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Army &You SUMMER 2015

WWW.ARMYANDYOU.CO.UK

{for everyone with a soldier in their life}

Win A seaside holiday in Sussex, designer watches and much more!

SUPER

+

WOMAN The remarkable rise of a charity founder, Army veteran and proud parent

AFF’S VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME STATE BOARDING EXPLORED ROLLER DERBY

LIFELONG LEARNING Discover why your education never has to end

COVENANT IN ACTION COOKING WITH KIDS

L A I C E P S G N I S U O H our guide t le , e g a tg r o m a r pplying fo a to g in s a b e r am home m e o r r d F r u o y g in d n fi ad to help you on the ro THE MAGAZINE OF THE ARMY FAMILIES FEDERATION

aff


KEEPING YOU IN TOUCH WelComE (Welfare Communications Everywhere) - providing communication services to link entitled UK Service personnel on operational duty with their families and friends back home.

Free* voicemail Family and friends based in the UK, Germany and Cyprus can leave voicemail messages for entitled UK Service personnel currently serving on operational duty overseas. Entitled deployed personnel can retrieve voicemail messages for free in-theatre. Entitled deployed personnel, family and friends can top-up WelComE Account Cards via the Online Account Manager. Visit www.mywelcome.co.uk for details.

WelComE Customer Contact Centre customer.support@mywelcome.co.uk www.mywelcome.co.uk * Free when calling from a UK, German or Cypriot landline Mobile and international call costs may vary. Check with your mobile/service provider

10255 - Š Paradigm. All rights reserved. WelComE is a Registered Trademark of Astrium Limited.

Online top-up service


FROM THE EDITOR

Home comforts

H

OXFORDSHIRE 07787 091883 // oxfordshire@aff.org.uk NORTH HAMPSHIRE 07527 492863 // northhants@aff.org.uk SOUTH HAMPSHIRE 07527 492803 // southhants@aff.org.uk SALISBURY PLAIN 07527 492783 // salisburyplain@aff.org.uk SOUTH WEST 07787 301826 // southwest@aff.org.uk

CONTRIBUTIONS We love to hear from you. If you’ve got a story you would like to share, let us know – deped@ aff.org.uk DISTRIBUTION Are you getting it four times a year? A free copy of Army&You should reach every Army family every season. It’s posted to all UK SFA and sent overseas via BFPO. If you are not receiving a copy, contact your AFF Co-ordinator or call the Distribution Team on 01264 382313 or Andover Mil 2313.

www.armyandyou.co.uk

SOUTH EAST 07733 147001 // southeast@aff.org.uk LONDON 07901 778948 // london@aff.org.uk REGIONAL MANAGER CENTRAL 07824 534357 // rmcentral@aff.org.uk YORKSHIRE 07557 977141 // yorkshire@aff.org.uk WEST MIDLANDS 07557 977290 // westmids@aff.org.uk EAST MIDLANDS 07587 456280 // eastmids@aff.org.uk EAST ANGLIA 07527 492807 // eastanglia@aff.org.uk REGIONAL MANAGER NORTH 07585 333115 // rmnorth@aff.org.uk SCOTLAND 07780 093115 // scotland@aff.org.uk WALES 07527 492868 // wales@aff.org.uk NORTHERN IRELAND 07729 159013 // ni@aff.org.uk AFF OVERSEAS (0044) 07795 687930 // overseas@aff.org.uk CANADA canada@aff.org.uk KENYA kenya@aff.org.uk GERMANY (0049) 01744 946209 // rmgermany@aff.org.uk GUTERSLOH (0049) 0176 254 85 762 // gutersloh@aff.org.uk PADERBORN (0049) 05254 982 4724 // paderborn@aff.org.uk

CHARLOTTE EADIE, EDITOR

© All MOD British Crown Copyright images courtesy of Defence News Imagery

DEPUTY EDITOR Lisa Youd deped@aff.org.uk // 01264 382314

REGIONAL MANAGER SOUTH 07824 534345 // regmgrsouth@aff.org.uk

Charlotte ArmyandYou

EDITOR Charlotte Eadie editor@aff.org.uk

AFF UK CENTRAL OFFICE 01264 382324 // us@aff.org.uk

For those of you considering buying your own home, our housing special with MoneySavingExpert’s Johanna Gornitzki focuses on how to manage your finances and budget for the allimportant mortgage (p20). We are never too old to learn and in this edition we put adult education under the spotlight and look at options to ensure you can pick up new qualifications and skills wherever you are posted. We’ve been asking you to share how you spend your downtime – away from the stresses of Army family life – and in this edition we hear about roller derby (p42). Tell us what sport or hobby you get up to and we’ll feature you too. If you haven’t booked your holiday, check out page 52 where we’re giving away a family break by the sea. Finally, turn to our bumper Postbag (p56) where you’ve been voicing your views loud and clear.

F

{for everyone with a soldier in their life}

Army&You, IDL 414, Floor 2, Zone 3, Ramillies Building, Marlborough Lines, Monxton Road, Andover SP11 8HJ

OUSING is a hot topic this summer with many families on the move – and a sizeable proportion coming back from Germany. We’ve got some top tips to help guide you through the rebasing process. If you are moving into Service Families Accommodation, be sure to check out the new move-in process and find out what to expect when the new rent charges come in.

@ArmyandYou

Army &You

CYPRUS (00357) 2596 2110 // rmcyprus@aff.org.uk

K

www.armyandyou.co.uk

ESBA esba@aff.org.uk WSBA wsba@aff.org.uk

Email opcomms@aff.org.uk PUBLISHER Army&You is published quarterly by TylerBale Communications on behalf of the Army Families Federation (AFF). Editorial content © AFF (Registered Charity 291202). Not to be reproduced without permission from the Editor. ADVERTISEMENTS For information about advertising opportunities in Army&You, contact the team at TylerBale Communications. Email: info@tylerbale.co.uk Tel: 01252 714870 Web: www.ayads.co.uk

COMPETITIONS To enter, click the giveaways link at www. armyandyou.co.uk One entry per household per giveaway. Your information will not be used for marketing purposes. Closing date for entries is 12 July 2015. Winners’ names will be published on the Army&You website. SUBSCRIPTIONS Live in a hiring, your own home or on an isolated patch? Overseas? Parent or friend of a soldier? Army Reservist family? Leaving the Army but want to stay in touch? Find out the latest Army Families Federation news by subscribing to Army&You for free. Visit www. armyandyou.co.uk for details.

YOUR AFF SPECIALISTS HEALTH & ADDITIONAL NEEDS✪ 07552 861983 // additionalneeds@aff.org.uk EDUCATION & CHILDCARE 07527 492869 // ec@aff.org.uk HOUSING 07789 551158 // housing@aff.org.uk FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH fcassist@aff.org.uk EMPLOYMENT, TRAINING & MONEY✪ 07799 045955 // etam@aff.org.uk COVENANT LIAISON 07833 448352 // covenant@aff.org.uk ✪ Post generously sponsored by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity

summer 2015 Army&You 03


We asked our experts how many quarters they have lived in...

13

MY FAVOURITE WAS IN CANTERBURY

1

7

I’M IN MY FIRST ONE IN FARNBOROUGH

I HAVE ALSO LIVED IN TWO OFFICERS’ MESSES

CAT CALDER HOUSING

KATE MCCULLOUGH COVENANT LIAISON

KAREN ROSS HEALTH & ADDITIONAL NEEDS

Good news! About a year ago, AFF helped to get an MOD policy changed to allow retention of SFA for spouses doing an educational course if their soldier was short toured. However, when these families came to move many had to pay for their own removals and didn’t receive Disturbance Expense (DE). AFF brought this to the attention of the policy makers and it has been agreed to class these as “delayed moves”, so you will now be entitled to a paid-for move and DE. This change has been extended to include all official reasons for retention, which will be a huge financial relief to families in this situation.

The MOD’s Armed Forces Covenant Team recently hosted a series of Community Covenant conferences in Bristol, Leicester and Manchester. They brought together representatives from local authorities, the Armed Forces and organisations that have an interest in the Community Covenant. AFF was there to share details of our work and to talk to local authorities about how they can improve their services to support Army families. Our relationship with authorities relies on us providing up-to-date information about your problems accessing public services, so get in touch if you think the Community Covenant could be used to better effect in your area.

The AFF health and additional needs webpages have had a revamp. If you log on to aff.org.uk there are now six options: health, additional needs, mental health, assisted conception and pregnancy, adoption and fostering and domestic abuse. I have included information about what I am working on in these specific areas as well as the most current updates about each subject. I would really appreciate any feedback from you about these pages and welcome any suggestions on what you would like to see included.

Our experts AFF’s Specialists provide families with trusted, expert knowledge. We find out what they’ve been up to over the last few months. Turn to page three to get in touch. 04 Army&You summer 2015

Letting specialists since 1998

Put your property in safe hands. Contact us now for more information on how we can help you with all your landlord needs.

Tel: 01264 333950 Email: enquiries@crownresidentiallettings.co.uk Website: www.crownresidentiallettings.co.uk

@ArmyandYou


OUR EXPERTS

16

6

THE BEST WAS EDINBURGH, EVEN THOUGH THE CEILING CAME DOWN

NOT STRICTLY A QUARTER, BUT THE BEST WAS IN THE USA

8

MY FAVOURITE WAS A BUNGALOW IN WILDENRATH

KATHERINE HOULSTON FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH

LUCY SCOTT EDUCATION & CHILDCARE

CAROLINE MAYNE EMPLOYMENT, TRAINING & MONEY

AFF has seen a big increase in enquiries about delayed citizenship applications, with many of you waiting more than seven months. This can cause problems if your soldier is discharging or you’re posted overseas. AFF has a contact within HMRC’s nationality department who has agreed to accelerate the process. We were able to save one soldier more than £1,000 for an ILR application by requesting that his citizenship be fast-tracked. If you have been waiting for seven months or more, email us at fcassist@aff.org.uk If you’re a soldier making an application, get a certified copy of your passport – don’t send the original.

MOD Childcare Vouchers by Sodexo are a salary sacrifice tax-saving scheme for registered childcare. Vouchers can be used to pay for care for children who have not yet started school or for before- and after-school care and holiday clubs. They can also be used for the non-teaching part of boarding school fees. You will need to check your provider is registered and can save more than £900 a year per serving parent. Changes are planned for the autumn (which AFF is monitoring), but your soldier can sign up now. To find out more, call 0800 085 2875 or visit my childcare webpage at aff.org.uk

Smoothing the pathways to work for spouses returning to the UK from overseas is key for AFF. I receive queries from spouses applying for jobs that require a Good Conduct Certificate (GCC) because they have lived outside the UK in the past five years. For those returning from Germany, I have worked with BFG’s Employment Disclosure Office to raise awareness that you can get a free GCC, but you must apply at least six weeks in advance of returning to the UK. Families returning from other overseas locations have also raised this question and I am working with the Covenant team and other organisations to resolve this. I’ll keep you posted.

Visit Buckingham Palace Oxford Street shopping trip Picnic in Hyde Park Watch a West End show Get a great night’s sleep at the VSC

Family rooms in the centre of London from

£154

Enjoy London without paying London prices b at Victory Services Clu

www.armyandyou.co.uk VSC8812 - Half page advert in Army and You magazine v2 REPRO.indd

1

To book a room y on a contact us tod 0203 819 6278 or res@vsc.co.uk www.vsc.co.uk summer 201512/05/2015 Army&You 10:52:4005


Queen Victoria School

Raising to Distinction Open Morning Sat 19 Sept 2015 Admissions Deadline Fri 15 Jan 2016 Queen Victoria School in Dunblane is a co-educational boarding school for the children of UK Armed Forces personnel who are Scottish, or who have served in Scotland or who have been members of a Scottish regiment. The QVS experience encourages and develops well-rounded, confident individuals in an environment of stability and continuity. The main entry point is into Primary 7 and all places are fully funded for tuition and boarding by the Ministry of Defence. Families are welcome to find out more by contacting Admissions on +44 (0) 131 310 2927 to arrange a visit.

Queen Victoria School Dunblane Perthshire FK15 0JY

www.qvs.org.uk


Contents SUMMER 2015

insight 29 Enduring Education Find out how you can get help to keep on learning 33 To Board or Not to Board? We look at the facts behind state boarding schools 38 Separation Strain Families suffer from Minimum Income Requirement 41 Write Time Why postings shouldn’t stop you putting pen to paper 45 Flights of Fancy AFF helps double School Children’s Visit flights 46 Relative Support How one Reserve battalion became a true family friend

features 18 Cutting the Confusion A&Y’s guide to insurance, pensions and mortgages 20 Money-Saving Expertise How to make the most of your house-buying budget 25 A Mother’s Pride One mum’s joy at her Forces-friendly family 27 Catering for Kids An Army wife’s guide to child-friendly cooking 28 Wedded Bliss How marriages have built a business for a Service spouse 42 On a Roll Inside the rough-and-tumble world of roller derby

regulars 04 Our Experts Find out what AFF’s team have been up to this quarter 10 AFF in Action Celebrating the success of our volunteer programme 13 Grapevine The latest bite-size bits of news from across the Army 52 Giveaways Win a seaside holiday, watches and more 54 Ask the Experts Our panel helps with healthy eating, holidays and more 56 Postbag Got a question about Army life? Get it answered here!

ON THE COVER SUPER WOMAN Army&You catches up with charity founder, proud parent and Forces veteran Louise Fettigan PAGE 48

&Army You SUMMER 2015

WWW.ARMYANDYOU.CO.UK

{for everyone with a soldier in their life}

Win A seaside holiday in Sussex, designer watches and much more!

SUPER

+

WOMAN The remarkable rise of a charity founder, Army veteran and proud parent

AFF’S VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME

STATE BOARDING EXPLORED ROLLER DERBY

LIFELONG LEARNING Discover why your education never has to end

COVENANT IN ACTION COOKING WITH KIDS

L

HOUSING SPECIA

our guide for a mortgage, let home From rebasing to applying to finding your dream help you on the road THE MAGAZINE OF THE ARMY FAMILIES FEDERATION

aff

Time to buy?: Want to get your feet on the housing ladder? Check out the expert advice in A&Y’s housing section starting on page 17.

www.armyandyou.co.uk

summer 2015 Army&You 07


LEADERSHIP

• CHARACTER • PRIDE • SELF-DISCIPLINE • SPIRITUALITY • SPORTSMANSHIP • RESPECT

Full and weekly boarding from September 2015 The Duke of York’s Royal Military School is a state boarding school for students aged 11 to 18. We welcome applications from any student who wants to study GCSEs and A Levels at our unique and iconic school with its strong traditions.

Open Morning: Saturday 10 October 2015 Contact us to book a place or to arrange a personal tour and interview

Why choose us?

‘Good’ in all areas by Active lifestyle including • Graded • sport, music, drama and Ofsted. activities. GCSE success rate is • Our significantly higher than the £24.9 million refurbishment • national average. has delivered a new sports centre, high-quality student is encouraged • Every accommodation and to achieve their potential in

a supportive community.

teaching blocks and a performing arts centre.

ethos helps develop • Military have the flexibility • Students character and life skills. of full and weekly boarding 2015/16 fees are just £11,820* per year.

from September 2015.

If you qualify for CEA, you will only pay £1,182 per year.

Enquiries: 01304 245073 admin.office@doyrms.com

www.doyrms.com *Fees are reviewed annually


A WORD FROM

A WORD FROM...

CATHERINE SPENCER, AFF Chief Executive Follow Catherine on Twitter @AFFChiefExec

Picture: Nicci Shayler

Turn to Postbag on page 56 to see what you’ve been saying about housing

Army housing: the fight continues

A

FF was born more than 30 years ago out of concern over Army housing. Yet, despite it being our constant battle-cry, many of you have faced significant frustration due to the underperformance of the new maintenance and allocations contractor CarillionAmey (CA), which has not yet delivered the quality of service that we were promised. AFF was closely involved in the development of the contract and we highlighted areas that needed improvement. We were told that previous shortcomings

❝❞

DIO admitted that they had over-promised on the delivery of the contract and that the level of service that some families were experiencing was below where it should be

would be resolved and thus have been very disappointed by the first few months, with numerous angry families contacting us for help. Many have found themselves without heating during the coldest part of the year. When our Housing Specialist, Cat Calder, and I met with CA and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) in March, we had a very long list of issues which included poor communication and missed appointments; ongoing problems with decrepit boilers; move-in and moveout charges; over-charging

for rent; frustrations with the complaints process and a plethora of other concerns. CA provided reassurance that solutions were being found. DIO admitted that they had over-promised on the delivery of the contract and that the level of service that some families were experiencing was below where it should be. We felt that the meeting was constructive and believe that DIO and CA will work hard to put things right. We’ll be reviewing progress later this month (June) and hope that the service offered will be up to an acceptable standard. The Adjutant General, who has responsibility for the welfare of Service personnel, is also engaged on this issue, recognising that it puts unacceptable pressure on Army families, as well as overstretching unit welfare teams. MAKE A COMPLAINT CA and DIO also stressed the importance of raising complaints so that, as well as getting your own issue resolved, lessons can be learnt to help other families in the future. Please be aware of timelines so that you know how long the contractor has to complete the work. Repairs classed as urgent should be dealt with promptly, while more routine jobs have longer timeframes – you can find details at carillionamey.co.uk In the meantime, Cat will continue to raise your concerns. If you’re facing issues, contact housing@aff.org.uk n

GET INVOLVED: Make sure you fill in AFF's Big Survey between the 8th-30th June. Visit www.aff.org.uk www.armyandyou.co.uk

summer 2015 Army&You 09


AFF IN ACTION

Social networking: Jo (right) helps to promote AFF to families at a Wilton coffee group

AFF volunteer programme: one year on After being approached by a number of potential helpers, AFF set up an inclusive volunteer programme which has proven to be a roaring success. A&Y spoke to Volunteer Manager Rachel Fallows to find out what it’s like to be involved...

BE AN AFF REPRESENTATIVE Are you currently posted overseas? Whether you are living in Turkey, Holland, the Middle East or USA, we need you to promote what AFF does and how we support Army families. Could you: l Attend events? l Highlight issues and concerns? l Provide AFF with vital feedback? Visit volunteer.aff.org. uk to find out more. 10 Army&You summer 2015

S

INCE its creation last year, AFF’s volunteer scheme has attracted 60 people who have given up their time in roles covering publicity, foreign and commonwealth issues, events and more. Our volunteers allow AFF to reach people face-to-face, working at the grassroots of the community. One volunteer can be the voice of many Army families. Rachel explains: “People have always come forward, wanting to volunteer.

“Many of those who have been helped by AFF are often keen to give something back. We’ve received interest from around the world – from Germany to Canada.” Included in that number are Jo Gordon and Julie Noller, who serve as local publicity volunteers in Wiltshire. Speaking at a coffee morning in Wilton, Julie said: “It takes confidence to be a volunteer – being able to say ‘hi’. “I like to know what’s going on and the only way to do that is to get out there and

get involved!” Julie has had to move six times over the past 18 years and explained that being a volunteer has been a great way to meet new people. “I like to know I’m putting something back into the community,” she continued. “As a military wife who has moved around, it also fills my employment gaps as well as providing me with some adult company. It’s nice to be a link in the chain.” Jo encouraged others to step up and be part of AFF as volunteering provides a raft of personal and community benefits. “As a local volunteer attending coffee mornings, it’s nice to have somewhere to go,” she said. “It can make a real difference to someone.” l For more information, visit the volunteer website at volunteer.aff.org.uk n @ArmyandYou


If you think membership of the Forces Pension Society isn’t relevant to you, read on

We’ll help your family get the most from your Armed Forces pension As the pension watchdog for all the Armed Forces, we exist to help families get the most from their pension through access to our experts. We also lobby government as we have in our Justice For Widows campaign (with the result that from April 2015 all Forces widows retain their pension on remarriage or cohabitation). And we help ensure that Armed Forces pension schemes remain in the vanguard of public sector pensions.

Access to our Experts Most tangibly membership means helping you get the most from your Armed Forces Pension. Society Members (of which there are more than 45,000, mainly married couples) can access the acknowledged experts in our Pension Advisory Service who can advise on crucial questions such as when to leave (and when not to), how to top up your pension, commutation, divorce and much more.

Plus money-saving services In addition, membership of the Society gives you FPS LEGAL & FPS HEALTH FPS TRAVEL FPS MOTORING FPS PERSONAL FINANCIAL access to many discounted through-life services covering Travel, Legal & Financial, Healthcare and Motoring, from our trusted affiliates. FPS HEALTH

FPS TRAVEL

FPS MOTORING FPS LEGAL & FINANCIAL

FPS PERSONAL

And a free £100 City Break offer There’s never been a better time to join us. Simply visit our website at www.forcespensionsociety.org quoting Promo Code ARM2015 and we’ll send you a £100 City Break discount voucher (T’s & C’s apply). Membership for you and your partner costs just £35 per annum.

JOIN US AND PROTECT YOUR FAMILY’S INTERESTS Forces Pension Society 68 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1RL Tel: 020 7820 9988 - email: memsec@forpen.co.uk - www.forcespensionsociety.org

A member of

Cobseo The Confederation of Service Charities


RAB MEN’S INTERVAL TEE £25

MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT WOMEN’S EQUINOX VEST £35

KICK BACK, RELAX AND ENJOY WHAT THE OUTDOORS HAS TO OFFER Camping holidays, picnics, cycling trips or simply relaxing on a sunny beach – the outdoors is yours to explore with your family this summer. While we can’t guarantee the British weather, we can provide great kit, and with the UK’s widest range of outdoor clothing, equipment and accessories, we have everything you need – wherever your adventures will take you. JACK WOLFSKIN BOY’S ACTIVATE SOFTSHELL SHORTS £28

New season means new kit, and at Cotswold Outdoor we have a superb summer range. From children’s shorts and sandals to help keep your little ones comfortable, to stylish and lightweight t-shirts to keep you cool; our vast range will meet all of your family’s needs.

*Terms and conditions apply. Only valid on production of military identification in store or use of discount code online. Offer expires 31.12.15.

LITTLELIFE KIDS PLAY PACK £30 JACK WOLFSKIN GIRL’S SANDPIPER SANDAL £36

STORES NATIONWIDE COTSWOLDOUTDOOR.COM LFC Official Outdoor Equipment Partner


grapevine REALLY USEFUL BITS ABOUT ARMY LIFE. GET INVOLVED – EMAIL EDITOR@AFF.ORG.UK

HEALTH

VETERANS Help at hand: Professional psychological wellbeing staff are available to help Service families manage difficult emotions

DOCTOR, DOCTOR IF YOU’RE moving over the summer don’t forget to register with a GP in your new location. Your local HIVE has information or visit NHS Choices, NI Direct (Northern Ireland), NHS Scotland, NHS 24 or NHS Direct Wales, or ask local people for recommendations. Children at boarding school will be registered with a nearby GP during term-time. If your child requires medical treatment in the holidays, they can be registered as a temporary resident at your local GP practice. If you live overseas and need medical treatment whilst visiting the UK, you should be able to register as a temporary resident. Ask for copies of medical notes if you’re undergoing or referred for treatment.

HEALING HIDDEN WOUNDS HELP for Heroes (H4H) Hidden Wounds is a new psychological wellbeing service helping veterans and families to understand and positively manage anxiety, depression and stress. Confidential support can be accessed nationally over the phone, Skype or faceto-face, delivered by H4H psychological wellbeing practitioners with a knowledge of the unique circumstances of Armed Forces life. One Army wife whose husband has used the service, which is open to veterans, their families and to relatives of those currently serving, said: “Today I got

to the point of packing my bags. My other half has been so narky – the smallest things get to him. “Then a letter came from Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds. We filled in the form; he was shocked at what I feel he isn’t owning up to. For the first time he has listened and is willing to get help.” l You can contact the H4H Hidden Wounds team 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, by calling 01980 844300, emailing hidden.wounds@helpforheroes.org.uk or visiting the website at helpforheroes.org. uk/hidden-wounds

TOP TWEETS Incredible, courageous men & women in the 2nd Medical Brigade – training to go & fight #Ebola alongside Americans. Thank you @BritishArmy. @MatthewBarzun www.armyandyou.co.uk

For advice or if you have had problems registering with a GP, contact additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

What you’ve been saying about Army life on Twitter. Follow us @ArmyandYou and @The_AFF...

We all have a duty to our Service men and women, who on a daily basis put their lives on the line for our country.

Families are strong. Army families are Army strong.

Very impressed with the work done by @ReadingForce. How important this sort of thing is to Army families. Reading at the heart of the family.

@PoloForHeroes

@jadonnjenkins

@dawnafinch summer 2015 Army&You 13


GRAPEVINE

CHILDREN

Snap shot Our selection of the best images we have come across during the production of Army&You...

1. Riveting read Grace enjoys Juliet Bloxland’s book based on the Household Cavalry (@BritishArmy)

MUM, I’M BORED! Follow our top tips to ensure a happy summer holidays for your kids PREPARE A PLAN Save money on attractions by buying annual memberships and hunt for lastminute bargains. If you manage to find a good deal, then it’s all smiles!

Picture: Cpl James McAllister, Crown Copyright

2. Pint-sized personnel HuggableHeroes – perfect for little ones to cuddle (@LottieLoveHenry)

WADE INTO THE WEB Top places to go for free can be found all over the internet – netmums is UK-wide and ranks venues as gold, silver or

3. Snap happy What happens when Army photographers pose for a group shot (@Si_Army_Phot)

bronze. Search the activities tab at netmums.com KNOW YOUR NETWORK Facebook groups have great examples of holiday activities and places to go near your patch. Search to find recommendations or post a request for local days out.

brilliant ideas and activities for entertaining children, especially if you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day. There are some great parenting hacks too. For example, padlock your scissors to stop unplanned haircuts! Accounts are free to set up – think of it as a virtual noticeboard.

HAVE FUN AT HOME Pinterest has some

TAILOR FOR TEENS If you have older

DELIVERING THE NECESSITIES INJURED troops often return to the UK without their personal effects or clothing – that’s where Troop Aid comes in. The charity provides basic, emergency essentials when casualties arrive at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which can be a huge comfort when they are far from home. Grab bags contain items such as washing kit, towels, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks and underwear, and they can also supply hoodies, tracksuits and trainers if required. Visit WWW.TROOPAID.INFO for more details

14 Army&You summer 2015

children, the National Citizen Service runs two- or three-week full-time programmes for 15-17 year olds in the holidays, in addition to 30 hours of social action. This scheme operates in England and Northern Ireland. Government backing means the most you will ever pay for NCS is £50 for the whole experience – go to ncsyes.co.uk n

Fire up the coals for our heroes Thinking of holding a BBQ this summer? Of course you are! Help for Heroes is asking the nation to turn their BBQs into an opportunity to fundraise. The BBQ for Heroes fortnight is 15-31 August, but if this doesn’t work for you, feel free to hold your event on a date that does. To take part, you could have friends or neighbours round for a BBQ and ask for donations, organise a social evening with colleagues, arrange a day or evening event at your local pub or social club or hold a community event with fun games and activities. Register your BBQ for Heroes event to receive your free fundraising pack at bbqforheroes.org.uk or call 01980 846459. @ArmyandYou


HOME COVER CAR INSURANCE

3 reasons to leap at our cover We know military life can have an impact on the cover you need. That’s why our products have been designed for those who are serving and their families.

So call now and land yourself a better deal: 1. Motor insurance cover on base / Laid-up cover if away 2. Kit cover as standard with Home / Contents 3. Dedicated UK contact and claims centre

Expect more as standard

Call: 0800 088 2283 Visit: TheMilitaryMutual.com The Military Mutual Limited is a company registered in England and Wales (company registration number 07147130) with its registered office address at 7 Maltings Place, 169 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 3JB. The Military Mutual Limited is an appointed representative of Regis Mutual Management Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority; FRN: 479202. The information contained above is descriptive only. The precise coverage afforded is subject to terms and conditions of the wordings when issued. Before deciding to acquire any product you should obtain and consider the relevant wording. The wordings are available at www.themilitarymutual.com


MONMOUTH SCHOOL AND HABERDASHERS’ MONMOUTH SCHOOL FOR GIRLS Day and Boarding Boys 3 – 18

Girls 3 - 18

A life-changing education is closer than you think. PAY ONLY 10% OF THE FEES, AROUND £850 PER TERM* *This applies to Service Families who are eligible for the Continuity of Education Allowance, entering the School 2015/16. Additional means-tested support, subject to availability, may be offered to families who lose the CEA.

www.habs-monmouth.org/forces 16 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


your home FEATURING INSURANCE ADVICE, A MONEY-SAVING EXPERT AND A HOUSING MAINTENANCE CONTRACT UPDATE

Rent charges: the new grading system

As many of you may be aware the next big shake up in housing is to the grading system. Many of you have already expressed your concerns on our Facebook page and are naturally worried about your family budgets. AFF Housing Specialist Cat Calder tells you what to expect...

AT THE moment, charges for many Service Families Accommodation (SFA) are known to be incorrect or inconsistent. In the current system, 40 per cent of families are paying the correct amount, 55 per cent of you are being undercharged and five per cent are paying too much. The new Combined Accommodation Assessment System (CAAS) plans to iron out the inconsistencies. The condition of the property will be most important in setting the charge, but it will also include more modern measures like good internet speed, location and energy efficiency. Any extra charges will be reinvested into SFA, raising building standards. HOW WILL IT WORK? CAAS will have nine bands, with each band being a ten per cent difference from the next one. If, in April 2016 when the new system is introduced, your SFA goes up more than one band, the rent will rise no more than one band per year – for a C type that would be about £30 a month. Your SFA will continue to be subsidised and charges will not be linked to civilian rents. The subsidy will be applied to all SFA and is set

by an independent body. WHAT TO EXPECT In effect, the top grade won’t change and the lowest grade will be even lower than it is now, but most families are likely to see their SFA grading somewhere in the middle. The plan is to introduce broadly the same system for SSFA (hirings) and for SFA overseas in April 2016. In the run up to April 2016, this is what you can expect: l Ongoing: You will receive notification if your property has been selected for a survey; this is being verified by an independent third party. l July 2015: A letter will inform you of your provisional Individual Property Plan, and the estimated charge for your quarter, which will enable you to start budgeting. l Sep/Oct 2015 to Feb 2016: You will get your final grading. At this point you will be able to challenge the decision. l 1 April 2016: New charges come into effect. Your views are important, so please continue to feedback to us – we will pass your comments, questions or concerns about the new system on to DIO. Contact me at housing@aff.org.uk n

NEW CONTRACT NIGHTMARES WE are aware that there have been issues associated with the new housing maintenance contract with CarillionAmey (CA) – check out our Postbag starting on page 56 to read your stories. The main concerns families have been reporting are boiler repairs, no-shows on appointments and a lack of promised call backs from both the helpdesk and customer care team (complaints). www.armyandyou.co.uk

AFF has had robust conversations with CA and we have fed back all your concerns. Senior Army personnel and the office of the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans are also aware. We are hopeful families will start to see an improvement in services, but if you are still having issues then log an official complaint with CA and contact AFF at housing@aff.org.uk

HOW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT STAGE 1 Contact CA on 0800 7076000 (option 5) or at customercare@carillionamey.co.uk – make sure you get a reference number. A customer care manager should contact you within an hour. STAGE 2 If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome, write to Defence Infrastructure Organisation. They will acknowledge receipt within three days of receiving your letter. Go to gov.uk for contact details. STAGE 3 Write to the Independent Housing Review Panel.

summer 2015 Army&You 17


YOUR HOME

CUTTING

THROUGH THE CONFUSION

As of March

2015

18 Army&You summer 2015

40

Stephen McCrossan, SIIAP chairman

years and haven’t had to move around.” In a marketplace packed with mortgage providers, even knowing who to approach can pose a headache for would-be buyers. Some companies refuse families on the basis of their BFPO address, while others can be less-than-forgiving about gaps in credit histories even if they are directly related to a soldier’s service. Tracking down insurance providers can be every bit as problematic, but Stephen said that SIIAP firms are able to understand military families’ circumstances. “They will be better placed to find a solution that meets your needs,” he explained. SIIAP’s website – www.siiap.org – lists member organisations under their specialism, be that financial advice, contents insurance or even investments. But as valuable as the directory is, SIIAP and its members work equally hard behind the scenes. By liaising with the MOD, as well as fielding queries from the likes of the Treasury and MPs, Stephen

MILLIONS OF POUNDS HANDED OUT THROUGH THE FORCES HELP TO BUY SCHEME

and his colleagues are able to keep the organisation up-to-date about any potential issues. “We all realise that in the market we are in there needs to be a bit of structure, because if there are any changes we will be aware of them and can push them to the MOD to be fed through the proper channels,” he said. “That lobbying aspect to our work is important. “Sometimes companies can make changes to policies without realising the effect it might have on military families, so we make an approach and ask them if they realise the implications of what they are doing and challenge them to change. It can be done.” The MOD’s Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) invites SIIAP members to regular briefing sessions with military families to provide independent advice and you can go along with or without your soldier. Visit www.aff.org.uk for a list of dates and venues or call the JSHAO advice line on 01252 787574. The high-profile nature of recent operations and the subsequent lift in the Armed Forces’ public perception – along with the lobbying work of organisations such as the AFF – has heralded an improvement in the treatment of those who serve and their families. The Corporate and Community Covenant schemes continue to cement this trend, but SIIAP’s members try to ensure that being attached to the military does not leave people disadvantaged. n

APPLICANTS ENABLED TO BUY THEIR FIRST HOME THROUGH THE SCHEME

THE AMOUNT, IN MILLIONS, TO BE SPENT ON HOUSING 4,300 REBASING FAMILIES

800

FORCES HELP TO BUY KEY FACTS

SOMETIMES COMPANIES CAN MAKE CHANGES TO POLICIES WITHOUT REALISING THE EFFECT IT MIGHT HAVE ON MILITARY FAMILIES

2,700

F

ROM signing on the dotted line of a first mortgage to picking a pension, making life’s big financial decisions can raise even the calmest person’s blood pressure. But for those in and around the Army, the unique challenges posed by military life can further muddy the waters of an already-difficult process. Moving between postings can leave Forces families with poor credit records and an even poorer chance of gaining a mortgage with some providers. Equally, accompanying your soldier overseas can damage your no-claims bonus if your car insurer isn’t military minded. Luckily for the relatives of Britain’s soldiers, finding finance-related firms who are actively Forces-friendly is as easy as turning on your computer. SIIAP, the Services Insurance and Investment Advisory Panel, is a directory of independent experts and product providers who have demonstrated their in-depth knowledge of the nuances of advising those in the military. “It is a group who got together because they recognised that those in the military might need a bit of TLC when dealing with financial issues,” the group’s chairman, Stephen McCrossan, told Army&You. “Their needs are quite different to most civilians who live at one address for

“"

Does the prospect of picking out a mortgage, pension or insurance policy leave you with a sore head? Army&You speaks to the chairman of a Forces-friendly organisation to find out how you can make the process as pain-free as possible...

@ArmyandYou


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Confe


TOP TIPS: For more handy hints on about getting your family onto the housing ladder, visit moneysavingexpert.com/ mortgages/mortgage-guide

MONEY-SAVING

EXPERTISE

How can families get the best deals and avoid common pitfalls?

No matter how good a deal you strike over the cost of a new house, there is no getting away from the fact that moving is an expensive business. But how can you make the most of your budget? We quizzed MoneySavingExpert’s money and insurance editor Johanna Gornitzki...

If an Army family is considering buying a house, what additional costs do they need to budget for? There are a raft of fees, charges and taxes you’ll have to pay before – and after – you can get your hands on the keys to your new home. After paying your deposit, the biggest expense is likely to be your stamp duty bill – the tax you pay to the Government when you buy a property. There’s no charge on properties of £125,000 or less, but above that you are charged a percentage of the cost and the rate payable leaps up at a set of thresholds. You’ll only pay the rate for the

What are the most important things to consider financially when looking at buying a house? 20 Army&You summer 2015

proportion of the property that’s at that rate. For example, if you’re buying a property worth £300,000, you pay nothing below £125,000; two per cent on £125,000£250,000; and five per cent on the value of the property above £250,000. So in total this means you’ll pay £5,000. Once you’ve put money

EXTRA OUTLAY: Don’t forget to factor the cost of new white goods into your moving budget

aside for your deposit and stamp duty bill, estimate another couple of thousand pounds for other costs. This will pay for things such as the fee you may have to pay when you take out a mortgage, the fee your lender will charge to check how much the property you’re buying’s worth and solicitor fees, which can cost up to £1,500. This should also cover optional – but often essential – costs such as a survey to check for things like damp, structural problems or plumbing issues. If you don’t get a survey and something later turns out to be wrong, you’ll have limited options. Lastly, don’t forget to factor in removals (if not covered by the MOD) and the cost of new furniture or white goods.

Getting the right deal for you could save you hundreds of pounds a month. The best way to make sure that happens is to speak to a mortgage broker, who will scour the market to find you a good deal. By using one, you swiftly cover a huge slew of lenders, and get added clout with them to ease your acceptance as well as an extra layer of protection if things go wrong. One of the things to watch out for when taking out a mortgage is high mortgage fees. Cunning lenders often use high fees to make their interest rates look more attractive, so they rise up the best buy tables. Some charge fees in excess of £2,000 – this could work out much more expensive than a higher rate with a lower fee so always do your sums.

Getting a mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you’re ever likely to make. Before you begin the search for your dream home ask yourself whether you can really afford the repayments. The best way to answer that question is to work out your budget. Go to www.budgetbrain. com to look at what you can realistically afford each month. Then roughly see how much your mortgage is going to cost you, and consider if you can afford it if rates went up. The mortgage needs to be in your financial “comfort zone” – if not, it could end in disaster. @ArmyandYou


YOUR HOME Can Army families get any help in moving onto the housing ladder? HELP TO BUY The Government Help to Buy scheme was introduced to support those who had sufficient incomes to repay a mortgage but were struggling to get a deposit together. It provides an insurance policy for mortgage lenders, so if you put up five per cent on a home worth less than £600,000, the Government will insure the next 15 per cent for the lender in case of problems. As lenders are taking the same risk as if you had a 20 per cent deposit, they can offer more mortgages for people with a deposit of just five per cent. That’s the big impact – it’s not so much that they’re far

cheaper, just that they’re more readily available. There’s also another type of Help to Buy scheme, but it’s only for those buying a new build and the scheme works slightly differently depending on where you are in the country. In England, it’s only for those buying a new build worth under £600,000 – it’s £300,000 in Wales. Here, provided you’ve a deposit of 5 per cent and you pass the criteria, the Government will give you an interest-free (for the first five years) loan of 20 per cent of the purchase price and you raise a mortgage of 75 per cent for the rest. FORCES HELP TO BUY This scheme offers an interestfree loan from the Government to contribute towards the deposit and other costs. It differs from the other Help to Buy schemes in that it’s a

simple, interest-free loan that you repay over 10 years. The scheme allows you to borrow up to 50 per cent of your salary up to a maximum loan of £25,000. To apply, your soldier needs to have completed a minimum of two years service, have more than six months left to serve when applying and meet the right medical categories. SHARED OWNERSHIP You may also be eligible for one of the many shared ownership schemes available across the country. As the name suggests, you’re not buying the whole property outright – just a cut of it. Usually run by housing associations, borrowers buy a share of a property worth between 25-75 per cent and pay rent on the rest. Later on, if you can afford it, you’ve a right to increase your share of the property. n

How can families get the best deals and avoid common pitfalls? How much you will have to pay for things like removal fees depends on your personal circumstances. Unless you can pile your belongings into the back of a car, factor in the cost of a removal van. These start at £100 for small local moves, but can easily cost £1,000 or more for shifting a family’s worldly goods long distances.

MORE INFORMATION l JSHAO: gov.uk or 01252 787574 l www.helptobuy.org.uk l www.moneyforce.org.uk

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What we do is different. Specialising in Armed Forces car finance, we offer both lowest rate and lowest price guarantees on all our vehicles and finance - more details of which are available at www.mkcarfinance.co.uk. Whether you have good credit or have had credit issues in the past, with 5 branches, and over 3000 cars available at any time, we have something for everyone. We even give you 7 days to return the vehicle if you just don’t get on with it. For an informal chat with one of our specially trained Armed Forces car finance Account Managers, please call 03335 775533, calls charged at standard landline rate. Alternatively, you can go to www.mkcarfinance.co.uk and fill in the straightforward application form 24 hours a day and we will get back to you during office hours.

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The representative APR means 51% or more of our customers who apply through the website and take up an offer of finance pay a rate of 19.9% APR or less. If you are accepted and your credit history is good you could potentially be offered an APR lower than this rate, if your credit history is poor you could potentially be offered an APR higher than this rate. Finance applications are always subject to status and affordability checks, written quotations are available upon request. *Not all applications for finance will receive an offer. For details please contact us by phone or visit www.mkcarfinance.co.uk

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summer 2015 Army&You 21


Join the Army family With copies sent directly to Service households up and down the country, Army&You is the perfect way to promote your brand to the military community.

Find out more www.ayads.co.uk info@tylerbale.co.uk 01252 714870

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YOUR HOME

THE LETTER OF THE LAW Army&You quizzed Andrew Garvie, of JMW Solicitors, about conveyancing – the legal side to buying a house... WHAT ROLE DOES A SOLICITOR HAVE IN THE CONVEYANCING PROCESS? Your solicitor will be looking after your interests in the house buying process and also those of your mortgage lender if you are borrowing money. The main things your solicitor will concentrate on are the contract and the title deeds, as well as the searches on the property such as who maintains the roads, information on the drainage and a search to check on any potential land contamination or flood issues. The solicitor will also be there to drawdown the mortgage and to register the deeds into your name. WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A SOLICITOR? Your solicitor should be someone you can relate to and help you along the way with easy-to-understand steps. Other than getting value for money, you will want to choose a solicitor that has experience and understanding as there can be so many scenarios that get thrown up for you along the way. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON ISSUES YOU COME ACROSS? The main issues are the uncertainties when you are in a chain as you aren’t in control of some aspects of the move. If you are buying or selling and there is no-one else involved other than the party on the other side, this can simplify matters. There are, however, plenty of transactions with long chains www.armyandyou.co.uk

that go through without any hitch. Learn to be flexible on dates and you will be fine! HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE? A typical purchase or sale may take six-to-eight weeks if there are no undue issues thrown up and you get your survey and mortgage without difficulties. SHOULD I EXPECT A HEFTY BILL FOR CONVEYANCING? The average conveyancing charges are between £500 and £1,500. Rather than being based on a percentage of the property costs, the legal fees will be several hundred pounds but there will be searches and land registry fees to pay. If you are buying a property over £125,000 in value, stamp duty will be payable calculated in bands. Your solicitor can quote for that too so you know in advance what you will be paying and can budget for this. DOES HAVING A PARTNER IN THE ARMY OR BEING A SOLDIER MYSELF PRESENT ANY PROBLEMS? If you have time off this is ideal, but when the homebuying process takes a number of weeks you can expect to liaise by post or email. It would be good practice to provide your solicitor with an authority that they can deal with either of you if the other is away. There will be documents you need to sign such as the mortgage deed. If you are buying jointly, your solicitor will tell you about the different ways you can hold a property

Housing helper: Andrew Garvie, of JMW Solicitors, has some handy hints for anyone thinking of buying a house

in terms of the shares you own and what happens if one of you dies. The options include the property passing from one to the other automatically and you each having a half share (known as holding as joint tenants) or you can opt to have your share go in accordance with your estate on death. WHAT IF I’M OVERSEAS? CAN I INSTRUCT MY SOLICITOR FROM ABROAD? Your solicitor will need to confirm your identity and this can be done by providing a passport/driving licence or Armed Forces identity card. If you are abroad then a copy may suffice, but your

solicitor may be able to do an electronic ID check which will help make things easier. CAN I GET AWAY WITHOUT USING A SOLICITOR? In my experience, transactions involving a non-qualified person do not go well. For the sake of a few hundred pounds, having the peace of mind and knowhow of a solicitor is worthwhile. If you are buying a property with a mortgage you will need a lawyer to represent the lender. On a sale, you will also need a solicitor to handle the discharge of the mortgage as any buyer would want the security of knowing that the mortgage has been paid off. n

Want to know more? Contact Andrew, Head of Private Client and Partner in Conveyancing at JMW, at andrew.garvie@jmw.co.uk or call 0161 828 1964. summer 2015 Army&You 23


your family FEATURING QUILTS, STORYBOOK SOLDIERS AND ONE MOTHER’S PRIDE

Quilts of compassion Jean Morris tells A&Y how she combines covers and care with Quilts of Valour UK

Right, valuing valour: Jean Morris with one of the creations she has provided through Quilts of Valour UK

24 Army&You summer 2015

IN AMERICA, the Quilts of Valor Foundation provides quilts to serving soldiers and veterans who have been hurt in recent wars. “Why don’t you start something in the UK?” was the challenge made to me by Catherine Roberts, who set up the charity in the USA in 2003 when her son was serving in Afghanistan. I met Catherine at the Houston Quilt Festival where she was promoting her work to the American quilting community. I had retired and Catherine’s suggestion appealed to me. But I did not want to get entangled with a formal charity with the associated accounting and other technicalities. My idea was simple; just make a quilt and give it to an injured soldier. If anyone else wanted to do the same, I could facilitate it. No fundraising, just a straightforward gift from one person to another. Everything would be self-funded and we would use the British spelling for valour. “Why on earth would a soldier want a quilt?” said my husband. “They are not going to want to be wrapped up like a cocoon.” He soon realised that it was not about the item itself but the fact that it was a gift to show that someone cares. Quilts of Valour UK was established and the first quilts were delivered to 1 Rifles in Chepstow in January 2009. Leaflets were then printed and distributed through various shops and at shows as I sought help from other quilters in the UK. As a result, many quilts were donated and on each I sewed a label personalised for the recipient with both the quilter’s name and that of the soldier to

whom it was to be given. More than 1,000 quilts have since been handed to soldiers injured in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. A few have also been given to family members who have lost loved ones in war. This work could not have been done without the active support of the welfare offices of all regiments and units. All nominations for a quilt have come via the unit welfare officers and usually all the quilts are delivered by them. I am constantly impressed by the work being done by unit welfare teams for families of those deployed and with those soldiers who have been repatriated due to injury. I recognise that it is their involvement and dedication that underpins the front-line activities and this must be a great benefit. l Email Jean at jeanmorris15@btinternet.com n

@ArmyandYou


A mother’s pride

YOUR FAMILY

M

Y DAUGHTER didn’t simply follow her father’s career as he left the Army when she was barely three. It was a school careers visit that did it. She came home at 13 and said she wanted to join the Army. I guess because of our background we didn’t see it as an issue and didn’t try to discourage her. I, just like every other Army mum, could not be prouder of my daughter. When she was undertaking her trade training, there was a parents’ day where we were shown what she was doing and the value of it. I couldn’t believe the cost and the responsibility; seeing her in action showed me what she can achieve. I cruelly used to laugh at how the Army had spotted this potential in her when I wouldn’t trust her in charge of an ironing board! Then at her dining-in she sat next to the master gunner, the most senior officer in the Royal Artillery, and I was so impressed at how she kept him engaged in conversation throughout. I was so proud. I spend a lot of time with senior executives and it can be very intimidating, but she had self belief and wasn’t affected. At that moment I knew she would be a great officer. When she found out she was going to Afghanistan, I was pleased because she wanted to go to do her bit, but as her mum I knew I would worry. Her father served in the first Gulf War, my www.armyandyou.co.uk

“"

Debra Lilley tells Army&You how her daughter – a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery – followed her grandfather, father and husband into the Army and how things are different this time round… I PROBABLY HEARD MORE FROM HER WHEN SHE WAS IN AFGHANISTAN THAN NORMAL

father’s unit were part of The Falklands campaign and I also remember the many tours he did in Northern Ireland. I grew up keeping in touch with just a bluey, no internet or phones for us. You wrote a letter, waited for them to receive it and then the same amount of time to get a reply. In reality, you waited weeks and then several came at once. News used to take time to reach families. We heard The Falklands had been liberated before we heard the details of the battle; the Gulf War news was better but sporadic. Wind on 20 years and news is immediate, often live. In many ways that is better and in other ways worse. I am a more confident person myself and able to better deal with

separation than when her father was deployed. Her tour was the last Op Herrick and as she was based in Camp Bastion, she could use the internet when off duty. Phones were not allowed but she could leave messages or even chat. Times were never scheduled but I heard from her every few days. She is a great daughter and knew I would worry so she made a special effort. In fact I probably heard more from her when she was in Afghanistan than normal. So the world has moved on and the Army has made great strides at considering families much more, taking steps so that we can support serving members rather than adding to the soldier’s stress. I didn’t have to worry (too much) and could concentrate on being that proud mum. n

BEDTIME BONUS STORYBOOK Soldiers is a free, confidential recording service allowing Service personnel to record a bedtime story that can be played for their children if the Army requires them to be away. Your soldier will have their story and a personal message recorded by trained staff and can choose from more than 50 popular books, with Guess How Much I Love You and The Gruffalo being firm favourites. Aliens Love Underpants always raises a smile and Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs is also a popular choice. Jen Russell, from the Tidworth-based team, explained: “Recordings are sent to our office and edited by volunteer editors who add music and sound effects. “Your children will be sent their completed CD of the story and they can then hear their parent’s voice whenever they want to. It normally takes about four weeks from receipt in Tidworth.” Run by Army wives and funded by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Annington Trust and the Army Central Fund, Storybook Soldiers is hugely popular with families. Jen added: “We get lots of positive feedback – it’s what keeps our editors going.” One family told the team: “What a beautiful gift! My son lit up when he heard his daddy’s voice and I cried buckets. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving my son the chance to continue our nightly story time with daddy.” l Send an email to storybooksoldiers@ hotmail.co.uk or call 01980 650515 to find the nearest recording centre or visit www. storybooksoldiers.co.uk for more information.

summer 2015 Army&You 25


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26 Army&You summer 2015

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SPOTLIGHT

Child’s play: Annabel Woolmer’s Tickle Fingers Cookbook is aimed at children aged between one- and four-years-old

FRUITY MESS (SERVES 4) INGREDIENTS 150g strawberries 100ml double cream 100g Greek yoghurt 4 meringues 1 banana

Catering for kids

ADULT PREP 1. Quarter strawberries. Set aside 12 quarters. Put remaining into freezer bag

Fed up with following recipes filled with child-unfriendly steps, Army wife Annabel Woolmer created her own solution by self-publishing a cookbook specifically for young chefs...

2. Chop banana into small pieces with table knife. Add to bowl

STARTED to cook regularly with my eldest daughter when she was 18 months old. We’d just been posted to Cyprus and her sister was six weeks old. It was averaging 36 degrees and I wanted to keep her entertained out of the sun while also getting food on the table. I bought several “toddler” cookbooks, but was disappointed. They all had steps she couldn’t do like cooking at a hob, using sharp knives or intricate decoration. I was forced to do these bits for her, she became distracted and discouraged and I got stressed. So I created my own recipes, making sure she could do every step and including appealing tasks like bashing, painting, squishing and changing colour and texture. She loved it. I tried a few with toddlers from the playgroup and began to think how to share my experiences.

3. Whip cream into soft peaks

I

PUTTING PEN TO PAPER We were then given a short posting to America. Finding a job and childcare abroad for less than a year didn’t make sense, so I decided to write the Tickle Fingers Cookbook. As a non-celebrity with no track record, traditional publishing wasn’t an option, so I self-published. The hardest part was doing

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the design and formatting. Luckily soldiering isn’t my husband’s only talent and he helped. The publishing itself was remarkably straightforward. NEXT ON THE MENU I am passionate about how cooking can help young children – motor skills, concentration, confidence, positive attitude to food – and how, with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be stressful for the adult. I continue to promote age-appropriate resources and have set up a Facebook page, Cook with Toddlers and blog at cookwithtoddlers.com/community The Independent recently chose the Tickle Fingers Cookbook to be in their IndyBest 10 Best Children’s Cookbooks. This has spurred me on to work on new ideas and maybe one day I’ll find the time to write Tickle Fingers 2. So far it has been a challenging and fulfilling experience, which I can fit around looking after the children. n

The Tickle Fingers Cookbook is available to order from bookshops or online via Amazon.

4. Lay out ingredients, 4 plastic glasses, large mixing bowl, 2 tablespoons, table knife & chopping board TOGETHER 1. Spoon whipped cream & yoghurt into bowl 2. Hold end of plastic bag shut while child squishes strawberries with hands until mushy 3. Add mushed strawberries to bowl and lightly mix. Watch it turn pink 4. Break meringues into small pieces, add to bowl. Mix again 5. Spoon mixture into glasses. Decorate with remaining strawberries

summer 2015 Army&You 27


SPOTLIGHT Perfect day: Sophie Sherief is able to call on first-hand experience of putting on a white wedding following her special day with soldier husband Adam

DID YOU KNOW? If you work from home you can get tax relief to cover household expenses including the cost of heating and lighting your work area and business telephone calls. Visit gov.uk for more.

Wedded bliss I

Army spouse Sophie Sherief shares her joy at creating her own successful wedding business… GOT engaged to my soldier in 2010 when I was just 20 years old. I had always dreamt of my wedding day and I knew I wanted it to be spectacular. I knew the flowers I wanted, the decorations and, of course, the dress. Living in Hereford meant there wasn’t much choice, so I trawled the internet for ideas and the closest event décor company was around 70 miles away. After only 10 minutes visiting the company with my mother

– and now business partner – Jacqui, I knew this wasn’t for me. We walked out with a brochure and price list, feeling very deflated and said to each other: “We can do that – and we can do it so much better.”

BIRTH OF A BUSINESS We spent the journey home discussing what we would call our imaginary business and two weeks later our company, Divas, was born. We worked from home initially, opened our first shop in September 2013 and by 2014 we had moved into a large business unit in Hereford with much more space. PROBLEM POSTING I married Adam in 2013 and had the perfect wedding I had always dreamt of! Our first posting was to Woodbridge, Ipswich – around five hours from Hereford – and without going abroad we couldn’t have got much further away from my work! The first few months were really tough. I travelled back and forth from Ipswich to

28 Army&You summer 2015

Hereford every weekend and this was also the year we saw a 300 per cent rise in bookings, so it was all go. Our daughter Darcey came along at that time and she came to her first chair cover fitting when she was just 16 days old! OVERCOMING OBSTACLES The main challenge has been juggling all aspects of our Army life – including another move, this time to Stafford. We have worked to find a way to manage – I do all of the advertising, admin and behindthe-scenes things from home whilst my mum manages from Hereford. I try hard to ensure that my life as a businesswoman

doesn’t overpower my life as a wife and mother, which is very important. REWARDING RESULTS The hard work has definitely been worth it. We have won or been finalists in several awards. This means so much as we were nominated and voted for by local people and our customers. You can find out more about me at www. events4divas.co.uk Looking to the future, I want to continue to expand the business – and our family – but at the moment I’m perfectly happy as we are. Even on the days when it’s all a bit much, I continue doing my best to be Sophie the mother, Army wife and diva. n

SETTING UP YOUR OWN BUSINESS? CHECK OUT THESE USEFUL SITES...

www.gov.uk/ set-upbusiness-uk

www.xforces.com

www.wlv.ac.uk/ supporting theunsunghero @ArmyandYou


&

employment training FEATURING DISTANCE AND LOCAL LEARNING, OVERSEAS EDUCATION AND TEACHER TRAINING

Reach new heights with distance learning

www.armyandyou.co.uk

IF you are thinking of university education, there are solutions available through distance learning. Unlike old-style correspondence courses, distance learning courses are delivered and taught via online portals, bringing choice, affordability and flexibility to adult education. Studying online means you can access learning resources and teaching expertise, regardless of where you may be located in the world. Anglia Ruskin University’s Military Families Programme, for example, will give you an internationally- recognised qualification, along with transferable skills at affordable fees. Choose from a range of degrees, postgraduate

Digital delivery: Online distance learning courses allow anyone with access to a computer to study a range of higher education subjects

qualifications and accredited short courses in management and leadership, early years, social enterprise and charities, housing and communities, project management and healthcare management. Visit www.anglia.ac.uk/ militaryfamilies or call 01245 686707. WIN A KINDLE Anglia Ruskin is inviting Army&You readers to share their motivations for pursuing higher education. To enter, email 150 words on your experience, plus your contact details, to degreesatwork@anglia.ac.uk by 1 July 2015. We’ll publish the winner’s story on the A&Y website. Full terms at www.anglia.ac.uk/militaryterms n summer 2015 Army&You 29


Spotlight on learning Whether you want to retrain to boost employment opportunities or for personal interest, access to learning is getting easier for Army families. With a range of funding options available and the ability to study flexibly and remotely around the demands of military life, signing up to a course could be exactly what your CV needs. Caroline Mayne, AFF Employment & Training Specialist, explains more…

FORWARD PLANNING Frequent moves, overseas postings and childcare issues can be barriers to spouses and partners wanting to continue their learning journey. You’ll also need to consider what will happen if your soldier is posted early or is deployed, so find out whether the course is open-ended or flexible; can you transfer it? Are there exams and will there be tutor or peer support? Your training provider/college can help answer these questions. The important thing is to research before your enrol.

ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION DIPLOMAS There are colleges nationwide who run Access to Higher Education (HE) Diplomas, with 1,100 courses available in a wide range of subjects, from business to engineering to childcare. Many of these courses can be done via distance learning. Go to www.accesstohe.ac.uk and www.apted.org.uk to find out more.

SKILLS FOR LIFE

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Training providers such as The Open University and those in areas with an established Armed Forces presence, such as Stafford College and Anglia Ruskin University, have reassured us that they are committed to supporting Forces families 30 Army&You summer 2015

The Army provides courses for our serving partners but there are also opportunities for spouses to improve their reading, writing, maths or ICT skills. These can lead to a better job or to further study such as National Vocational Qualifications. The National Careers Service website has an excellent section on learning and can help you find your nearest training providers – visit www. nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

HOW WILL I FUND MY COURSE? This is one of the most frequent questions I receive. Here are some tips to guide you: l If you are over 24, you may be able to get a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan to pay the fees for courses at Levels 3 and 4, repayable only on successful completion of an HE course and when you are earning more than £21k/year.

l Studying specific courses, such as in the health sector or teaching, may make you eligible for a bursary or grant. l You can apply for a loan for Higher Education (such as a degree) through Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency for Scotland, Student Finance Wales or Student Finance NI. If you are posted overseas and have difficulty getting this funding, let AFF know as this is an Armed Forces Covenant issue which we are working on. l If you are already in employment, you may be able to ask your employer to fund the training if it will bring benefit to the company. l You may also be able to apply for an Educational Support Grant at www. civvystreet.org and the Royal British Legion Women's Section can also award grants for training at www.rblws.org.uk

FREE! There are free online courses that will not only enhance your CV but could give you the confidence to get back into learning or employment. The Open University’s www.futurelearn.com and www.open.edu/openlearn is a great place to start looking with courses ranging from CV writing to zoology.

AFF WORKING FOR YOU We have been talking to a number of training providers about Army life and how it can have an impact on spouses and partners. Training providers such as The Open University and those in areas with an established Armed Forces presence, such as Stafford College and Anglia Ruskin University, have reassured us that they are committed to supporting Forces families.

MORE INFORMATION Contact me at etam@aff.org.uk and share with us examples of your learning that you think might be useful to other Army families. n

@ArmyandYou


Primary objective

EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING

Ann Scannell met her husband, Mike, in Germany whilst they were both serving in the Army. She explains how she has juggled Army family life to train to be a teacher…

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LEFT the Army when I had my first child in 2002 and then went on to have another three. I had wanted to go in to teaching for quite a few years and had made enquiries previously, but was unable to find a course that would allow me to train in Germany. However, once my youngest child was able to go to nursery full-time, I started looking again. I found out that Canterbury Christchurch University offered a Flexible Modular PGCE Course for primary school teaching. The course allowed me to do my teaching placements at SCE schools in Germany, with my tutors travelling to observe me. I started the PGCE in January 2012, we moved back to the UK in 2013 and I passed the course in January 2014. I am currently on my NQT year in an SCE school back in Germany and once I have completed this I will be qualified as a teacher. I’ve really enjoyed the school placements and the weekend study periods that were held at the university.

The course was flexible and relatively easy to fit in around family life. The placements did require forward planning to make sure that I had the support needed to look after the children. The most challenging part was the limited opportunities to have face-to face time with the lecturers and my fellow students. This meant that the weekend study periods were extremely important learning opportunities. My husband’s six-month tour in Afghanistan, which coincided with my final school placement, was an extra challenge. Fortunately, I had a good network of friends and was able to get family members to come out to Germany to help. If I had been able to do my training in the UK, I would have had better access to the university and learning resources. I also didn’t get any funding for travelling back to the UK for my study periods, so it’s worth factoring in these additional costs when looking at studying overseas. n

Infuse your learning If you are keen to go into the business world but are unable to commit to the hours of study and college attendance, then not-forprofit social enterprise Infused Learning might be the answer. The initiative delivers the Access to HE Diploma in Business programme in a flexible way, offering the course on a distance learning basis and enrolling students at any time in the year with a roll-over completion date www.armyandyou.co.uk

to allow for flexibility for personal circumstances. Learners receive a unique, completely tailored programme without the usual pressures of traditional academic courses. You can study full or parttime and will have access to a highly-experienced teaching team to deliver the support, encouragement and personal touch. l Visit www.infusedlearning. org.uk for further information.

Taming transition Championing spousal employment is high on AFF’s agenda and we recommend checking out CivvyStreet, a free online service that provides a wealth of information and links to employers and organisations who can help families during the transition into civilian life. The CivvyStreet website’s new families section for spouses and partners of personnel or Service leavers covers jobs, learndirect training courses, careers and funding advice, employment support, an online CV builder and virtual careers fairs. Register at www.civvystreet.org – you will need to know your soldier’s Service number.

LEARN LOCALLY If the time isn’t right to commit to long-term learning, it’s worth checking out your local adult education provider for short-term courses. One such group is Skills & Learning: Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole, which has facilitated courses at Blandford, home to many Service families. Most courses are free of charge and have been very successful, especially for Army spouses who don’t drive. Courses include card making with your child, cookery for beginners and working in schools. The collaboration includes a job club, set up by community development worker Mandy Ford, which features CV building workshops and skills checks in English, Maths and ICT. If you live near Blandford, check out skillsandlearningbdp. co.uk or, to find a course near you, call 01202 262300. Contact Mandy on 01258 481008.

OVERSEAS LEARNING If you are living in Cyprus and want to polish your skills or learn something new, JETS Academy, a college for Further Education, specialises in providing training courses for entitled family members and serving personnel. JETS, which offers vocational and academic opportunities and apprenticeships, is a Centre of Excellence, so learners receive quality teaching and ongoing support. Many courses also support specific job opportunities within the BFC community. Visit jetsacademy.ac.uk, call 00357 25962804 or visit their Facebook page to find out more. summer 2015 Army&You 31


&

education childcare FEATURING STATE BOARDING SCHOOLS AND SOURCES OF FREE ADVICE

Considering state boarding? The MOD’s Directorate Children and Young People asked you for your opinions and experiences of State Boarding Schools (SBS) to help it understand your decision-making process. If you’re an Army family looking into SBS for your children, AFF’s Education & Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott, helps you make an informed choice...

THE vast majority of SBS are in England, with two in Wales. A tiny percentage offer boarding for primary. Some are selective and academic, and some are themed academies or tech colleges. I found lots were graded outstanding by Ofsted but investment in boarding facilities varies. Your child will need to hold a full British or EU passport to attend. HOW DO I APPLY FOR A PLACE? The main application round is in October and you will hear about places on National Offer Day in March. It’s important to speak to the school directly about their admissions policy as some SBSs won’t offer a place before this date, whereas an independent school may offer a place immediately. So you could face a tricky decision and March is quite late to start looking at alternatives – make sure you have a plan B. OTHER OPTIONS Bear in mind that your child will need to pass an exam for entry into a grammar SBS. If you’re looking for year nine places at the end of prep school then contact the school. Information is often published on schools’ websites; I have found there to be as few as four places available in one school. THINKING AHEAD? If your circumstances are due to change as your soldier leaves the Army or you settle in your own home, it’s important to check that you can swap from a boarding place to day pupil, as some SBS

specify that this is not possible. WEEKENDS AND HOLIDAYS SBS often have no formal school at weekends, although activities and sports are offered by most. Holidays are shorter than independent schools so bear in mind travel times if you’re posted abroad. THE COST As the teaching is free, you will only pay for the boarding part – a minimum 10 per cent contribution. If you claim the full amount of Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), it’s not possible to claim for any further costs including exam fees and books. Take a look at sbsa.org. uk for an interactive map and further information and check the AFF website (aff.org.uk) for the full report on the SBS survey. If you have any questions, contact me at ec@aff.org.uk n YOUR EXPERIENCES “I have two boys – one who is deaf – so completely different children with different needs. The SBS that we chose encompasses everything and is pulling out all the stops to support them. I want our children to know the real world out there and state boarding ticks all the boxes. Both the LA and CEA support my SEN son; that’s what really drove us to choose a state school. [It] suits every shape and size of child.” Claire Finn “One of the hidden benefits of an SBS is the cost saving when only paying boarding fees. This allows us to pay for far more ‘extras’ than we might otherwise have been able to do. All three of our children travel abroad at least twice a year on educational trips. The school also has no compulsory exeat weekends which is a strong plus point now that we are posted to India.” Simon Thomsett

Military minded: Some State Boarding Schools have strong links to the Services Picture: Adams’ Grammar School

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summer 2015 Army&You 33


Co-educational, day & boarding school for 3-18 years in South East England

OPEN MORNINGS

Sat 26th Sept and Sat 10th Oct 9.00am -10.30am

ASPIRING... Boarding in a top Surrey school for less than £4,700 per term.  Boarding and Flexi Boarding for boys

Strong academic results Warm and supportive ethos Outstanding modern facilities

and girls aged 7-18  Excellent academic results  Huge range of sports and activities  Situated in 260 acres of Surrey parkland

Boarding from 7 to 18 years

Full weekend programme for boarders Generous Forces Bursaries Gatton Park, Reigate, Surrey RH2 0TD Tel: 01737 649000 admissions@gatton-park.org.uk www.raa-school.co.uk

T: 01843 572931

E: admissions@slcuk.com

St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, Kent CT11 7AE

www.slcuk.com

@RAASchoolGatton

34 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


EDUCATION & CHILDCARE

ASK CEAS

Perfect portals for parents You know your children best, but sometimes you will need support. Here are some sources of free help and advice that Army families can make use of… CORUM CHILDREN’S LEGAL CENTRE Free downloadable legal fact sheets on education issues such as bullying, complaints, SEN and one we particularly like on appeals. childrenslegalcentre.com CONTACT A FAMILY Support, information and advice on any aspect of a child’s disability. Bringing families together and campaigning on behalf of families across the UK. cafamily.org.uk SPECIAL NEEDS JUNGLE Everything you need to know

about education, health and care plans, and what to do if your child still has a statement. specialneedsjungle.com HOME-START Free practical parenting support UKwide through volunteers for every family with a child under five. home-start.org.uk FAMILY LIVES Helpline, live online chat and website info for parents available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. familylives.org.uk or 0808 800 2222

Did you know the MOD Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) gives advice, information and support on all aspects of your children’s education? Some of the ways they can help you include: l Advising on school admissions and appeals for all types of school l Explaining education systems in the UK and worldwide l Supporting families with children with Special Educational Needs l Supplying “Moving Schools” packs l Providing limited support if you would like to remain in your SFA for educational reasons l Giving information and forms for Continuity of Education Allowance and Special Educational Needs Addition Contact CEAS on +44 (0)1980 618244 or email enquiries@ceas.uk.com

The Royal Hampstead Education Fund DO YOU NEED HELP WITH FEES FOR ANY SCHOOL, COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY IN THE UK? The Royal Hampstead Education Fund provides financial assistance to help with the education and training of the dependents (up to 25 years of age) of members or ex-members of the UK Armed Forces. For more than 150 years we have helped to provide betterment through education for thousands of the needy dependent children of members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force. If you require assistance with fees for any school, college or university in the UK, please visit our website and follow the steps outlined to have your request considered by our grants committee.

Contact us through: www.rshtrust.com www.armyandyou.co.uk

summer 2015 Army&You 35


HEALTH

SHARING A COMMON BOND It’s often not easy to care for a child or adult family member with an additional need or a disability. Add moving house, isolation or separation from family into the mix and it can cause extra difficulties for Army families. Sometimes all that’s needed is to share your problems and concerns with others experiencing similar issues. AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist Karen Ross investigates some of the support on offer... ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY SANDHURST (RMAS) ADDITIONAL NEEDS SUPPORT GROUP AFF, the RMAS Gurkha support worker and AWS community support worker have created a group for families at Sandhurst. If you are interested in joining, contact me at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

SAND PIT PLAY, CHICKSANDS Chicksands mums with additional needs children have successfully set up a support group and acquired funding for sensory equipment. The

group is held bi-weekly in the Community Room at the Gilbertine Centre. Contact Laura Yarlett on 07798 796557. PARENTS AND CARERS SUPPORT GROUP, BOVINGTON CAMP A number of families at Bovington’s Coffee & Chat group were identified as having children with additional needs. One mum decided that it would be beneficial for them to have their own group with the help of their welfare team. Call 07773 618874.

ONLINE SUPPORT Not everyone is

comfortable with or able to attend support groups, so an online forum may be the better option for you. The SSAFA Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum often has committee members available to chat or pass on information. Register with SSAFA to get your password at ssafasupportgroups.org.uk Support4Spouses Facebook group was set up by military spouse Sally Scarbrough, whose young son is visually impaired due to a rare genetic condition. It has almost 400 members and provides a place to discuss problems, let off

steam or signpost information and advice. Request to join at www. facebook.com/groups/ support4spouses GET IN TOUCH If you are thinking about setting up a support group in your area or you are involved in one already, I’d like to hear from you. Email me at addtionalneeds@aff.org.uk Don’t forget that there are a number of national organisations that hold local support groups too, so visit the AFF additional needs webpage at aff.org.uk for more information. n

YOUNG GENERATION

Taylor’s tribute to troops When he was just eight, George Taylor made a promise to support our Armed Forces. Now aged 15, he’s more than kept his word, raising thousands of pounds for a Service charity…

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T ALL started when I saw that an elderly veteran had to sell his medals to pay bills. I became angry. My mum told me not to get cross but to do something, so we sent an email to my MP. I think mum did it to keep me quiet and we forgot all about it until we got an invite to discuss my concerns with him at his office in Westminster. Mum felt we needed to go armed with knowledge, so I contacted the Royal British Legion (RBL) for advice. They were amazing and helped me get my questions ready. Visiting The Royal Hospital Chelsea, Haig House and Whitehall on the same day was a great honour. I hope I conducted myself well at eight

36 Army&You summer 2015

and argued the Forces’ point. I realised that raising funds was the best way I could help, so I organised a charity walk which has now become a regular event. This year we carried a stretcher with a full-sized poppy man for 60 miles in two days, but it was worth the blisters and cramp as we raised more than £9,000 for Forces families. A VOW TO DO MORE On a trip to London I chatted with a homeless gentleman who turned out to be a Falklands veteran. He recounted the battles and comradeship and told me how difficult it was when he got home. He had started to

Fledgling fundraiser: George Taylor’s support for the Services began when he was just eight years old

drink and lost his family. I gave him all the money I had and an RBL contact. I shook his hand, wished him luck and then vowed to do more to help. I’m planning to raise more funds and would encourage any young person to do the same, so that no veteran ever feels that no one cares.

You can follow me on Twitter @cubcampaigner and find out more about RBL at www. britishlegion.org.uk l For more information on volunteering, visit www. vinspired.com, www.volunteering.org.uk or www.youthaction.org.uk n @ArmyandYou


COVENANT

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3

1

Communities benefit from Covenant cash All across the country, the military and civilian populations are being brought closer together by the Armed Forces Community Covenant. A&Y checks out some of the latest schemes to have benefited... 1. MAKING A SPLASH Splash Wiltshire provides free positive activities during the school holidays for 9-16 year olds, prioritising young people facing challenges in life. A grant from the Community Covenant has enabled the charity to engage more military families in their programme. This summer there’s an exciting line up including Wet N Wild; Out There with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust; Paddle, Pedal, Pursuit and Survival overnight adventures, as well as art, music and

animation projects. Find out more by visiting the website at www.splashwiltshire.org.uk 2. PIRBRIGHT PLAY PARK A NEW recreation area has been created at Beech Grove in Surrey. It’s a great example of joint working between the Army and local authorities to provide a facility that will bring together the civilian and military communities in the true spirit of the Covenant. If you’re in the area, go along and join in the fun!

3. KENT PROJECT BOOST MORE than £250,000 has been awarded to groups in Dover district to strengthen ties between the Armed Forces and the community. The Army Welfare Service, Skills Horizons and Futures for Heroes will benefit from this round of Community Covenant grants. White Cliffs Primary School in Dover also welcomed funding for its Dancing on Armistice Day project. 4. WORLD CLASS SUPPORT A £500,000 investment has

been made to deliver worldclass support to the Armed Forces in Wigan Borough. Work is underway to develop the Armed Forces Community Hub, which will give specialist support to the 22,000 veterans, families, Reservists and serving personnel currently living in the area. l Has the Covenant benefited your local community? Share your stories with AFF’s Covenant Liaison, Kate McCullough, by emailing covenant@aff.org.uk n

BUILDING BRIDGES WITH BRITAIN’S BUSINESSES ORGANISATIONS across the UK are waking up to the fact that the Armed Forces community can contribute huge value to employers. The MOD’s Defence Relationship Management (DRM) works to connect employers with the Service community. WHY IS DRM IMPORTANT FOR FAMILIES? DRM helps employers to understand the unique

www.armyandyou.co.uk

circumstances faced by Forces families and encourages employers to assist them by providing a flexible and supportive working environment. For many companies, the first step is to sign up to the Corporate Covenant – a public pledge to support the UK’s Armed Forces. More than 500 organisations are on board and support can take

different forms such as championing employment for veterans and spouses as well as Reserves and ensuring families get a fair deal on commercial services. Fleur Thomas, Director Engagement of DRM, said: “We want to encourage employers of any size and sector to see things from the perspective of Service personnel and their families.” To find out which

organisations have already signed, visit www.gov.uk CAN YOU HELP? If your employer has supported you above and beyond as an Armed Forces spouse, you can nominate them for an MOD Employer Recognition Award. For more information, contact AFF’s Employment & Training Specialist by emailing etam@aff.org.uk summer 2015 Army&You 37


CASE STUDY

The price of separation Katherine Houlston, AFF’s F&C Specialist, gives an overview of the strain the Minimum Income Requirement is having on our F&C families…

AFF FAST FACTS

Pte Tomale is currently posted in Cyprus and was able to bring his spouse out to join him, but he wasn’t earning enough to bring his twins, who are currently living with his mother-inlaw back home in Uganda. The income requirement is £24,800, a sum he is currently earning if you include his LOA, but AFF has been informed by Army HQ that LOA cannot be included. Pte Tomale (pictured above with his twins) says: “It really hurts being separated from my children. They are two years old now and I have missed all the important stages of them growing up. “The person they call ‘daddy’ is my father-in-law. I cannot see them as much as I would like because it is difficult to organise my leave and it is also very expensive.”

WHY IS THE LEVEL SO HIGH? In 2011, the Government announced plans to introduce a new family migration policy. One of the major changes was to make the level of income threshold “higher than that of the safety net of income support”. Various groups are campaigning against the financial requirement, which they consider to be unfair and disproportionate, but so far all legal challenges have been unsuccessful. There are estimated to be more than 4,000 families currently separated by this new requirement. WHAT EFFECT IS THIS HAVING? AFF has been contacted by a number of unit welfare officers and other organisations expressing concerns and asking

THE MINIMUM INCOME REQUIREMENT

38 Army&You summer 2015

for advice on how to assist their soldiers. Of the 40-50 soldiers who have contacted us about this issue, many are worried about their mental state and the effect the separation is having on their marriage and their ability to do their job. Padre Paul, from 3 Rifles, has recently been spoken to by two soldiers suffering from depression as a result of separation from their families. He said: “The impact of being estranged for an extended period from one’s loved ones can be very serious. “It can have a negative effect on the morale of the soldier and of their comrades. “The cost of international travel and frequency of periods away from base means it is very difficult to make visits home and for families to arrange to visit.

“Changing the rules for F&C soldiers would cost so little considering the number of families we are talking about and yet the effect on morale as a whole, of sending a message that the soldiers are valued and well looked after, would be huge.” WHAT CAN YOU DO? Some soldiers have taken on an extra job in order to boost their income – although this can only be done with the permission of their CO. Spouses in the UK can also count income from their employment in order to bring children over to join them. Do not apply if you do not meet the requirements as your application will be refused and you will lose the fees. l For further information, visit www.aff.org.uk n

AFF’S VIEW We are concerned about the effect the new rules are having not only on the soldiers and families but the possible wider effects on units. The importance of having our families close to us cannot be underestimated.

Innocent victims: Children can end up suffering when the Minimum Income Requirement results in families being unable to live together

FACT ONE

FACT TWO

FACT THREE

FACT FOUR

Introduced on 1 December 2013 under changes to the Armed Forces immigration rules

Soldiers now required to earn £18,600 for at least six months before spouse can get a visa

Income requirement increases for each child. £22,400 for one child increasing by £2,400 for each additional child

Minimum of £16,000 needed in savings regardless of amount of income shortfall @ArmyandYou


HELP OUT

FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH

The Gurkha Welfare Trust is involved in the relief effort following the earthquake in Nepal. To donate, visit gwt.org.uk

Giving back: Ex-Sapper Parsuram Rai and wife Ramkumari, who hope that The Gurkha Welfare Trust’s campaign will raise awareness of former soldiers in Nepal

Show of strength for Gurkha veterans

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HIS year is a special one for the Brigade of Gurkhas, marking its 200th anniversary of service to the British Army. The milestone has been made particularly poignant following the deadly earthquake in Nepal. For Sergeant Nagendra Rai (2RGR) and his wife Rekhadevi, based in Shorncliffe, Kent, Gurkha 200 represents the courage of their forefathers and a chance to educate their children on Gurkha history. Both are deeply proud of their country’s unique relationship with Great Britain

and the couple were set to join performers at the Gurkha 200 Pageant in London as this issue went to press. Rekhadevi said: “I’m excited for the opportunity to celebrate our culture and history, especially in front of members the Royal Family. “The Gurkha name should be known by the whole world.” Organised by The Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT), the Pageant will raise funds for the earthquake relief effort and vital medical support for elderly and infirm veterans in the remote Himalayan foothills. It will benefit old soldiers

such as ex-Sapper Parsuram Rai, who has suffered paraplegia since falling from a tree and is cared for by his wife Ramkumari. She is hopeful Gurkha 200 will “raise awareness of Gurkhas like my husband and help us here in Nepal”. The bicentenary “Our Duty of Care” appeal already has support from Joanna Lumley, who stated: “I am a daughter of the Brigade and am proud to be a small part of the GWT, proud and pleased to be able to thank these old warriors and to help care for them as their days draw to a close.” n

Consult your Caribbean crusader IT IS important that all Army family members are aware of vital information whilst their loved ones are serving in the Armed Forces. For those living in the Eastern Caribbean, Francoise Reid, a tri-Service community casework and support officer based in the British High Commission in Barbados, is the link providing a welfare service to the Armed Forces and their family members. Francoise has hosted a series of meetings in Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent to ensure that parents and relatives were aware of key facts and information, including: l Communication l The compassionate criteria l Visa requirements l Visiting/Casualty notification officer roles l The importance of updated contact details on Joint Personnel Administration www.armyandyou.co.uk

for emergencies l Deployment and homecoming details. Corporal Hanson Simon from the Naval Service Recovery Centre, who accompanied Francoise at the meetings, said: “Giving a presentation in the Caribbean to families of serving members was an excellent idea. “Attendance at the meetings was exceptional, family members were keen to gather as much information as possible and there was a lively Q&A session. “This highlighted the fact that these presentations are needed for families outside the British Forces information circle.” l It is hoped there will be follow up meetings in the future. Should you require any additional information, email Francoise.Reid@fco.gov.uk or call on 001 246 430 7827. n

EXCELLENCE IN EPISKOPI ALMOST all Foreign & Commonwealth soldiers and their family members taking the Life in the UK Test in Episkopi, Cyprus, have passed with flying colours. Of the 11 most recent graduates to sit the test, which is made up of 24 multiple choice questions to be answered in 45 minutes, ten have passed with distinction. That brings the overall total to 46 out of 47 passes in the last year. Esther Thomas, AFF Cyprus Regional Manager, explained: “In the past, those wishing to take the test had to travel to the British Consulate in Nicosia, which was not only inconvenient but also expensive. We approached 55 AEC to see if they could run the course from Episkopi and thankfully they managed to make it happen – we are delighted.” Meani Ratabacaca (pictured above), who has passed the ESOL phase of the UK Citizenship test, said: “The support of AFF and 55 AEC has made the whole process much easier for me. “They have always been on hand to provide me with the help I need. “Now I am able to focus on passing the next stage and gaining UK citizenship.” l To find out more, call 55 AEC on 00357 2596 3800. summer 2015 Army&You 39


REBASING SPECIAL AFF’S TOP TIPS FOR REBASING FROM GERMANY You are entitled to 67.92 cubic meters to be moved at public expense. You are responsible for arranging and paying for additional volume to be moved. It’s expensive, so try and sort out your belongings before your survey. SFA in the UK don’t have cellars so now is a good time for a clear out!

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A surveyor will review your house contents and ask you to sign a copy to prove you agree with their survey.

2

There’s no need to pack 3 anything in advance – a removal team will do this for you. Take sentimental items in your own luggage or ask if you can pack them yourself. You will receive a list of prohibited items such as alcohol. Read it to remind yourself what is not allowed.

4

The contractors recommend insuring your goods for removal. It’s important to consider how you would feel if anything happened and you could not afford to replace your belongings. Visit www.siiap. org for a list of Forces-friendly insurance companies.

5

Due to the large number of families moving, shipping containers will be used as there are not enough removal trucks. Containers look identical on the inside so don’t be put off by the exterior. All items will be packed to export standards.

6

If you need to scrap household items, most garrisons provide free recycling points for electrics, cardboard and so on. Ask your welfare team where you can find yours. Do not discard items illegally as you could incur a hefty fine.

7

You will receive a guide 8 to prepare for moving; if you require more information visit www.grms.agilitylogistics. com where you will find a list of frequently asked questions. For any other information, contact Basing@Agility.com or call AFF Germany on 0049 (0) 1744 946 209.

40 Army&You summer 2015

On the move: Army families undergoing rebasing can access a host of helpful advice and information

Got a query about rebasing? AFF’s online Frequently Asked Questions section may have the answer. It’s a live document which is updated as your rebasing issues and concerns are reported to us. aff.org.uk

A HIVE of information

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IAISON between HIVEs in the UK and overseas has been crucial in providing information to the military community prior to rebasing. Vanessa Newton, HIVE Information Support Officer at Cottesmore and North Luffenham, has assisted with the relocation of three units from Germany, a unit from Cyprus and changes within the UK, all of which have required different levels of support depending on the length of time families have been stationed overseas, the timelines and individual requests by unit staff. She explained: “I have attended family rebasing briefs and visited locations to ensure all the information we provide is accurate. “By working with unit welfare teams, key personnel, civilian agencies, NHS departments and the local authorities, we have created support packs for families to use prior to and following a unit move. “A dedicated information room allows access to information when the HIVE is unmanned and supports those without internet access.”

Mandi Cox-Osborne, HIVE information support officer for Woodbridge in Suffolk, has been supporting a range of complex unit moves involving Suffolk, Norfolk, Catterick and Germany, which have required a temporary uplift of assistance to meet the challenges. She said: “I have been liaising with UK and overseas HIVEs to share information to the military community. We have created bespoke location information sheets to help families, communicated with unit welfare teams and forged links with local civilian agencies.” HIVEs provide information and signposting to assist with education, health, employment, accommodation information and garrison/station news for Service personnel and their families. If you are rebasing, contact your local HIVE if you require any information on your new area – no question is too big or small. l The HIVE blog provides a wealth of information and is constantly updated. To find your nearest HIVE and access the relevant blog, visit www.army.mod.uk/hives n

MASS MOVEMENT With so many units relocating this summer there will be an extremely high tempo of move-ins and move-outs. Availability of SFA and timings will be unique to each unit, but there are some generic points to remember: PRE MOVE-OUT You will be advised of the level of cleanliness expected and any damages which need to be rectified beforehand. Follow this advice or you could be charged.

(AO) will go through the move-in process – visit carillionamey.co.uk for details. If move-in was done by proxy, the welfare team will give you the keys and show you where the boiler and stopcock are.

MOVE-IN Your Accommodation Officer

14 DAY REPORT Use this to record any damages

you find on closer inspection. If you are returning from Germany, remember that in the UK this will not trigger any repairs so you will need to report them yourself. CONCERNS If at move-in you are not happy with the cleanliness or standard of the SFA, discuss this with the AO, log a complaint with CarillionAmey and inform your welfare team. Contact the CarillionAmey Helpdesk (0800 707 6000) 24/7 or email AFF Housing Specialist Cat Calder at housing@aff.org.uk

@ArmyandYou


GERMANY

GERMANY

A wife's tale Laura Morgan tells Army&You why postings shouldn’t stop you putting pen to paper…

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UST like many Army spouses, my career has taken a back seat thanks to moving regularly and a lack of job opportunities when posted. Unfortunately, that’s been part and parcel of Army life for many years, and I doubt it’ll ever change. I’ve always thought it’s important to keep your own identity alongside your serving soldier, and over the years I’ve tried my hand at lots of different career paths from jewellery making to training to become a nutritionist. AMBITIONS AS AN AUTHOR Since marrying my soldier in 2002, we’ve moved back and forth between the UK and Germany, and had two wonderful children. My dream of writing was pushed aside for a long time. I was too busy, too tired, and not confident enough – so I kept my tales to myself.

Then, one day in the summer of 2013 I began thinking up a new story. It haunted me, and eventually I felt compelled to write it down. I’m so glad I did, because that story quickly turned into my first novel, Embracing the Darkness. NEW MATERIAL Since then I’ve written six more full-length novels, numerous short stories, and I have a handful of works in progress on the go. I love edgy, gritty books that strip your heart and soul bare, and leave you with an epic book hangover at the end. That’s what I aimed to do with mine and I think my readers agree. At times they’re dark and controversial, but that’s what makes them unique. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS I love it when I see other military spouses going out and doing what they love, whether

CHANGES TO AFF GERMANY IT’S all change for AFF Germany, but rest assured, we’re still here to represent and listen to Army families. With the drawdown from BFG, the Germany branch will now come under AFF’s Overseas umbrella, with a Regional Manager and Coordinator posts in Paderborn and Gütersloh. For all of AFF Germany’s contact details, turn to page 3.

www.armyandyou.co.uk

Writer’s rest: Service spouse and author Laura Morgan enjoying quality time with her children

❝❞ I urge anyone with a passion or a dream to go for it, because if you don’t ever try you might never know what amazing things you are capable of

their soldiers are home or not, whether they are here in Germany or living in the UK. I urge anyone with a passion or a dream to go for it, because if you don’t ever try you might never know what amazing things you are capable of. My dream quickly became a reality, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. l Laura’s books are available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. To find out more, visit www.lauramorgan. co or www.facebook.com/ lauramorganauthor n

FAST FACTS: MID-TOUR MOVES THE Forces Help to Buy Scheme is a fantastic initiative, but take note – if you are signing up to the scheme you will be unable to rent your property out as you must live in it yourself. AFF Germany is aware of a number of families living in BFG who have had issues with this rule. Some were unaware that if you wish to move from BFG without an assignment order to your new property (this is described as a mid-assignment move), this will not be funded by the MOD. You will have to finance the move yourself, which can cost anything between €2,500 to €5,500. AFF has raised this issue with the chain of command at the highest level and the policy is currently under review. AFF will communicate any changes as soon as possible. If you have any issues on moving, please contact AFF Germany at germany@aff.org.uk summer 2015 Army&You 41


Downtime ON A ROLL

Vicki Heaton-Smith straps on her skates to tell A&Y about the action-packed sport of roller derby...

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OLLER derby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport which has a really inclusive attitude, enabling a mix of people to play. It’s a bit like rugby on wheels and is good, clean fun which can be played by anyone big or small. The ethos is very much that “anything goes”. I had always been involved in ice hockey and was lucky to play for two seasons with the BFG Raiders in Germany. When we were posted back to the UK, we didn’t live anywhere near a rink and I missed skating. I saw an article for roller derby and, after moving into our own home, it provided the catalyst for me to swap my blades for wheels as I had the stability to make a fresh start with a different sport, knowing that I was staying put. I joined Portsmouth Rollerwenches and, after passing my minimum skills, I’ve been playing under the pseudonym “Rosie Rocketpants”! There are clubs popping up all over the country with new skaters who are known affectionately as “fresh meat”. For safety reasons you

42 Army&You summer 2015

have to pass a set of skills to begin playing properly, but once you pass you can play anywhere and it’s amazing fun. I have made some great friends and it gives me access to a whole lot of people that I wouldn’t usually encounter in the Army community, which is very refreshing. n

@ArmyandYou


OVERSEAS

A postcard from...

J O R DA N How long have you been an Army family? 7 years. T ime in Jordan: 13 months. How many other military families live there? Currently there are approximately 10. What's your quarter like? We live in a very spacious three-bedroom apartment in Amman, the capital city. Can spouses work? Yes, quite a few spouses work at the International Community School or other international schools in Amman as either teachers or teaching assistants. What about schools? Our eldest child is at the International Community School in Amman and really enjoys his time there. All of the children attached to the Loan Service team attend the school and, while it is run in line with the British education system, there are pupils from many different countries. It is a great opportunity for him to learn a bit of Arabic and about other cultures.

www.armyandyou.co.uk

Where do Army families get together? Amman is a pretty liberal place to live with a large ex-pat community and very few restrictions. Most members of the Loan Service team are members of the British Club at the British Embassy which is a great place to meet for a drink, go for a swim and let the children run around with their friends. There are also a number of hotels in Amman with health clubs. We have regular team gatherings, including welcoming brunches for new families arriving. Who supports families? There isn't a welfare team, but individuals are responsible for providing support in areas such as housing and admin. What's the best thing about living in Jordan? It is a beautiful and historically fascinating country. We had no idea how much there would be to see. It's exactly what we needed in terms of spending time together as a family.

FROM: Liddy, Alex (serving soldier), Freddie and Flora

WHERE: Amman, Jordan

autumn 2014 summer 2015 Army&You 35 43


OVERSEAS

Foreign fun: SCE school children enjoying their time at Episkopi Primary School

Taught on tour? One of the biggest decisions parents must make is about their child’s education. For Army families, a posting overseas is an additional factor to consider. What are the schools like? Should your child board in the UK? The AFF Overseas team explores what’s on offer abroad… WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS? Service Children’s Education (SCE) schools are located around the world where Service families are based. Some places have both primary and secondary whilst others like Gibraltar only cater for Early Years learning. One of the positives of SCE provision is that children of serving personnel and MOD civilians are admitted to their local school on an entitled basis. There’s no cap on numbers in any year group or in the school as a whole. Due to the length of the average overseas tour, SCE schools generally only have pupils for a short period in their educational journey, so it’s important that they make the best of that time and minimise disruptions. In recognition of the frequent moves, schools follow the English National Curriculum. Hannah Shannon is an Army mum with three boys. She said: “Having moved five times since my eldest son started school, I sometimes feel like I have looked around more schools than an Ofsted inspector. “In the UK, the whole process of finding a school while waiting for your SFA allocation can be time consuming. It took 44 Army&You summer 2015

all of five minutes to be allocated a place at the SCE school in Cyprus and it would have been top of my wish list had we had the luxury of choice. “SCE schools are focused on filling in any educational gaps children have, the inevitable result of moving too often.” SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS Children with learning difficulties are catered for in SCE schools through SEN Co-ordinators. However, you should contact the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) in the UK to register your child’s needs before moving overseas. Contact the organisation on +44 (0)1980 618244. Some SCE schools offer further specialised support through educational psychologists and speech therapists for example, but it’s important to note that access to these services may be limited in some locations. Ask your soldier to check out JSP 820 and AGAI 108 on the Defence Intranet to ensure your family’s SEN needs can be supported overseas. Yvonne Horton’s family are much travelled. She commented: “Luke our eldest, who is just eight years old, has had three schools in four years – in Germany,

the Falklands and now Cyprus. “Whilst we did have a few worrying moments in the Falklands due to lack of speech and language therapy, overall our experience of SCE schooling has been very positive.” Whenever possible SCE schools ensure that children have an understanding of living and learning in another country and another culture. One of the best features of SCE schools is that they fully appreciate the added pressures of being overseas away from family, and of soldiers being away on duty. Esther Thomas, Regional Manager for AFF Cyprus, explained: “We only have positive comments to make about the SCE school provision. All of the three SCE schools our daughters have attended have been good to outstanding and the transitions between them have always been seamless with minimal administration. “Our children have learned new languages, experienced cultural diversity first hand and had some amazing educational trips.” Dan Browning, Executive Principal for the Federation of St John’s and King Richard Schools in Cyprus, said: “Our schools are here for one reason, to deliver outstanding learning for Service children and give them the best educational experience possible.” WHAT IF THERE ARE NO SCE SCHOOLS? In Isolated Detachments and Extra Command Areas the type and standard of education will vary. In all cases, planning is essential. Parents with children due to undertake exams such as GCSEs are advised to only remove them from school for a posting overseas if they have access to a UK curriculum so that their education will not be disrupted at a key stage. l Visit armyandyou.co.uk to read Mr Browning's full story on SCE schooling in Cyprus. n

@ArmyandYou


Back together: AFF has campaigned long and hard to bring about an increase in the number of School Children’s Visit flights

AFF SUCCESS: FLIGHTS TO REUNITE FAMILIES

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NCREASED School Children’s Visit (SCV) flights have been met with a big thumbs up from Army families living overseas. Since April, the number of SCVs for those assigned overseas has doubled. Provision has risen from three return journeys per year to six, enabling children to come home during half-term in addition to the main Easter, summer and Christmas holidays. The changes have come as part of a package of measures to enhance the overseas offer for Service personnel. Thrilled families took to AFF’s Facebook page to share their approval, with one poster saying: “Thank you to everyone who is involved with this, it will make a huge difference to us as the flights at half-terms are so expensive. We are very happy.” SCV flights contribute towards the cost of reuniting Service children with their parents during school holidays. Families posted overseas told AFF that the previous entitlement of three return flights a year was insufficient. AFF has called for the number of journeys to be increased for some www.armyandyou.co.uk

time and ran a survey on the topic earlier this year. More than 300 families completed our survey, with responses received from 32 countries. 70 per cent of you thought the current number of SCVs did not meet your need to provide childcare during all the main school holidays, while 88 per cent of you had to pay for additional flights to enable your

children to visit you overseas, costing up to £2,000 per year. The majority of families (70 per cent) thought that there should be enough SCV flights to cover all the main school holidays, including half-terms. AFF is delighted that the number of SCVs has doubled. Much needed family time can now be spent together during half-term holidays and the new provision more accurately reflects modern boarding school life. Respondents also commented on flights for full-time university students. AFF recognises that whilst it’s good news that the annual entitlement to one return flight has been reinstated, many would like the number increased. Email overseas@aff. org.uk with your comments. n

DISTURBANCE EXPENSE INCREASE An increase in Disturbance Expense (DE) for overseas moves was also announced as part of the measures to enhance the overseas offer. More than 1,000 of you completed AFF’s DE survey last year, with 90 per cent saying that the previous DE was not enough. The increase is good news, although AFF is conscious that the new rate does not differentiate between moves within Europe and those further afield. Further details are available at www.aff.org.uk – contact Julie Lowe, our Overseas Director, at overseas@aff.org.uk with any feedback on overseas allowances. autumn 2015 2014 Army&You 35 summer 45

Picture: Michael Jung

OVERSEAS


UNITED KINGDOM Relaxed relatives: Hayley Walton joins familes of Reservists from 7 Rifles for a lunch in London

Reserve families can subscribe to Army&You at armyandyou. co.uk

Super support for Rifles’ relatives 7 Rifles is one of two Rifles Reserve battalions located in Oxford, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and London. They recently had soldiers on an operational tour in Afghanistan in support of the Regular Rifles battalions. Hayley Walton, AFF’s Virtual Co-ordinator, was invited to a Reserve families’ lunch in London to find out what they felt and how they were supported…

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URING mobilisation, 7 Rifles Regimental Operational Support Officer Capt Paul Woolman and his team were in regular contact with Reserve families via email, newsletters, phone calls and several trips. He explained: “We had a total of 16 Reservists mobilised so my contact with the families was important. I organised trips and meetings with many of them on a monthly basis. I took groups to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, lunch at The Goldsmiths and to Calais.” One mother of a Reservist told me that the events provided a chance to speak to others in the same position and were a great opportunity to

46 Army&You summer 2015

share information. “The newsletters are also useful – it’s always good to hear what our son has been up to, as phone calls can be brief,” she added. Another Reservist’s relative said: “I have felt involved from

Celebrating best practice: Hayley Walton with 7 Rifles ROSO Capt Paul Woolman (left) and WO2 Jamie Dwyer, ROSWO

the start; the pre-deployment families’ briefing really helped me prepare for the six-month operational tour.” A third added: “Meeting other families in the same position has been invaluable and we have formed a good support network. A trip to Goodwood Races was not only a great day out but a real icebreaker. “We will keep in touch – we have arranged a family barbecue for the summer.” As many of us know, it is never easy to be separated from loved ones. But with excellent ROSO support such as this and a strong network, the long-term separation and struggles that families can face may seem that bit easier! n

USEFUL LINKS Hayley Walton coord@aff.org.uk Send eBlueys bfpo.org.uk Ask your soldier to sign you up to armynet.mod.uk Details on the area where your soldier’s unit is based www.army.mod.uk/hives Army Welfare Service 02072 189000 SaBRE sabre.mod.uk Veterans UK veterans-uk@mod.uk or 0808 1914 218 Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre 01452 519 951 (open 24/7) SSAFA’s Forcesline 0800 731 4880 (9am–5:30pm) or www.ssafa.org.uk/forcesline Check to see if your Reserve soldier’s unit is on Twitter or Facebook.

@ArmyandYou


UNITED KINGDOM

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AYLEY Walton’s article (left) describes the very real benefits of having good communication within a Reserve unit, writes Jill Baines, AFF Director UK. AFF is here to listen to and represent Reserve families. I recently joined a group at Hampshire Council discussing this very subject and without exception everyone wanted to speak to Reserve families, to consider their views and ensure that their voice was heard by decision makers. Among this group were individuals with the ability to make a real difference to the lives of Forces families. Hayley liaises with Reserve units and sends them AFF’s marketing materials.

We urge Service personnel to take this information home to their families to raise awareness of our work. However, there’s more we would like to do. Last year we trialled a couple of Reserve Roadshows, visiting areas of high Army Reserve populations and meeting families to ask them what we could do on their behalf. We have visited units and briefed soldiers and families but try as we might, the number of families we speak to is still woefully inadequate. As the voice of Army families, we need to hear from you to represent you in a meaningful way. If you are a Reserve family reading this, you have probably already taken the first step and subscribed to the magazine.

Picture: Richard Watt, Crown Copyright

Reaching out to Reserves

ON THE ROAD

WHY NOT JOIN US AT AN UPCOMING AFF ROADSHOW? Reserve families are welcome at our next Roadshows, which take place on: l 7 July in Tidworth l 8 October in Catterick l 20 October in Stafford Visit aff.org.uk to find out more.

Tell us about your Army life, the issues you face and how AFF can help you. If you’re a Regimental Operational Support Officer, tell your families about this and the other great support out there. If you have friends or relatives working alongside Reserves, pass on this message – tell them to get in touch! l Contact AFF via aff.org.uk, Tweet us @The_AFF or like the Army Families Federation Facebook page. n

COMING UP IN ARMY&YOU 'S AUTUMN ISSUE...

Back to school special

As your youngsters begin a new term, Army&You takes a seat in the classroo m to discover what life is like for Service child ren in state and boarding schools at home and abroad. Find out what lessons your family ca n learn in our 100th issue, out at the end of Au gust. www.armyandyou.co.uk

www.armyandyou.co.uk

autumn 2014 summer 2015 Army&You 35 47


Army & Me

Service spouse, former soldier and founder of Forces children’s charity My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures Louise Fetigan tells A&Y about the inspiration behind her remarkable work... A&Y: It’s been a big year for My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures. What achievements have you been most proud of? LF: A great moment was winning The Sun Military Award for Support to the Armed Forces, which raised awareness of the charity and the vital support we provide for Little Troopers. Also, heading to 10 Downing Street to talk about the Service Premium with Nicky Morgan MP, travelling to Sennelager in Germany and Lisburn in Northern Ireland to run events for children with soldiers away... there are so many achievements and so many more I’d like to list! Ultimately it has been an achievement to continue to grow the provision and community with just myself running the charity alongside a full-time job. You have launched a £1 million campaign to create a permanent adventure centre. How important is such a facility to Army families? I feel it is really important for military families to have a centre dedicated to recognising, supporting, educating and including. A unique centre providing a retreat for Service families, offering many outdoor and indoor activities to families pre and post a separation period.

48 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


ARMY&ME

Our centre will have residential space and camping facilities to be open all weekends and school holidays, offering child-only weeks in the holidays for Little Troopers and in military young carers’ week and so on. The centre will also have the capacity to run workshops for parents to help support schools to learn about Service families and how our provision can ease and aid separation periods. It is so important a facility such as this should exist. Army families face unique challenges and these should be considered and supported. I’m so excited about this campaign and look forward to gaining momentum with the project throughout 2015. How does being an Army spouse compare to being a serving soldier? What tips could you offer to other military spouses? I get asked this question a lot. I actually found being the soldier and going away was much easier than I find being the one left at home. Personally, with every deployment and period of separation we experience as a family I find it gets harder. I rely on the charity for support too – it’s such an amazing community that has grown. My tips? Keep busy, go to anything and everything and make lots of plans with friends and family if you can. Sunday is the worst day. Even if it is just going to the shop, make sure you get out of the house once a day when your soldier is away as it breaks the time up. Have a routine and make sure you come and find My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures! Has it been challenging to grow the charity given the amount of other military-focused groups around and the recent state of the economy? I had no previous charity experience, so it has been a real learning curve creating My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures. I do have many years’ experience of the military and separation and I’m passionate about it and I really think that has helped. Funding is something I have cried tears over. So many don’t see these children as needing support or as being www.armyandyou.co.uk

Worthy winner: Louise receives the Supportive Mum of the Year trophy from Helen Skelton and Greg Rutherford at the 2015 Tesco Mum of the Year awards

disadvantaged, so we get turned down for funding all the time which can be so disappointing when I read emails from desperate families really suffering. There is no other charity out there specifically supporting children of serving personnel. We aren’t a duplication and it is needed. We aren’t in competition with any other military group, so we are a complementary, more informal approach to providing support and ensuring Army families don’t experience disadvantage or reach crisis point. Do you find Army children to be particularly resilient given everything they have to cope with? Army children often have no other choice than to be resilient so they become accustomed to being just that. But that fact doesn’t mean they don’t feel or we shouldn’t recognise that they experience challenges they find difficult sometimes. I believe that Forces children will grow to be confident, strong and independent due to the childhood that often comes with being a child of a soldier but we need to help and support them to enable this outcome. For example, my daughter is 12 and will be starting a new school every September for five years due to the way our postings have worked out. This September will be her fourth school of that cycle due to us moving again this summer. I’m confident she will be ok due to her resilience, but

she still says “Mum, when I think about starting a new school again this year I get butterflies in my tummy”. Little Troopers are resilient and they will cope, but we need to be a helping hand in ensuring they are supported. What plans do you have for the future of the charity? I want the next year to be a fundamental year for the charity – there is so much I still want to achieve. Enquiries from Royal Air Force and Royal Navy families have increased dramatically, showing there is a need for the provision the charity provides to expand to include those families and rightly so – they too experience separation. Tri-Service is something I am aiming towards but there is a lot of work that needs to happen to make that possible. Little Troopers Treasures is an initiative I am launching which I am so excited about. It has been in my head for about 18 months and to see it come to life is amazing. It’s a group of communication resources to ensure soldier and child stay connected and bonded even when apart. Keep an eye out for that in the autumn! The Adventure Centre is also something that will be a focus – the ultimate goal for the charity in the future! n For more information about My Daddy is a Soldier Adventures, visit the charity’s website: www.mydaddyisasoldieradventures.org summer 2015 Army&You 49


FRIENDS OF THE FORCES

Saluting Salisbury

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Phone Us NOW

N a bid to bolster helping hand or some retail the bond between therapy. military families and the We’ve set the ball rolling with communities in which we five organisations in Wiltshire live, Army&You is launching who are keen to extend a Friends of the Forces. warm welcome to their Army In each issue we’ll use neighbours. the section to shine a However, this salute to spotlight on ServiceSalisbury is just an friendly small ice-breaker. Businesses businesses, In addition to keen to feature as professionals highlighting a friend of the Forces further and should contact tradespeople companies info@tylebale.co.uk based on the within a for details doorsteps of stone’s throw Army garrisons. of Stonehenge, Organisations we’ll be taking a and individuals can tour of the villages, use this space to promote towns and cities which have their products, expertise and become “home” to those Forces discounts to readers at following the flag. a reduced advertising rate. From Aldershot to York and In return, we invite you to further afield, Army&You will think of our supporters when present a round-up of Armed you’re next in need of an Forces allies. n Kingfisher Montessori

Teaching in a relaxed, friendly environment.

NURSERIES

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The Kingfisher Montessori Nursery School, which was founded in 1978, is situated in the historic town of Wilton.

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t is based in tranquil surroundings close to the quiet town centre. The nursery is a wonderful part of Wilton community and benefits both from an exciting indoor learning environment and a large woodland style outdoor play area. Our aim is to provide children, aged 2 ½ to 5 years old, with a safe, warm and nurturing environment that will encourage their confidence and security. We believe that confident, secure children will become independent and enthusiastic learners.

Our class and individually tailored Montessori cycles of work aim to ensure that all children gain a sense of belonging by learning in their own individual way whilst being invited to participate in all areas of nursery. The children will have their own space and will be encouraged to respect and be respected. Using the Montessori teaching method and ideology they will be given every support to achieve to their full potential across the early years foundation stage, in a safe, warm and caring environment.

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50 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


Forests for the fallen

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RITAIN will be given a chance to honour its First World War heroes thanks to a major project being launched by the Woodland Trust. Under its £20 million Centenary Woods scheme, the Trust is creating four flagship woods – in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – to commemorate the centenary of the conflict. As well as providing a much-needed boost to the nation’s tree coverage, the Centenary Woods will allow the public to remember family members who made sacrifices during the War by dedicating individual trees. Pip Borrill, First World War Project Development Manager at the Woodland Trust, said the project would honour the memories of the wartime generation. She added: “These symbolic trees and woods will transform the landscape into rich, vibrant and flourishing woodland and will stand proud as a lasting legacy for those who fought, those who lost their lives

and also for their loved ones on the home front who supported them from afar.” In addition to dedicating individual trees, people taking part in the Centenary Woods project are being asked to share their ancestors’ stories online. The Woodland Trust has teamed up with Find My Past to encourage people to publish their relatives’ tales of love, courage or friendship during the War, with prizes including a day with a genealogist. One participant, David Appleton (above), has already signed up after planting four trees at the Centenary Wood in Epsom. The trees are a permanent reminder of the sacrifice of David’s four great uncles

VETERANS – George Sydney James, Charles Edward James, Henry James and Frances Arthur James – who were all killed within 15 months of each other. The Centenary Woods are being complemented by three million free trees which are being handed to schools and community and youth groups for planting across the United Kingdom. Pip explained that the scheme will help to improve the UK’s status as one of Europe’s least-wooded countries, with coverage of 13 per cent compared to an average of 44 per cent. She said: “At a time when our woodland cover is so low compared to other countries, planting trees now is more important than ever. As well as representing enormous strength and bravery shown by the nation during the First World War, the trees that are planted during the course of the project will help strengthen our natural landscape, increasing its resilience to the threats posed by pests and diseases.” l To find out more about the project, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/support-us/ support-an-appeal/centenary-woods n

George, Charles, Henry and Frances James were all killed in action. One by one, four black-edged envelopes delivered the devastating news to their parents. Dedicate a tree in a First World War Centenary Wood and help create a living, growing tribute to people like the James brothers and the families they left behind.

The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales no. 294344 and in Scotland no. SC038885. A non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no. 1982873. The Woodland Trust logo is a registered trademark. 6742 0215

www.armyandyou.co.uk

£

dona20 will t enab ion t o de le us d a treicate e

Say thank you – dedicate a tree today

woodlandtrust.org.uk/military 0800 915 1914 quoting P15FWW020 autumn 2014 summer 2015 Army&You Army&You 35 51


GIVEAWAYS Enter this issue’s selection of cool competitions!

HOW TO ENTER Click the giveaways tab at armyandyou.co.uk and follow the links. One entry per household per giveaway. Closing date for entries is 12 July 2015. See page three for competition rules.

Your information will not be used for marketing purposes. Winners’ names are published on the Army&You website.

Star prize

Sunny Sussex seaside stay ONE lucky family can win a one-night, bed-and-breakfast stay plus tickets to Drusillas Park in the sunniest place in the UK – Eastbourne. Staying at the family-friendly Guesthouse East, take advantage of the seaside

location, close to restaurants, theatres, beaches and the South Downs National Park. The stylish guesthouse is set in a beautiful Grade II-listed regency villa and the lucky winners will stay in a uniquely styled family suite.

Included is a family ticket to Drusillas Park, the UK’s best small zoo. Explore the Hello Kitty Secret Garden on a teacup ride, hop aboard the Thomas the Tank Engine train and meet the zoo’s best-loved animals, including red pandas,

monkeys, meerkats and more. Go to visiteastbourne.com, theguesthouseeast.co.uk and drusillas.co.uk for more info. l The package is valid for 12 months and is for a family of up to four (two adults and two children).

CRACK THE CODE AT BLETCHLEY PARK AFTER its incredible story was catapulted into the public eye by the success of The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Britain’s best-kept secret Bletchley Park is today a thriving museum, heritage site and education centre. Explore this iconic WWII site and marvel at the achievements of the codebreakers whose vital work is said to have helped shorten the war by two years, saving countless lives. An £8 million restoration project has preserved the

legacy of the codebreakers and the sacrifices made during the war. With improved facilities and a regenerated learning programme, there’s never been a better time for your family to visit. Check out www.bletchleypark.org.uk for more information. l Army&You is giving away three family passes (two adults and two children aged 12-16, children under 12 go free), worth £38.50 each.

WANT TO WIN? Enter any of our giveaways online at www.armyandyou.co.uk

52 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


GIVEAWAYS

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3

2

1. CHILDREN’S SWIMWEAR Sand Dollar Swim, the hot new name in kid’s sun protection, offers luxury UV protective swimwear for children with designs that protect skin while being fashionable and comfortable. All pieces are fast drying, machine washable and cater for children from 0-12 years. The range includes rash vests, shorts, one-piece suits, bikini bottoms and hats, all in fun colours with details such as sparkles and frills. All items are made from comfortable, breathable SP 50+ fabric. l One lucky reader will win two garments from the collection, which can be viewed at www.sanddollarswim.com

2. GREAT BRITISH TEDDIES An Army bear from the Great British Teddy Bear Company is already a favourite with many Forces families. With four beret colours to choose from, you can create a personalised bear to cuddle up to when your soldier is away. Complete with their own kit bag, each bear is dressed at the Poppy Factory

www.armyandyou.co.uk

4

5

in the UK by wounded Armed Forces veterans and wears a desert camouflage shirt with a union jack shoulder patch; on his beret he displays a die-cast GB regimental badge. l Army&You has three teddies worth £29.95 to give away. Visit britishteddies. com to see the full range.

3. ONE OF THREE WONDERUL WATCHES Watches2U is one of the largest retailers of watches with 7,500 pieces from more than 100 brands including Michael Kors, DKNY, Rotary and Emporio Armani. Check out www.watches2u.com to discover the remarkable range. l Army&You has teamed up with Watches2U to offer three lucky readers an opportunity to win one of three bestselling watches. Choose from a fine men’s watch by Krug Baumen, worth £100 (pictured above, top), a stunning ladies gold bracelet charm watch by Accessorize, worth £29.99 (bottom), or a ladies Monsoon stone set gold chronograph watch, to the value of £64.99 (middle).

4. BRITAIN’S GREATEST GENERATION Celebrate the men and women born in the early 20th century with this fascinating book by Steve Humphries and Sue Elliott. Featuring stars such as Dame Vera Lynn and Sir David Attenborough, the book details a generation born into a world reeling from the Great War, who grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed the Second World War. l You can win one of three copies of Britain’s Greatest Generation, worth £18.99.

5. SLUMBERSAC SLEEPING BAGS Slumbersac offers quality sleeping bags in four tog ratings, catering from newborn right up to 10 years old. Made and lined with 100% cotton, the range includes long-sleeved bags for extra warmth in winter, travel sleeping bags for when you are on the move and innovative sleeping bags with feet, designed specifically for toddlers learning to walk! l Two readers will get to choose their favourite Slumbersac sleeping bag. View the collection at www.slumbersac.co.uk

summer 2015 Army&You 53


OUR EXPERTS FINANCE NADINE MONKS Military wife working to empower women financially. More at evolutionforwomen.co.uk

Budget for your break: Summer holidays can be as expensive as they are fun, so forward-planning is essential if you want to make the most of your money

BEAUTY GRACIE BROWN From top tips on new products to looking good on a budget, Grace has the answers

FOOD AUTHOR ANNABEL WOOLMER Accurate advice on cooking with kids and self-publishing. More at cookwithtoddlers.com

HOUSING VICTORIA THEODOROU Military-minded advice on mortgages, money insurance and more. Visit forcesfinancial.com

Q&A SEND US YOUR QUESTIONS! Whatever your query, send it in to us and we’ll find an expert to give you an answer. EMAIL editor@aff.org.uk

Q How can I prepare for the cost of the school holidays? A

TO BE better prepared financially, planning is key. Look out for voucher codes, Armed Forces discounts, places where tickets are valid all season and check out your local community centre where you can often find much cheaper family activities. Try your best to spread your day trips throughout the holiday. Take the time to break down the cost of each outing. Allow for travel/ parking costs, food, drinks and possibly a souvenir too. If you’re driving, the AA route planner gives you an estimate of the amount of fuel you will use based on the average price per litre. You can get a third off train travel with a HM Forces Railcard. Save money by bringing a picnic, refillable

drinks bottles and especially sweets – they’re always so overpriced at these places! Spend the rest of the week doing free fun activities such as crafts, cooking and trips to the park or library. There may be other Army families who you can hook up with nearby. Don’t forget to check out your local Sure Start centre if you have a child under five. For working parents, childcare costs can be extortionate, so make sure you research any council run schemes, holiday clubs or summer camps and book them early. Rather than block book time off, have you considered taking two days off for each week throughout? You could team up with another family and swap days saving pounds. NM

Q How do I get my toddler to try more fruit and veg? A

MOST parents have been there: coaxing or bribing their children to try a new food. The problem is that toddlers are stubborn and the more you push, the stronger they resist.

54 Army&You summer 2015

But toddlers are also inquisitive and creative, so I swear by cooking with them. When they explore food as part of a fun activity, it helps them see it as something to discover. Children who are as young as 18 months can prepare simple dishes.

l Prepare in advance. For your child to feel happy to try things, you need a relaxed atmosphere. That is difficult if you are running around finding things in cupboards. l Choose recipes where they can taste all of the ingredients. You want them to feel free to experiment, so avoid things they can’t eat like raw meat.

l Make them feel in control. Pick a recipe they can do largely by themselves. That feeling of independence makes them more likely to eat the end result. l Make it fun. There is so much about cooking that toddlers love – bashing, pouring, mixing, painting, squishing. Emphasise these bits – with fun comes discovery. AW @ArmyandYou


Q A

ASK THE EXPERTS

How can I begin the process of arranging a mortgage before my return from overseas?

TAKING action early is important. The mortgage process can take a while and it is typical for a purchase transaction to take a number of weeks to complete. Doing as much research as possible will arm you with all the knowledge and tools that you will need to make applying for your mortgage that much easier. Having a good search on property websites will offer you a broad view of what is currently available on the market. Have a look for the type of property that you would like and see what is available within the area you are relocating to. This is also a good way to help you understand what price range you can work within and how much you will need to borrow. Use a budget planner to go over your finances so you know exactly how much you will need for your moving costs. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of removals if it isn’t covered by the MOD. Look for help from companies that offer wholeof-market advice so they can identify the most suitable solutions for you and also those that are not tied to a particular mortgage company so their advice and

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Look for help from companies that offer whole-ofmarket advice so they can identify the most suitable solutions for you and also those that are not tied to a particular mortgage company so their advice and recommendations are based on your individual needs

recommendations are based on your individual needs. A company that has experience dealing with the military would be extremely beneficial as they understand your situation and in particular the challenges you can face if you have been abroad for some time. It is also important to check whether they charge fees for their services. Sometimes these can be quite high, but there are companies that do not charge for their advice. Familiarise yourself with the options available to you like Forces Help To Buy, which is designed to assist Service personnel and their families by providing financial support towards a deposit. If you do not have a solicitor, you will need to do some research and find one that is suitable to your needs. Indeed, to apply for the Forces Help to Buy scheme you will need a solicitor. Searching for a mortgage can be a challenging process, but if you do some research and get as prepared as you can before you apply, the entire process should be more manageable. VT l For more details about Forces Financial’s services, visit forcesfinancial.com n

can I Q How make my

feet sandal-ready this summer?

A

AH, summer! A time where your feet are on show more than ever. After they have been hiding away in boots for a long while, it’s time to take a little more notice of that dead skin on your heels and remove your nail polish that’s been left on for weeks ( just me?). It may seem weird, but mouthwash works wonders for your feet as well as your mouth, add a decent splash with warm water and vinegar, soak for twenty minutes and the dead skin just rolls off. If you’re going away (or not), a Shellac pedicure is ideal. You can buy the lamp and gels online and it will be so much cheaper than visiting a salon. Plus, you get to keep your colours, always a bonus. Don’t leave your feet out of your big beauty regime this summer, not only will you walk more comfortably, but you will look great too! GB

Q How can I self-publish my book?

A

THERE are lots of print-ondemand, self-publishing services. I use Createspace and Ingram Spark. You need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and can get a free one from Createspace, but they are then the publisher and you can’t print with anyone else. You can buy

www.armyandyou.co.uk

ISBNs from Nielsen Book Agency (minimum order of 10 at about £130). Once your book is printed, by law you need to deposit a copy with the British Library. Nielsens will provide more information. AW l If you have any questions, contact me at www.cookwithtoddlers.com n

summer 2015 Army&You 55


POSTBAG

CONTACT US

Get in touch – you don’t need to worry that it will affect your soldier’s career. Please include your name and address. They will not be published or revealed to anyone outside AFF without your permission.

STAR LETTER

Why should we accept poor standards?

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E MOVED into our quarter in December 2014 and noted a number of problems, including mould in the kitchen and rubbish dumped in the communal areas. The housing officer also told us about a blown double glazing window and assured me that it would be replaced. Someone came out to measure up and we told him that the windows didn’t seal tight, making our daughter’s bedroom very cold. The man said he would order new hinges and come back in about seven days. We submitted a long list of problems to the housing office and heard nothing. We phoned the helpdesk who said they would send a surveyor out in three weeks. By the New Year, there was still no news so we called the helpdesk again; they knew nothing about the window hinges. Because our daughter was freezing in her bedroom they agreed to bring the appointment forward a week. The surveyor listened to all my concerns, but I got the impression that he felt the poor quality of housing was reflected by the low rent

and that other houses on the estate were worse than ours. He questioned whether I had ever lived in Army housing before and told me I have no rights as I am a licensee, not a tenant and that it was my responsibility to keep on top of mould. We logged a formal complaint. Since working with a customer care manager we have managed to get some of the jobs done. It took three visits to repair the double glazing unit. A man turned up but was unable to proceed as it was a twoperson job because a ladder was needed. Then the same happened when they came to fix the window hinges. We were annoyed and called the helpdesk, who said only one hinge had been ordered so the job couldn’t be done. My husband phoned the customer care manager and two men came to do the job that same day, so I question whether the helpdesk are incompetent or liars. It turns out the surveyor holds no qualifications – the actual job title is technical adviser. When the heating engineer arrived to advise if a thermostat could be fitted, he told us he couldn’t do the

job without a new work order from the technical adviser. When I spoke to the technical adviser, he said I should see my housing officer. Our daughter has been living in a cold, draughty bedroom with condensation running down the walls. It has taken 35 days to make her bedroom habitable and I feel that all CarillionAmey can say is that other houses are worse and I should be grateful I have low rent. I have lived abroad and in my own home for the last nine years so perhaps my expectations are too high, but why should Army families be forced to accept such poor standards?

Name and address supplied Response from Anna Soubry MP, former Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans: Substantial progress and investment has been made in recent years to improve the quality of SFA. However, I am aware of the issues that some personnel have faced and it is unacceptable that these problems continue. That is why I have been in regular contact with CarillionAmey, personally holding them to account to

The writer of this letter wins a three-month subscription to Vinoa, a wine-tasting service dedicated to helping you love wine! Enthusiasts can discover iconic wines from the comfort of their own home, with a tasting box delivered to their door. Each month you’ll receive four 50ml samples of carefully-chosen wines from one of the world’s classic wine regions. You could learn a thing or two with their interactive tasting guide too. Go to www.vinoa.co.uk for more information.

56 Army&You summer 2015

To have your say on the issues affecting you, send your letters to the Editor at editor@aff.org.uk

ensure they deliver the service and standards our families deserve. It is disappointing that there have been problems and I have been assured that services will improve. I will continue to make sure those improvements are felt by our personnel and their families.

Response from Dave Trotter, operations director of CarillionAmey: We recognise that the mobilisation of the new National Housing Prime contract has brought with it a number of challenges for us operationally, some of which have affected some families directly. We are sorry if you have been personally affected. We remain focused on improving our new processes, developing our people and improving our customers’ experiences in line with our contract. We have undergone a recruitment programme during the first three months of the contract, appointing accommodation officers and completing the transfer of staff into the organisation from DIO, as well as setting up our occupancy services team and DAS operation. We also recognise that improvements need to be made for us to deliver on our promises and to provide a service in line with our contract. We assure you that we remain focused on this. Above all we consider it a privilege to serve our Armed Forces community. We take this responsibility seriously and trust this will be selfevident in the organisation we aspire to become.

@ArmyandYou


POSTBAG

SEN ASSESSMENT DELAY UNACCEPTABLE

SIX INTO THREE WON’T GO

I HAVE recently moved on assignment assessment process after every move. from Gibraltar to London, accompanied. There is an opportunity here for the In Gibraltar, my eight-year-old son was Armed Forces, advised by the families diagnosed with autism and measures were federations and the Children’s Education put in place to meet his special educational Advisory Service, to engage with local needs (SEN). In the UK, he could not be government to ensure that our children’s admitted to a suitable school without an needs are met as quickly as possible on Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). moving between council areas. Five months after my assignment our Name and address supplied council has only now begun the statutory assessment process for him, which will Response from AFF Covenant Liaison, Kate take a further 20 weeks. McCullough: AFF is aware of a number of By the time provisions are put in place cases where families returning to the UK my son will have missed a whole year of after a posting overseas have had problems appropriate education. accessing appropriate support for their I believe my son is paying an unfair children with SEN. penalty for my being in the Army. Inherent in these issues is the The spirit of the Armed inconsistent ways in which Forces Covenant requires educational needs are that councils take assessed across the UK I believe my reasonable measures to and overseas. At the recent son is paying an avoid Service families Community Covenant unfair penalty for being disadvantaged. conferences, the MOD’s my being in In my son’s case the Directorate Children & the Army council could have done Young People acknowledged better. It could have accepted that this can create a vacuum reports from health and education in a child’s education whilst the professionals in Gibraltar and it could have problems associated with the lack of a begun the assessment process as soon as I universal EHCP are resolved. informed them of my assignment. AFF believes that this is a Covenant issue: My remaining concern is that when we the children at the centre of these cases are move at the end of my current assignment being poorly served by the lengthy EHCP we will have to go through the same assessment system through no fault of their process again. This would mean that my own and their education is being put at risk. son will only be properly educated on Every effort must be made to remove alternate years. the disadvantages they face due to their I suspect there are other families in our mobility and, as appropriate, guidance position. Children with special educational may need to be put in place. We would needs will not have an EHCP when moving encourage families to contact CEAS at back from an overseas assignment. enquiries@ceas.uk.com for advice as soon For assignments within the UK, children as possible to ensure the correct paperwork will need to go through the lengthy is in place.

MY husband applied for Service Families Accommodation (SFA) in Leuchars after he got his assignment order. After not hearing anything from the allocations office I went to our welfare office at Weeton Barracks. Our housing officer called them to discuss our application. We required a four-bedroom property as we have four kids, two living with us full-time and two from a previous relationship that live with us at weekends and school holidays. Our housing officer was advised that we were entitled to a four-bedroom quarter and that I would hear back within 15 working days. When our 15 days were up and we still hadn’t heard anything, I queried it only to find that we weren’t entitled and our application had been rejected. I suffer from anxiety attacks and I think that offering our family a three-bedroom property that will be too small, four weeks before our move is unsatisfactory. We have already informed our daughter that she would have her own bedroom; I now need to tell her that she won’t be able to stay with us. Our sons can share a room, but my daughter needs her own space. My husband and I are very distressed by this. Name and address supplied

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Response from Jayne Smith, DIO Service Delivery Accommodation: DIO and CarillionAmey provide Service accommodation in line with MOD policy, including the Personal Status Category, which, along with information such as competing requirements from other families, determines the allocation of SFA. I cannot comment without knowing more details. If the family wish to raise a complaint through the correct process, this matter can be fully investigated.

CHEAP UPGRADES NOT GOOD ENOUGH I LIVE on a modern military housing patch, so I am astounded by the number of people who have experienced problems with boilers in their Army quarter recently. On our local Facebook page, 13 families responded to a post complaining about broken boilers. Each of them had been without hot water and heating for days and sometimes even weeks on end in the middle of winter. The problems seem to be continually patched up rather than actually fixed, resulting in repeated call outs and huge frustration for the families.

DIO promised there would be money for upgrades in the coming years and that every MOD property will reach the decent homes standard by 2019. Army families certainly deserve to live in decent homes, so I hope that DIO don’t waste the money this time by building everything on the cheap. Name and address supplied Response from Jayne Smith, DIO Service Delivery Accommodation: A large number of Service homes have received significant funding in recent years, and many families have seen a vast improvement

in their living standards as a result. We are aware there is more we could do to improve SFA, but this is dependent on available funding. The maintenance service contract prioritises repairs based on the nature of the fault – full details are available in your guide to living in SFA booklet. DIO monitors statistics to ensure that our maintenance contractor is meeting its targets. If after checking against the standards families think repairs are taking longer than they should, call the CarillionAmey Helpdesk (0800 707 6000) to check progress.

GET INVOLVED: If you’ve experienced repeated problems with your SFA boiler, please fill out AFF’s survey at aff.org.uk www.armyandyou.co.uk

summer 2015 Army&You 57


POSTBAG

Picture: Cpl Andrew Morris (RAF), MOD/Crown Copyright

HEAR, HEAR!

Penalised by rank THE letter and reply in spring’s Army&You about Longer Separation Allowance (LSA) being taxed did not raise the question of why it is done at the rate of income tax. My husband’s salary is taxed at 40 per cent and so, therefore, is our LSA. During his last tour he received £18.39 per day, reduced to £11.03 after NI and income tax. If the level of LSA paid is dependent on separation time throughout career, how then is it fair that we receive far less than someone on a lower income tax band, who has had similar levels of separation? Those that have promoted further and have moved into a higher wage bracket, receive less money. As was quoted in last issue’s response: “JSP 752 states that the aim of LSA is to support and improve retention by compensating those personnel experiencing separation over and above that compensated for by basic pay’s X-Factor element.” I appreciate the extra £300 a month when my husband is away. It allows the children and me to fill the weekends and holidays with exciting activities that we would otherwise be unable to do. However, it irks me that the majority of the other battalion families receive

an extra £100. Soldiers and families are all experiencing the same support and retention issues, and we should not be penalised through rank. Name and address supplied Response from AFF Employment, Training, Money & Allowances Specialist, Caroline Mayne: Thank you for your question and we absolutely understand your frustrations. However, this is a personal taxation issue rather than a rank or allowance issue. As with salaries in civvy street, allowances and bonuses are usually treated as part of normal taxable income and tax and NICs will be paid on it through PAYE in the usual way. The impact of pay rise due to promotion, in the Forces and in civvy street, inevitably affects personal taxation. But on the positive side, an increase in military salary or allowances will still result in an increase in take-home pay. There are, of course, some allowances that are not taxable. This is assessed using the relevant HMRC legislation. These include Local Overseas Allowance, Food and Incidentals Allowance, Home to Duty Travel, Get You Home Travel and Operational Allowance.

After reading the letter Always look on the bright side of life in spring’s Army&You, I felt compelled to express my agreement with the writer. Having been a military wife for almost 11 years, I have experienced most if not all of what Army life has to throw at you. I now feel that many families feel compelled to accept no personal responsibility for their own lives. The support mechanisms in the Army are fantastic, none of which would be provided in civvy street. I have been lucky to find employment in every posting through hard work and determination. They may not have been the exact jobs I wanted, but you have to make the most of it. My husband is in the AGC (SPS) and we are constantly sent to regiments that have been together for years with firm friendships made, always making us the outsiders. However, I think the military acknowledges this and offers support to bring us together as a community. I think people expect too much from the Army which makes for a more difficult transition to civvy street where everyone has to stand on their own two feet! Name and address supplied

PROS AND CONS I write in response to the person who expressed their dismay over the criticisms and complaints that appear in Postbag. I agree in principle and I do think that: l By nature complaints are more likely to be raised than praise; l Life as an Army spouse, as with all walks of life, has many agreeable and disagreeable elements. Many spouses appear somewhat entitled purely by the nature of their partner’s occupation. I attended a briefing on housing and was shocked at the vitriol when the welfare officer said that rents would be rising once upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms were completed. I have had poor experiences of Army life, particularly in Germany, but on the whole it provides greater levels of support than our civilian counterparts. I appreciate that some newly-wedded people may find the environment difficult, but it’s ridiculous to expect the Army to hold your hand through your life. It’s a job that spouses undertake and the Army should not be looked upon as an additional parent providing money, housing and all-hours support. Maria Williams

GET INVOLVED: We often ask for your opinions on Facebook. Like us at facebook.com/ArmyandYou to have your say.

58 Army&You summer 2015

@ArmyandYou


You can’t change what’s happened but let us help you with your future Divorce and relationship breakdown can happen to anyone, at any age and from any walk of life. Everyone’s experience of divorce is different. Maybe you don’t know what the options are yet, but they are out there. Irwin Mitchell have a wealth of experience of working with Armed Forces personnel and their families. It’s important to understand all the options available to you so that you can make the right choices for you, your family and your future. At Irwin Mitchell, our specialist lawyers are adept at guiding people through divorce, offering a sensitive but no nonsense approach to help you achieve what’s important to you. Irwin Mitchell, standing by you. Contact:

0845 604 4911

www.irwinmitchell.com For a list of our offices visit our website. Irwin Mitchell LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.


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Put the kettle on from 22-28 June and make a big difference to the lives of our Forces and their families.

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At SSAFA we provide lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force, and their families. The Big Brew Up is SSAFA’s biggest fundraising event of the year and it’s really easy to take part. We’re asking you to hold a tea party to raise money for SSAFA and our Forces. Sign up now to receive a fundraising pack with everything you’ll need to make your Big Brew Up a success.

thebigbrewup.org.uk Call 020 7463 9359 Email thebigbrewup@ssafa.org.uk Registered Charity No. 210760 and SC038056, Est.1885. S011.0415

Sponsored by

Army&You Summer 2015  

The Summer issue of Army&You, the official magazine of the Army Families Federation.

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