in Kathmandu and the housing types are mixed. There are a number of two- and three-bedroom flats on camp as well as numerous properties in the local community within a onemile radius.

There are also around ten families living in Pokhara in SFA. Each property has to be made seismically compliant to ensure the safety of families during any potential earthquakes. To make a property seismically compliant to British standards necessitates a huge investment from the army. It costs approximately £50,000 for each property and takes six months on average for the work to be completed. Nepal experienced a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015, which caused a considerable amount of devastation across the country. Thankfully, there’s been nothing as dramatic since, with only two small tremors during the year I’ve been posted here, neither of which I felt! However, it’s a great comfort to know that the army is investing in our families’ safety and security in this way.

controlling anxiety • dealing with phobias • boosting confidence • corporate people developing • public speaking • calming exam nerves • quitting smoking • life balance

58 Army&You winter 2019


Buying a new home is now as easy as 1... 2... 3...


By using Trinity you could buy a brand new Bovis Home without saving for a deposit – while saving yourself stress and hidden costs.

With Trinity you can combine three fantastic standalone schemes:


Bovis Homes Discount Scheme £500 Discount for every £25,000 of the property value - plus flooring up to £3,000*


Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme


Armed Forces Help to Buy Scheme

Buy a home with just a 5% deposit. The Government will loan you up to 20% of the property’s value!

Are you in the market for a new home and looking for the best purchase package out there for Armed Forces personnel? Now is a great time to think about moving as The Government has extended the Forces Help to Buy scheme until the end of 2022! Bovis Homes has developments throughout England, including a number that are close to major military bases, where we have a range of homes from 2 to 6 bedroom properties in attractive locations.

For further information about the schemes and where we are building, please go to – The Armed Forces purchase scheme is listed within the ‘Need help to Move’ section and you can find the nearest development to you through our ‘search for a new home’

Service personnel can be advanced up to 50% of annual salary (maximum £25,000) interest free!

The Bovis Homes Armed Forces Discount Scheme has specific terms and conditions. Help to Buy Equity Loan and Forces Help to Buy have specific terms amd conditions and are subject to affordability criteria as prescribed by Homes England and the Ministry of Defence. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers or promotions. Please ask your sales advisor for further information. Photograph shown depicts a typical Bovis Homes interior. YOUR HOME MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON A MORTGAGE OR ANY OTHER DEBT SECURED ON IT. *Flooring to be chosen from the Bovis Homes Select range.

HELP THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN SO MUCH. By leaving a gift in your Will, you can give back to soldiers, veterans & families for life.

Find out more about leaving a gift in your Will to The Soldiers’ Charity. Call: 020 7811 3694 Email: Web: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is a registered charity in England and Wales (1146420) and Scotland (039189). Registered as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales (07974609). Registered Office: Mountbarrow House,12 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9RB.