Army&You - Summer 2023

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Win A luxury one-night hotel break for two, family tickets to The British Motor Show and more inside! Summer 2023 PLUS: COMMUNITY | EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING | EDUCATION & CHILDCARE | FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH HEALTH | MONEY & YOU | OVERSEAS | YOUR FAMILY | YOUR HOME TRADING PLACES Top tips to secure a smoother service move BACK ON TRACK How support can help overcome unexpected bumps in the road Real-life stories of service life DESTINATION DOWN UNDER Meet the family swapping army life for the wilds of Australia’s Northern Territory Highslows CYPRUS CALLING head to the Med
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Anyone who’s lived army life knows that planning for the future isn’t always straightforward. Even when you think you know what’s on the horizon, there’s a good chance a curveball could be thrown your way.

In this edition’s feature Expect the Unexpected on pages 12-14, reporter Jill Misson examines what happens when army life doesn’t quite go to plan. We also chat to the Service Complaints Ombudsman, Mariette Hughes, about her team’s efforts to make the system fairer on page 48, and pay a visit to the Military Corrective Training Centre to find out about disciplinary matters on page 40.

We also take a look at money matters should your relationship break down in Dividing lines army recovery pathway on page 34, and the complexities for Foreign & Commonwealth

soldiers proving their right to work when they leave the army – Battling on, page 30.

If you’re on the move this summer, we answer some of your common questions about removals on page 22 and highlight what you should expect at move-in, page 20.

There are some inspiring stories in Dandelions, our new children’s section, on pages 60-61 and you can win some fantastic prizes, including a fabulous hotel break, in our giveaways on page 63.

This edition will be my last as I’ll be moving on over the summer. It’s been a huge privilege to tell your stories of army life and I’m grateful to everyone who has been a part of the magazine throughout my 12 plus years at AFF. My soldier still has a few years left to serve, so I’ll be looking forward to getting Army&You through the door in the future.

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 3
by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity
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4 | | Army&You Summer 2023 Contents FEATURES 12 The Unexpected Avenues of support for when army life doesn’t go to plan EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING 18 Clued up on cash? Is a job in the finance sector the career for you? YOUR HOME COVER STORY 20 Smoother moves How to master move-in appointments OVERSEAS COVER STORY 24 Mediterranean movers All change as 1 RIFLES swap Chepstow for Cyprus 27 A postcard from… A snapshot of life in the Latvian capital of Riga COMMUNITY 28 Community links Broadening horizons and relationships in Kenya FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH 30 Battling on Why some serving personnel struggle to line up jobs HEALTH COVER STORY 34 Pathway to recovery Exploring the army’s route to returning to work MONEY & YOU 38 Dividing lines What couples should consider on separation 40 Doing time AFF visits the Military Corrective Training Centre YOUR FAMILY COVER STORY 44 Mission possible Swapping defence for a life Down Under 48 Fair play for all A spotlight on the service complaints system EDUCATION & CHILDCARE 50 Putting children first Initiatives providing a voice for service youngsters REGULARS 7 A Word From… AFF Chief Executive Collette Musgrave 9 InfogrAFFics Data on your concerns today about tomorrow 10 AFF in Action Discover the latest news affecting army families 16 Download Newsy snippets about army family life 58 Blogspot COVER STORY You share your experiences of army family life 60 Dandelions For the younger members of your army family 63 Giveaways COVER STORY Win a one-night stay away or action-packed day out 64 Book Club Youngsters tell us what they thought of Silver Linings A glimpse behind the scenes at how and why a spell in ‘Colly’ is far removed from the experience of spending time at ‘His Majesty’s pleasure’ Spotlight 40 64 51 12 28 Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for lots more news and features

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HERE at AFF this summer we’re focusing on the changes that you have to deal with as you move through army life. We’re all used to change – both in our personal lives and the wider world – and dealing with it is a fact of life!

Uncertainty is something that goes hand-in-hand with service life, it’s the nature of the job –our armed forces go wherever they’re needed, sometimes at extremely short notice. For our soldiers, and those who are left behind, the challenge is in managing that uncertainty we all feel when changes come our way.

We know about the stresses

that a deployment can bring and the importance of effective welfare support but there are many different types of change that families face. These might be managing the impact of career planning on family life – something that dual serving families can face additional

pressures with – or dealing with the complexities that can come with an overseas assignment. And for those families facing a relationship breakdown, the related unique army processes can create additional strain.

Therefore, having access to the right information, at the right time, can help us hugely. This is why AFF continues to push for clear and accessible information and guidance on issues ranging from spousal employment overseas to the future of army accommodation.

Understanding what support is available is also key. You told us in our recent survey that many of you were unclear on some of the policies, services

and allowances that could help support you with the impact of army life. We’ve raised this and are working with the army to help communicate the support on offer in an accessible way.

Of course, change isn’t always a challenge and sometimes offers a new opportunity. But whatever changes you face, AFF is here to ensure that you have the advice, guidance and information you need to be able to make an informed decision about how best to manage it for your family.

If you’d like to share your views, please do get in touch, or via A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 7
“Whatever changes you face, AFF is here to ensure that you have the advice, guidance and information you need.”
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of Foreign & Commonwealth enquiries were asking for guidance on visas and citizenship.

TOP 3 areas of transition enquiries: HOUSING MEDICAL DISCHARGE


Army Families Federation statistics


If you have any questions or issues about future postings, transition to civilian life or unexpected changes, get in touch at

TOP 3 areas of family life enquiries:


Army life the future


The data detail on the concerns some of you have today about what’s in store for you tomorrow


“My marriage has broken down and my eviction notice is coming to an end soon. My estranged partner is not helping and I have nothing to help me start over.”

“My partner has been deployed for eight weeks. I’m at home with two young children. I need help, I am really struggling.”


Some of the key issues you asked for advice on between January and March were:

34% of family life enquires were about postings

“My husband has been promoted and is considering a posting overseas, is there any information as this would help us make a more informed decision?”

“I’m feeling incredibly anxious about the prospect of my partner’s discharge. I’m looking for any information on what the process is and whether there is a minimum time they will give to transition.”

“My hubby will be leaving in 2024, currently I’m feeling anxious about the unknown of where we’ll settle. We’ve so many things to consider.”

23% of transition enquires were about medical discharge support

51% of relationship breakdown enquires were about housing issues

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 9 INFOGR



Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, recently organised a study day in Tidworth, which brought together professionals, policymakers and charities to consider the unique needs of army family members with additional needs and/ or disabilities.

Discussions centred on the challenges you may face and the support available to you.

Anna Hutchinson, AFF Education & Childcare Specialist, and Assistant Alison McLeish were on hand to share their knowledge. Carole Rudd, AFF Manager England, was also there to talk about how AFF can support army families.

Guest speaker Lt Col Tony Frank, SO1 Personal Services, commented: “We truly value the relationship with AFF who act as our critical friends and help to develop policies that support our people and their families. Events like this bring together professionals from wide reaching organisations and support the sharing of knowledge and new information. Thank you for your continued efforts.”



Devolved Nations Manager Emma Perrin was a panel member at the Wales Armed Forces Community Conference in Cardiff, which focused on the Armed Forces Covenant over the last 10 years and discussed priorities moving forward. Emma gave examples of how the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant has had an impact on military families, and highlighted areas where disadvantage exists, such as when moving on posting and how this affects healthcare waiting lists, education and spousal employment.

She asked for the continued training of frontline workers so that they can help families from their first contact.



AFF Foreign & Commonwealth Advisor Sarah Drapper spoke to serving F&C personnel from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment about visas and citizenship. The brief included routes to citizenship on completion of service, as well as the visa application process, income requirements and visa costs for family members. One soldier commented: “A really good brief and I left knowing more than I knew before – always a good thing!”

The team also recently visited the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment in Bovington and 12 Regt Royal Artillery in Thorney Island. AFF’s OISC-qualified advisors can do virtual and in-person briefs – get in touch if you would like to organise one in your area


AFF has received enquiries from families on overseas postings who are unsure of how to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) before their current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) expires or how to make a new child application.

We’ve confirmed with the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services Registration Team that you can use the online form at start

At Question 2 their advice is to tick the box to say you are in the UK. As you progress through the application, you will have the opportunity to explain you’re on accompanied overseas service but would otherwise be resident in the UK. You may then have to send proof of your military ID.


The 2023 edition of Welcome to Scotland: A guide for Service personnel and their families has now been published by the Scottish Government.

AFF and the other families federations helped with this latest update – we identified the issues you ask us about in areas such as housing, education, healthcare, employment and training and ensured that they were covered –

10 | | Army&You Summer 2023 AFF IN ACTION


AFF was invited to present at an annual conference in Belgium to outline how we can support the 4,000-strong military community in more than 100 locations across Europe.

Overseas Manager Esther Thomas and European Joint Support Unit (EJSU) Lead Lesley Slater presented at the event at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe to update the heads of locations of the 14 National Support Elements about AFF’s work.

The team also met the welfare team and staff from DIO Europe, Defence Children Services, the HIVE and chatted to families about childcare, employment, access to dental care for boarding school children and student finance.

Esther said: “Overall most families seemed content with life and the opportunities that living in Belgium presents.”


As part of a Scottish Government consultation on higher and further education funding, AFF highlighted that military family members in Scotland can be unfairly disadvantaged when applying for courses.

AFF requested that the Scottish Government:

● provides 16 to 18-year-old dependants of serving UK military personnel in Scotland access to the same further education funding as they would receive if living in England;

● reviews access to funding by allowing military families the opportunity to fairly establish their ‘ordinary residence’ in Scotland based on their length of time there and family connections;

● takes into account the voice of the young person when considering their funding access for further and higher education.

The Scottish Government acknowledged the challenges of the current policy, and agreed to consider the situation for armed forces families further.


The team at Forces Families Jobs has been spreading the word about what it can do for you.

Recently, AFF Employment & Training Specialist Lucy Ritchie joined the SHAPE Britlead Forum to talk about training opportunities available while you’re posted abroad, and preparing for your job hunt when you return to the UK. She highlighted the resources available on FFJ, including all the support organisations that are on hand.

She also presented to the Armed Forces Spouse Development Programme (a free programme run by Warwickshire County Council, aimed at supporting spouses and partners in developing the confidence and skills to join the employment market) about how FFJ could help them in finding a role with a forces friendly employer.



AFF was invited to present to serving personnel at the Army Training Centre Pirbright during a charity brief day at the end of May. Manager England Carole Rudd outlined what AFF does and how we can help service personnel and their families from the start of their military journey, and throughout their future service.


With the other families federations, AFF Policy & Research Director Michelle Alston gave evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee on the Armed Forces Covenant report, sharing the experiences of army families with parliament.

She discussed topics including childcare, dental provision, broadband, housing and support for non-UK families.



AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist Karen Ross recently took part in an NHS meeting in London, which was attended by Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England.

Those present at the Armed Forces Patient Public Voice and Clinical Reference Group meeting outlined key pieces of work on the future of the NHS and what this means for the armed forces community, as well as focusing on female veterans and Op Courage.

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 11

Expect the unexpected

Army life may not always go to plan, but with the right support it’s possible to get back on track. Jill Misson reports…

12 | | Army&You Summer 2023
Nicci Shayler and family

ARMY families learn to manage their expectations. Events are pencilled in with cautious hope. “It can be really frustrating to forward-plan and then have last-minute changes where best-laid plans are disrupted,” says Michelle Alston, AFF Policy & Research Director. Spouses develop resilience but that is a loaded term, explains Michelle: “Whilst it highlights their amazing ability to withstand the frequent change and unpredictability of service life, it can come with an implication that it is their responsibility to cope with this change, rather than be supported with it. Families understand that the needs of the army are important but they want to be supported in dealing with the implications and to be recognised for their role in providing support towards operational effectiveness.”

Nicci Shayler tried to stay strong during an extended deployment. She says: “Our whole army experience has been marred with uncertainty and it has caused stress, anxiety and upset.” Two weeks after she gave birth in 2021, Nicci’s husband deployed to Estonia for six months. She struggled and was diagnosed with postnatal depression: “We ploughed on, counting down the days, then I got a call to say that because of what was happening in Russia and Ukraine, they were extending the tour by three months. It was just the final straw for me and I had a panic attack.”

Nicci approached regimental welfare but felt they lacked compassion.

Calendar considerations

Units communicate their forecast of events to try and mitigate unexpected deployments and wherever possible deployment lengths

are pre-determined. Lt Col Tony Frank, Personnel Directorate, explains: “The army remains ready to respond to escalation and threats worldwide and our commitment must reflect this.

“Deployments are extended on occasion but these decisions are not taken lightly and are made with due consideration to the impact on the service person, their family and the operational effectiveness of the unit.”

X-Factor has been a part of the military salary since 1970 in recognition of turbulence, separation and stress on personal relationships. Lt Col Frank says: “We work hard to ensure the welfare support available at times of deployment is targeted and holistic, whether that be through increased communications, trips for families or help with routine activities.”

problem. A change of plans for one service person will have a direct impact on the other, potentially rendering one of them a single parent for the duration of their assignment. A short-notice deployment or exercise can have a similarly destabilising effect.”

Lisa acknowledges that things have changed for the better since the army updated its welfare policy. Lt Col Frank says: “We recognise the pressures faced by all families but specifically the challenge of dual service for those with dependent children. Whilst the commitment to service remains, the intent is to provide reassurance that due consideration has been given. It is a positive step and one we have already started receiving positive feedback on.”

Heading abroad

to determine whether local resources are adequate to support them, such as additional needs provision or medical treatment. Some locations are deemed unsuitable for children and there are host nation restrictions, which the MOD has to respect, for example regarding single sex families. It’s the exception rather than the rule to go overseas as an unmarried couple.

Relationship breakdown

Sadly not all partnerships last and there is more to consider when a relationship breaks down within an army family – more on page 38. One former spouse told A&Y: “Going through our divorce was hard. We were living married unaccompanied and I had no support or contact from the unit welfare office. I felt like I’d been written off by the army after years of following my husband around the world and supporting his career.”

As soon as Nicci’s husband got home from his extended deployment, he signed off. She says: “He’d missed the first nine months of our son’s life and we never wanted to experience anything like that again.”

Being prepared

Career planning is crucial for dual-serving couples to manage family life. Maj Lisa Brown from the Service Couples Network says: “If a posting preference doesn’t work out, this can be a real

For overseas postings it pays to do your research to avoid the disappointment of being turned down. AFF Overseas Manager Esther Thomas says: “More families are contacting us at an earlier stage before they volunteer for overseas roles but currently there is not enough realistic information easily accessible for them to make an informed choice.

“It’s one of the enduring issues always highlighted in our surveys.”

All family members entitled to accompany the service person have to be medically and educationally screened

AFF is aware of situations where spouses did not know that their partner had officially ended their relationship by changing their personal status category. This action triggers the notice to vacate their SFA. Michelle Alston says: “It’s really important that both partners are included in decisions about next steps when separating. We raised this and policy has been changed to ensure that both partners should be offered an interview with welfare staff or the chain of command, with a record of this signed by both parties before the personal status category can be changed.”

The MOD has recently updated its Separation and divorce guide for military personnel spouses and partners. This online resource includes guidance, information and links to organisations.

AFF has been working with the MOD to provide

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 13
“Our whole army experience has been marred with uncertainty and it has caused stress, anxiety and upset”
Michelle Alston, AFF Policy & Research Director

information to the family courts regarding the nature of service life following concerns from some families that the court potentially misunderstood the impact of being in the army on their ability to have custody of their children.

Ill-health info

You can’t plan for a sudden medical emergency but it’s reassuring to know there is a support system in place. Naomi* was diagnosed with a brain tumour during her husband’s basic training. It came completely out of the blue and it was only a few days from the first signs of a headache to surgery.

She says: “The staff at ATC Pirbright were incredibly supportive. His officer commanding contacted me directly to let me know that they were thinking of me and that I had their full support including getting my husband back home to be with me if needed. We declined but he was allowed to come home at weekends which wouldn’t normally happen. This all helped to alleviate a huge amount of stress.” With another operation coming up, Naomi’s husband has been granted compassionate leave for the time around the surgery.

If your soldier is off work following illness or injury it can be difficult to access information. AFF receives enquiries from families who are unaware of the support that is available to them or the process the serving person must follow – more on page 34.

The Chronic Conditions and Disabilities in Defence (CanDiD) Network aims to empower service personnel, family members and veterans, diagnosed with, or caring for someone with, a chronic condition, impairment or disability. Chair Col Steve Davies says: “In some instances it might just be that someone needs a boost in confidence to raise a concern with their

immediate chain of command, in other instances we can help create lasting connections between individuals facing similar challenges or signpost to expert and authoritative care and advice.”

Col Davies recognises the care demonstrated by the army as an employer: “Operational effectiveness remains a key priority but so too does looking after and supporting our people. For some individuals the continuation of military service may indeed not be the best outcome but for others there are an increasing range

of options to sustain a form of appropriate and effective military service – be it through flexible terms of service or through restricted employment types.”

Disciplinary issues

As we discuss on pages 40-42, soldiers who commit offences against military law could face time in the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC). Common issues include disorderly behaviour, damage to service property and contravention of a standing order. MCTC Welfare Officer Alison Tait encourages families to reach out if this happens: “Get in touch with us, local welfare, your SSAFA rep or AFF, who often contact us to get answers to specific questions and can themselves offer practical support.

“We’re very happy to answer questions about the establishment, what’s on offer and what may happen when someone comes into MCTC as it is very different to the stories

of old. Often there is a lot that we can do to alleviate worries and concerns.”

Quick moves

A short-notice posting may fill you with dread but for Robyn Watson it worked out well. She says: “We were five months into a two-year posting in Northern Ireland when my husband was given the opportunity to post into Colchester. It was stressful only having 45 days to de-register, organise packers, and be allocated a house but we were motivated by the job and to be back on UK mainland after the two postings overseas.

“We moved just before the first lockdown so when some of the restrictions lifted we could meet family and friends which we wouldn’t have been able to do if we had remained in Belfast. The decision to waive our notice period was challenging but the right one for both my husband’s career, my children and our families.”

*name has been changed A

14 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“Operational effectiveness remains a key priority but so too does looking after and supporting our people”
Robyn Watson and family

Open Days



Dual serving couples who want to stay in their quarter when the main licence holder is posted away can do this by swapping their personal status categories.

Designated PStat Cat 1s have the entitlement to Service Family Accommodation (SFA), while the other partner is designated PStat Cat 5s. The accommodation policy team supports continued occupation

of SFA/SSFA in these circumstances, so there should be no need to move if there’s a rank difference. If you’re living in SFA you should notify Pinnacle so that the licence can be updated. If you’re living in SSFA, let Mears know. On an eventual move to a new duty station, housing entitlement will revert to the original licence holder. More at


The army has issued new guidance to help avoid the deployment of dual serving parents at the same time and ensure that the impact of separation for single parents who have parental responsibility is considered by the chain of command. More details on who this applies to, what the new guidance covers and the process for consideration are available in an updated version of AGAI 81.

theatres over the spring. It’s a thrilling and humane portrait of army life, telling the stories of three men and two women serving on and off the frontline –

The Cyprus-based community health team of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, supported mental health awareness week by having a ‘green day’. It was part of a string of events in overseas locations centred on the theme ‘anxiety’. The Mental Health Foundation promotes mental health awareness with the international green ribbon symbol.

Capt Will Matthews took his ten-monthold son George to meet his team at the office – young George is quite a celebrity at the Cadet Training Centre in Frimley!

Cerys and Jamie tied the knot at a stunning venue in North Wales: “It was a beautiful private estate with 100 acres of ancient woodland and grounds, they even had peacocks roaming free which was so gorgeous,” says Cerys. “We are from opposite ends of the country so it was absolutely wonderful to get family in one place to celebrate.”

16 | | Army&You Summer 2023
NEWSY SNIPPETS ABOUT ARMY FAMILY LIFE PHOTO FAVES The cast of 5 SOLDIERS – The Body is The Frontline, an awardwinning dance production created by choreographer Rosie Kay for K2CO, which has been touring


The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has launched a new mobile and web app – Fusiliers Connect.


The SSAFA short breaks scheme has secured funding from Annington for another two years.

The breaks, for serving families who have a child with an additional need or disability, are free and have been supported by the housing firm since 2018. They’re an opportunity for families


Military families across the UK can now take advantage of the government’s wraparound childcare scheme, which aims to help working families offset the cost of before and after-school care during term time.

If you’ve already registered, the way you claim is changing and registrations will be automatically transferred to JPA.

In addition, from the autumn term, claims will be paid at the end of each month with the service person’s salary.

If you have any questions about whether you’re eligible or how to apply, why not speak to the wraparound childcare team, who are holding a Q&A session for serving personnel and families on 12 July from 12.30pm to 1pm. Look out for more information at

Don’t forget that you can also find FAQs on the scheme at

to spend quality time together, try fun adventure activities and to meet other forces families in similar situations.

A number of breaks are held at the Calvert Trust centres in the UK, and this year there are five: two in the Lake District and three on Exmoor. See


Child health and development record the eRedbook will now reach more armed forces families posted overseas.

Launched in 2019 by SSAFA’s Cyprusbased community health team, the scheme is expanding to Sennelager in Germany, Canada, Gibraltar, Brunei and Kenya thanks to a grant from the MOD Armed Forces Families Fund. The grant will enable SSAFA to develop the eRedbook to better support families with children under five and include tailored information for each location, including details of local health visitors.

Families will have access to key contacts, such as domestic abuse helplines, local emergency numbers, welfare and support agencies, and UK support organisations like Mind, Kooth and ICON.

For more information, see ssafa.

The platform supports serving Fusiliers, reservists, veterans, cadet adult volunteers and families. It features a search and connect function and you can message and chat.

Col James Denny, Regimental Secretary, says: “Fusiliers Connect is a new way for the regiment to communicate across our community and we are thrilled to be able to launch this to the wider Fusilier family.”

Further information is at


If you have teenagers who are thinking about their options for post-16 and post-18 education, a handy guide has been produced by Take Your Place in East Anglia.

Finding Your Way: Making post-16 and post-18 choices is a guide for service children and military families that looks at what the options are, how to make the best choice and making an application. Search ‘Finding your way’ at – and there’s more about SCiP Alliance on page 50.


The Ministry of Defence has published a new version of the digital guide to flexible working opportunities for service personnel. Flexible Working and You outlines the options available, including alternative working arrangements such as remote and compressed working and Flexible Service, which offers part-time working or restricted separation.

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 17 Send your pic to or PM on social media @armyandyou

Clued up oncash?

The finance sector offers many opportunities – from banking to bookkeeping, auditing to accountancy, financial planning to tax returns.

Every business and sector needs accountancy and finance professionals, so you could find yourself working anywhere.

There are also a huge range of skills that lend themselves to a successful career in finance. If you enjoy working with numbers and managing money, that’s a great start, but it’s not just about figures – good people skills, an eye for detail, analytical thinking and clear communication can be just as important.


● There are opportunities to work in finance in nearly every business.

● It has openings at every level.

● You stand a good chance of working your way up the ladder.

● Balanced lifestyle – many roles offer a good work life balance and are flexible, this is particularly true if you decide to work for yourself to fit your job around your military lifestyle.

● Job security – it’s a career option that will always be in demand, because finance is fundamental to every business.


● Some roles follow a very routine pattern, with periods of the year involving a heavy workload (think tax returns and year-end finances). You may be able to take your work home, or it could be a case of putting in extra hours at the office.

● Certain roles in the industry could involve years of study and commitment.


Anna Sharlott, left, runs EP Tax, which employs a team of 10, seven of whom are current or former army family members. As the wife of a soldier, she sees it as a great career option: “Due to the nature of our work, we can offer flexible employment. We have been able to attract some highly talented army family members. We are currently working to make all our systems automated and online so we don’t need to

18 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“Due to the nature of our work, we can offer flexible employment. We have been able to attract some highly talented army family members.”
A marvel with money? Fond of figures? If so, the finance sector could be the career for you...
The team at EP Tax

lose valuable members of the team if they have to move away.

“Working in finance is a great career for an army spouse – the work doesn’t need to be done at a particular time or on a particular day, or even at a particular location – working hours can be flexed around periods of ‘single parenting’ or R&R.”

Army spouse Sarah Cooper owns Focus Financial, she says: “Many years ago, it was unfathomable that I could have a successful career as a military spouse, nevermind one that would lead me to the position I’m in today. Being involved in financial services has been life-changing, affirming and rewarding.

“There are many opportunities for a spouse to pursue a career alongside their serving soldier.

“What is needed to thrive within this sector is a thirst for learning and developing; it’s a sector that will continually challenge and drive you.

“I’m extremely fortunate to own a small but thriving business and it’s my greatest privilege to be able to pass these same opportunities to other spouses and watch as they grow into their own.”

Every council across the country has roles in finance, and many are signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant and keen to support military spouses and partners into employment. Victoria Rogers at West Dunbartonshire Council says: “West Dunbartonshire Council is a gold award holder of the Employer Recognition Scheme and has committed to the Armed Forces Covenant by offering employment support and flexible working.

“We offer a range of support for employees whose family members, partners or spouses are serving in the armed forces and offer flexible working from day one.” A

Lots of employers in the financial sector offer return to work programmes or support. Check out

Women Returners for more information

Views from the finance frontline

We meet Sweety and Tarlia, who both work for EP Tax and have found the finance sector a good fit for their lives...

“WORKING in the finance sector has given me flexibility and stability in my work and personal life.

“As a military spouse who moved to the UK from India in 2012, I felt my only option was to work in retail as we moved and changed jobs

“WHEN I met my husband, he was based in Germany and we lived married unaccompanied for eight years as I would have had to put my career on hold if I had gone with him. We have since moved four times in the past six years and as a result I have had long commutes to enable me to progress my career.

Forces Family Finance

“IN finance there used to be a lack of willingness to explore part-time, mobile and remote roles. So I continued to seek positions around the country as my husband’s postings dictated, until one day I decided that enough was enough.

“In 2014, I went selfemployed and created a business model that worked for me and my military family.

regularly. I decided to change my career to the finance sector after my first child was born so that I could work flexibly. I have now completed my Association of Accounting Technicians qualification, become specialised in VAT and property tax and have grown in confidence.

“This sector gives me the opportunity to work from home, part-time, in the evenings or when my husband is away on exercise and I feel I could continue my role if we ever had to move.”

“We were stationed in Germany in 2018 and I was unable to carry on my job there as there were no opportunities.

“I had to make the hard choice to give up my job – my daughter was only seven months old so I opted to put my family first, but this did place my professional aspirations on hold.

“I’m fortunate to now be working for a company which enables me to progress my career as one of the qualified accountants.”

“It may seem normal now, but at the time to use online meeting platforms was an innovative solution to the problem of working with clients and my team remotely.

“It’s now widely accepted that these roles can be conducted away from a traditional workplace, assuming that you have the correct procedures and processes in place. However, it is worth noting that there may be some challenges in conducting an advice role whilst you are living abroad.”

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 19 EMPLOYMENT &

Smoother moves

You will have booked your move-in appointment on the e1132 – if you can’t make it and need to use a proxy, make sure you’re comfortable that they will inspect the house thoroughly for you, as they sign the paperwork on your behalf.

The move-in appointment should take no more than an hour. The Housing Officer (HO) will show you where everything is and how everything works (stop cock, fuse box, heating, cooker etc).

AFF strongly recommends that you print off the move-in standard checklist from and take it with you so that you can tick off all items as acceptable while you go around your new home.

Any faults should be recorded on the

digital move-in form by the HO. Make sure you check that all issues discussed have been recorded before you sign.

Before the HO leaves they should provide the manuals and operating instructions for the boiler and cooker as well as copies of the landlord’s gas safety and electrical inspections.

Your new home should be clean with everything working but from time to time things do go wrong. These are divided into two sections:


Issues which prevent you from moving in, for example a lack of a utility/collapsed ceiling/flooding/faulty heating system (in the winter months or all year if there are vulnerable

members in your family). In this situation you should be provided with alternative accommodation and your belongings will be put into storage for you during this time if necessary.


Issues which mean that the property hasn’t met the move-in standard but don’t prevent you from moving in (for example cleanliness, leaking tap, wobbly door handle etc). The HO will arrange for any habitable faults to be resolved.

If your new home hasn’t met the movein standards, you may be eligible for compensation – you will need to apply for this through the Pinnacle website.

20 | | Army&You Summer 2023
If you’re on the move again this summer, make sure you’re aware of what should happen at your move-in appointment and what to do if anything goes wrong.

Before your HO leaves they should arrange a follow-up visit at the 14-day point. At this appointment any questions you may have or reminders you need (where’s the stop cock?) can be answered and the HO will help you complete the 14-day report.

EDWARD RIGBY, Pinnacle Regional Manager

East, has these tips for your move-in appointment:

“When you arrive at the home, please ensure you check the ID of the staff member carrying out your appointment.”

“Make sure you take a photo of your meter readings for your new supplier. Also check that the heating and hot water systems are working and that the boiler pressure is correct.”

“Your HO will be able to provide you with information such as when the bins are collected and local amenities, but it is always useful to think about any specific questions you may have ahead of the appointment.”

You should keep a copy of this report along with photos of any issues to prevent you being charged on move-out. If you need any repairs done, don’t wait for the 14-day visit but log them to Pinnacle as you usually would.

Contact if you have any issues. A


If you disagree with the band or a garage charge, you can appeal. You can do this within 28 days of:

● Move-in to a new SFA –on any aspect of location, condition or floor area.

● On receipt of a reassessment letter – only for the area which has been reassessed.

● On the introduction of a policy change – from date of implementation of the policy.

There is a two-stage process –the CAAS band letter will give you all the details you need.

1. Stage 1 challenge –within 28 days raise an issue in writing with the reasons you are challenging. An email is acceptable for this. If upheld, the CAAS band change will be backdated to the date you moved in or date of reassessment.

2. Stage 2 appeal –if you aren’t happy with the outcome from stage 1 you have 28 days in which to then raise an appeal to DIO.

Temporary downgrades may be given if there are significant issues of more than seven days but occasionally, if there are four or more occurrences of the same issue (for example a boiler failure) within a 12-month period, a temporary downgrade may also be considered. These need to be requested through the Pinnacle Home Services Centre and will only be actioned once the work has been completed and will only be authorised from the date of first reporting the issue. A maximum of two bands will be given. CAAS reassessment surveys are carried out on a rolling sixyear basis. If you get a letter for an appointment please make sure you confirm or change it if it’s not convenient.

– CAASchallenges@

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 21
All Service Family Accommodation is charged according to the Combined Accommodation Assessment Scheme (CAAS) and you should get a letter with your final banding at move-in.


If you’re new to moving with the military or just need a reminder, read on for answers to some of the common questions on removals.

How do I book removals?

Log on to the Agility portal and follow the instructions. Applications must be validated with a copy of the Assignment Order and then the allocated removals firm will contact the soldier.

Why don’t Agility cover my insurance?

Agility is not permitted by the MOD to sell insurance or to charge the MOD for insurance to cover a service move.

Can’t I just add it to my home insurance?

You can, but ‘contents in transit’ is not bespoke insurance and would result in increased subsequent premiums in the event of a claim. Some insurers will not cover contents while they are in transit, so you should take out bespoke removals insurance.

I’m going overseas, do I need extra insurance?

International removals insurance is vital. It’s important to value your belongings and determine how much they would cost to replace. There are several marine cargo insurance policies available that provide door-to-door coverage.

Why do I have to claim on my insurance if the removals company caused the damage?

The contract for service removals specifies that suppliers are not allowed to charge for insurance cover. Whilst cover is held by suppliers, this is limited and in most cases would be inadequate in the event of a claim. Where a supplier is found to have caused the damage, the costs are claimed by the soldier’s insurer from the supplier’s insurer.

I’m going overseas and need to put belongings in storage, do I need separate insurance?

You are strongly encouraged to have insurance in place before your goods are put in storage. Storage cover is not usually provided as part of a normal house insurance policy, and you should take out separate cover.

Why are removals taking so long to get to overseas postings?

There remain challenges sourcing containers, with port strikes and shipping disruption caused by global events and environmental factors creating delays. Efforts are made to re-route consignments and you should be kept informed.

How far in advance can I book removals for UK and overseas? You can now apply up to six months before an assignment start date.

Why are most surveys now done virtually? They have proven to be reliable and accurate, so they’re now the norm rather than the exception. Plus, it helps to reduce carbon emissions. Manual surveys are still available on request.

Will I be charged if I am over my entitlement?

Yes, you are permitted to move up to 15 per cent volume over entitlement. Costs will be reclaimed through the soldier’s salary as described in JSP 752, Ch 12.

How do I make a complaint?

Families should complete the complaint form on grms-external. and send it to The customer survey form issued by Agility after the move should be used to give feedback in the first instance.

What if I don’t agree with the outcome?

If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of an initial investigation, the matter will be examined by senior management.

22 | | Army&You Summer 2023
Fortunately, all of the employers registered with Forces Families Jobs understand your unique lifestyle. Foorces s ces F Famil Fam iesJo ies Jo Jobs is delivereddbby d a tri a tri-Ser-Servi -ServServvice pa p par ar ce tnership be ip b bet ettween we ween een t en the Nav h al Fam F ilie ilies Federa ederaation NFF), F FF), Army F AFamilies F Fede Fed s r raation tion on t n (AAFFFF) and R nd Royal Air For r r Force Fam ce Families ies es Federation tion on RAFFF)F). Forc . c Forces F es Fam se ilies i Jobs obs bo s a s a pr p aprprodducct od t o of th the Army m Fa Famammili li a es Fed Fe eratioion ( (AAFAFF). A AFFF F is a charhararitabable e incorpo rpo o porated rate or o organisation regis egigisstered tered tere ere in En Eng n England a and and Wa nd Walles wi es w with regi reg stered ed ch charriity ty y number 1176393 and a ch charity regi y reg registered stere in Sc n Scotland otlan with th h regist st r e ered c ed chaharity y b numbe mbe umber SC04 C04 04 r SC0 S 8282 h 8 aving its pr p incipal o ce ce at ID D at L 414, 4 Floor 1, Zoone 6 ne ne 6, R Ram m millies Buildinilding lding g M Marl a borough L h Linees, Mon Monxtxton n R Road, A oad nd ndov ndoover r d SP11 8 8HJ HJ For r joobs b . Fo F r trraiininingng. F Foor r suuccess

Mediterranean movers

AFF’s overseas team regularly supports unit moves between the UK and Cyprus. This summer’s rotation will see 1 RIFLES move to Dhekelia to take over the role of Regional Standby Battalion.

This move is quite unusual as Chepstow has been the home for many 1 RIFLES families since 2007. They’ve enjoyed a long period of stability, meaning a relatively high proportion of families live in their own homes, non-serving spouses and partners have jobs and children are settled in local schools. Facing a period of change has inevitably led to some angst and families weighing up the pros and cons of moving for just a couple of years, also knowing that the unit will unusually return to the same location in the summer of 2025.

AFF has been following the journey of a few 1 RIFLES families for almost a year. Support started back in October when Esther Thomas, our Overseas Manager and Claire Hallam, Money & Allowances Specialist, gave a virtual presentation. This highlighted areas to consider and encouraged families to start the supportability process early to ensure they had the best experience when overseas.


We caught up with some families a few

months ago to hear how they were feeling about the move. We found that many felt overwhelmed with the level of paperwork and one family told us: “We had conflicting advice from different agencies, even removals teams have said different things about boxing up and allowances. It has been hard to keep up at times.”

Others were more optimistic about the move ahead. “We are looking forward to it as it’s going to be an experience for the kids,” said one mum. “One of my daughters has already started using Postit notes to decide what is going and what is being put in storage!”


For some families, leaving behind the remoteness of Beachley is a plus: “There is nothing close by for us, we are so isolated here. I cannot wait for the sunshine and activities that Cyprus has to offer – the kids are going to have so many opportunities out there.”


Unit Welfare Officer Capt Dave Dimmock

Jessica and Shawn Gamble [pictured] were happy to find a balance with their move: “The downside is the distance and the longer separation from grandparents and other close family members, but the advantages are the outstanding education that is available. It’s an amazing chance to further their education with small class sizes. As a family we’re keen to take advantage of water sports, a different lifestyle and the culture of Cyprus.”


If you have any concerns or questions regarding an upcoming overseas posting contact us at overseassupport@

24 | | Army&You Summer 2023 OVERSEAS
1 RIFLES leaving parade through Chepstow, during which Royal Colonel HRH The Duke of Kent took the salute – a fitting way to mark the unit’s departure and an opportunity to show their appreciation to the local community. The Gamble family

has been difficult: “The unit has been constantly busy with exercises in Kenya, helping with the Ukraine effort and people away on courses. Trying to arrange a recce early on had proven difficult due to spouses’ work commitments, childcare issues or the serving person being away.”

Nonetheless, in April a small group were able to visit Dhekelia and reported back to others on what family life was going to be like on the island. One of the party, Jon Quinn, said: “Managing the single parent role previously whilst my wife was on a six-month UN tour was one of the major factors. We have decided to go as a family unit with our young son this time. Partner recces are a must!

Two of the party were sceptical of the move but by the end of day two they had fully come around to the idea.”


Whilst there are a number of families who have decided not to accompany their serving partner overseas for various reasons, welfare resources will continue to support them and help them stay connected. The number of welfare houses in Dhekelia will increase significantly which will be a great option for those married unaccompanied. A

Travelling solo with kids

Border Force Officers have a duty to safeguard the welfare of kids travelling, and may ask for evidence that you have a genuine and legal link with a child.

You must have the permission of everyone with parental responsibility before travelling. If your child has a different surname to you, then you’re likely to be asked about your relationship. In these situations, carrying a copy of their birth certificate, and any relevant marriage or divorce certificates will help to resolve any queries.


If a child is travelling with only one parent, which might be the case if you’re going to or from an overseas posting for a trip home, or for a school visit, you may be asked to prove that you have parental permission. According to, a letter of consent, specific to that particular journey, from the person with parental responsibility is usually enough, although you may be asked for evidence of your relationship.

A letter should also be carried if your child is travelling with a guardian, or if they are travelling alone. It’s a good idea to check with your airline for any other requirements, such as a guardian remaining at the airport until the flight has taken off.

If you aren’t able to get permission from another person with parental responsibility

then you’ll need to apply to a court for permission, and should seek legal advice.

Rev (Maj) Gary Birch, chaplain to 1 Royal Anglian, and Dhekelia Station in Cyprus, shared his family’s recent experience with us: “My wife was travelling back to the UK with our daughter, I had seen comments on community chat groups talking about permissions needed when a single parent travels with a child, so I prepared a dated letter with the stamp of my office, including all of our names, and stated the purpose of the visit and that they had my permission.

“My wife was asked at the airport why she was leaving Cyprus with our daughter alone, and was able to show them the letter, which they were happy with. She had travelled solo with our children before and wasn’t asked, but I would recommend having a letter, just in case.”

More information can be found at

If you have any experience that you would like to share with us, get in touch at A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 25 OVERSEAS
When travelling abroad with children, different countries and airline companies have their own rules, so it’s worth doing some research before you go...
26 | | Army&You Summer 2023 GREAT OFFERS for the Armed Forces community Register now at ©UK MOD Crown Copyright 2023 We are Defence Discount Service. If you’re a member of the Armed Forces, a partner, spouse, or a veteran, we’re here for you with savings and support

Riga, Latvia

A postcard from...

How long have you been an army family? Paul and I met in 2008 and we got married at Larkhill’s Garrison Church in 2011.

Time in Latvia? We are coming to the end of our two-year posting. As we moved during lockdown in March 2021, the first year was isolating. Since the COVID-19 rules have lifted, we have travelled all around Latvia and its neighbouring Baltic states; it has been an adventure!

How many other military families live there? There are only a handful of British military families, so we lean on each other for support.

Our wider friendship group includes Canadian military families from the NATO headquarters.

What’s your quarter like? There is no army housing, so we live in privately rented accommodation. We have a lovely spacious apartment in Riga. We miss having a garden, but there are plenty of local parks.

Are there any employment/ training opportunities? There are no employment opportunities, although you can volunteer with local charities. I have taken this time to study with the Open University. Remote learning has worked well as it’s given me the flexibility to work around childcare.

What about schools/ childcare? The international schools are outside the city. Our children attend King’s

College, which follows the British curriculum. The children have Latvian language lessons as part of their weekly timetable.

Where do army families get together and who supports you? Our welfare unit is based in Belgium, so we organise our own social gatherings. There is an international women’s group and we have also attended events hosted by the British Embassy such as the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

How do you find the cost of living there? The cost of food in supermarkets is expensive and limited, so you must shop wisely. Local Overseas Allowance helps, and seasonal fruit and vegetables can be cheaper at the central market. Art galleries, museums and public transport

are reasonably priced, plus Latvia has some wonderful beaches.

What are the best and worst things about living there? The driving is a bit unpredictable, especially during the winter and the language barrier can be hard. The best thing about living here is the travel as Riga airport is only 20 minutes outside of the city.

Would you recommend it as a family posting? If you can adapt to colder climates and have a sense of adventure, then absolutely! The winters are long, but the snow is a highlight. The kids enjoy sledging and building ice forts on the beach! A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 27
Kylie, Paul (serving), William (10) and Orla (6)
Want to share yourexperiencesof armyfamilylife? Get in touch byemailing

Community links

BATUK conducts projects which aim to develop connections with the local population.

Whether it’s a donation of clothes or digging boreholes, the goal is to help each other and discover new ways of tackling tasks in different climates.


The reach of BATUK extends beyond the camp into counties such as Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Nairobi. The team partners with local experts or uses small specialised groups from the army working alongside Kenyan companies.

Some of the key projects

are renovations. These aim to improve the functionality and productivity of existing infrastructure such as boreholes that are pumping significantly less than expected or repairing vandalism to storage tanks or solar panels.

Construction forms a significant part of the outreach projects

and these include sand dams, boreholes, solar sails and water harvesters. For example, a shaded area was recently built outside Nanyuki library for reading and study.


Donations to the community can range from pens and books to furniture. A recent large donation of desks was given to Kimanjo Primary School in Laikipia North – this helped to reduce the amount of students crowded around a single desk (from five to three) and also improved the learning environment by reducing distractions and giving each student room to work.

Sieku Primary School was given a donation of uniforms,

sports equipment and whiteboards from the families of BATUK personnel.


A community borehole in Rapunye was a recent renovation project. It had not been working for a long time which meant that the community was having to walk further to get water. The borehole was converted to solar power – ideal and efficient in a sunny climate. Now fully functional, the community are able get water for themselves and their livestock.


Volunteering is a great way to spend your time while overseas. Olivia Grace is a

28 | | Army&You Summer 2023
AFF Overseas Assistant, Abi Hamilton, spoke to WO1 (SMI) Paul Nelson about how British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) works with the local community... Olivia Grace

registered nurse who put her skills to good use.

“Like many spouses, I found that my career was put on hold to take up an overseas posting.

“Our arrival in BATUK was filled with new sights, colours and sounds, but also with evidence of poverty and health inequalities on a scale that I had never witnessed before.

“I became fascinated with the challenges my new community faced and began to question if there was a way I could help. I reached out to the local referral hospital with the aid of the medical officer and began volunteering in their accident and emergency department.

“On my first day in Nanyuki A&E a Samburu warrior was brought in with a dislocated right shoulder and deep lacerations

to his arm requiring stitches. I was told that he had been bitten by a lion.

“It was then that I became aware of the learning opportunities this placement could offer me, building on my current healthcare portfolio with new illnesses, treatments, and language.

“Integrating within my local community and volunteering has defined my time and memories of living in Kenya. Finding purpose in the everyday has allowed me to focus on nurturing those skills and given me an insight into the ways that the British military can support communities overseas.

“Do seek out the opportunity to volunteer, for the benefit of the community and the chance to be inspired.” A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 29 COMMUNITY
Clockwise from above left: Water harvesting, mattress donations, book donations, Olivia Grace and colleague. Main image opposite: Bridge construction.



Essentially because they don’t have a biometric residence permit (BRP). Whilst employers should accept the exempt stamp as evidence of the right to work, many of them are unaware of this. There is also a simple online check for confirming that exempt stamps can be accepted but employers don’t often seem to use it.


Employers could accept your exempt stamp as a continuous statutory excuse, meaning they are not required to check your status again, but clearly if they know you are due to discharge then they will want to know what status you will have.

If you have submitted an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) before your date of discharge then in theory you should be covered by something called 3C leave, but in practice this doesn’t happen for soldiers.


3C leave is granted to anyone who makes a valid in-time application to remain (i.e. before their current visa expires). This extends the person’s existing leave and the conditions attached to that leave, to enable them to continue working, claiming benefits etc.

However, service personnel are granted leave ‘outside the immigration rules’ on discharge, regardless of whether an in-time application to remain in the UK was made or not. This leave does not allow them to work or claim benefits. This represents a significant disadvantage as they are unable to get a job until they have received their ILR BRP.

The justification for this is that there is no guarantee that a service person will be eligible for ILR on discharge, which can feel disrespectful for soldiers who may have served a full exemplary career.

Civilians on a skilled worker route or the EU Settlement Scheme route who are extending their leave may not be eligible for a visa either, but they are still able to prove their right to work whilst waiting for the decision to be made.


We have been approached by soldiers who have served a full career of more than 20 years who are unable to organise employment in advance of their ILR being granted. Not being able to have a job lined up means they are unable to have a successful transition.

Chitra Gurung submitted his application for ILR after a full career. He was one of a recent group of Gurkhas on discharge whose grants of ILR were delayed due to a Home Office backlog.

He contacted us for help. “I have tried a few companies for jobs but they are not satisfied and have asked me to wait,” says Chitra. “I wish we had the ILR at least three months before retirement so that we can have some job experience opportunities during the resettlement period and be prepared to face the civilian world. I hope things

30 | | Army&You Summer 2023 FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH
As well as all the other challenges that leaving the army brings, non-UK serving personnel have the extra complication of proving to potential employers that they have a right to work in the UK.
AFF F&C Specialist Katherine Houlston explains why many serving personnel are struggling to line up jobs before discharge.
Chitra Gurung
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will change and future


AFF has now raised this issue to the MOD and has asked that it is included in its non-UK action plan to ensure that both the MOD and Home Office consider how this issue could be resolved.


No, if you’re the partner of a serving person, your visa under Appendix Armed Forces will remain valid even if the soldier discharges. You remain on that visa until you are eligible to apply for ILR. This is covered in para 20A of Appendix Armed Forces

Unfortunately this particular rule isn’t well understood by many immigration solicitors or advisors and spouses have been incorrectly advised to switch visas.

Emily Thomas was incorrectly advised that she had been an overstayer for three years because she should have switched her visa when her husband discharged in 2020.

She says: “At one point they told me I would be required to leave the UK. They told me that I would have to pay back the fees for using the NHS and even said that I shouldn’t attend my hospital appointment for the scan I


If you need help with proving your right to work on discharge or need visa advice, contact

needed for my heart condition.

“Honestly, it’s been the worst month of my life, I thought I was going to be deported.”

Thankfully Emily contacted us and we were able to reassure her that she was in the UK legally. She has now been granted ILR. A

32 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“At one point they told me I would be required to leave the UK. They told me that I would have to pay back the fees for using the NHS”
retiring Gurkhas don’t have to face the same anxiety and humiliation we have faced.”
Emily Thomas and partner
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Pathway to recovery

AFF receives regular enquiries from families where the serving person is on recovery duty. Some are unaware of the support that’s available or the process that the soldier has to follow. Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, spoke to one family about their experiences…

*Melanie’s husband was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2021. Whilst he was waiting for support from one of the military’s departments of community mental health (DCMH), he was medically downgraded and prescribed medication, but initially continued to work. However, a few months later he was put on the WISMIS (wounded injured sick management information system) list and, as Melanie describes, “he then remained at home with very little contact with the outside world. I cared for him the best I could but the process had implications on my physical and mental health too.”

Family members who contact AFF with caring responsibilities similar to Melanie’s often speak of the lack of support they receive and how their spouse’s health can impact on their own wellbeing.

Melanie told us that her daughter’s school offered emotional literacy support assistant sessions and said that her husband received therapy sessions at DCMH once a week. “During this time I wasn’t really offered support, although the nurse did call me to let me know how his sessions were going,” she says. “On one occasion they sent links about posttraumatic stress disorder for me to read.”

sent several queries and was later invited to a session with the psychiatrist when the discussion had turned to medical discharge. If I did call I had to have my husband’s permission first before they told me.”

Her husband was medically discharged this year. “He has now left the army and we are not receiving any support. We are still struggling to secure housing. It would be great if there was a hub which was a onestop-shop for all queries and support.

Often families aren’t aware of the treatment plan as there are issues with patient confidentiality. Melanie says: “I

Due to his busy schedule, the assigned PRO (personnel recovery officer) didn’t always carry out the fortnightly check-ins and Melanie wasn’t given his details. She felt that her husband’s recovery pathway wasn’t well explained. She adds: “There were a huge amount of unknowns and we relied on serving friends in welfare to help us. When you are struggling with your mental health, not knowing is not a good place to be in.”

“Tedworth House, for example, could be used for art courses, sporting events and relaxing spaces/respite for families. Just because our spouse is receiving treatment doesn’t mean the world stops spinning and we still have to carry on with everyday life, children, work, household tasks etc. Having nice things to look forward to or focus on would have really helped in what’s felt like a very lonely and dark time.”

*Name has been changed A

34 | | Army&You Summer 2023 HEALTH
“When you are struggling with your mental health, not knowing is not a good place to be in.”
AGAI 99, the army policy covering personnel on recovery duty, was updated in January – the title was changed to ‘Command and Care of Serving Personnel on Recovery Duty’. The term wounded, injured and sick (WIS) was also changed to personnel on recovery duty (PRD).


The recovery pathway follows the process from injury and/or diagnosis to return to work, or if that’s not possible, to medical discharge or retirement.

● The clinical chain of command (e.g. medical officers) and parent unit have initial responsibility to start the recovery journey of any serving person declared on ‘recovery duty’ in accordance with AGAI 99.

● If the injury, illness or condition is going to last for longer than 14 days they are entered onto WISMIS by their chain of command.

● A trained recovery officer is allocated and a face-to-face visit should take place by day 21. Healthcare is provided by both Defence Medical Services (DMS) and the NHS.

● They will be assessed regularly through a formal review with their chain of command every 28 days. Each serving person will be given an individual recovery plan (IRP).

● If the soldier needs more than 28 days to recover, they will be graded temporarily non-effective (TNE) and after this, but by day 70, units must apply to the Army Recovery Capability Assignment Board for consideration of an assignment to the closest Personnel Recovery Unit (PRU). If selected, they will be reassigned to a PRU with a dedicated PRO for recovery support


A mixture of mandatory and vocational activities are available – delivered both face-to-face and virtually depending on the PRD’s clinical needs. There is a wide ranging Vocational Activities Programme which includes tasks and skills designed to engage the mind, body and spirit to help accelerate their recovery. Personnel don’t have to be assigned to a PRU to access any of these courses and some include family participation.


Karen spoke to WO2 Calum Dignan about his role as a PRO. He explains: “Our main aim is the recovery of service personnel on PRD, and it’s recognised that the family are a critical component of this.”

The PRO does a handover/takeover with the soldier’s parent unit and then arranges an initial interview and home visit. “In my opinion it’s always better if the spouse or partner can be present too,” says Calum. “Subsequent visits will then be arranged with a minimum of 14 days between each.”

At the initial visit, all the administration is completed, including getting the serving person’s consent for any discussion with a family member of their medical or welfare needs. “If the service person is under a PRU, the PRU becomes their welfare support. They are given the PRO’s contact details and also informed that there is 24-hour support available via an out-of-hours phone service,” adds Calum.


One of the other main objectives of the unit or PRU recovery officer is to support the service person’s road to recovery. They can provide transport for medical appointments or ensure families can claim back the correct allowances.

Calum was asked what procedures are in place for those soldiers or family members who aren’t happy about the care or support they receive. He says:

“The PRUs have senior case managers who link into the chain of command and you are able to raise any issues with them. There is also the opportunity to give feedback at the end of their recovery journey.” The secondary role of a PRU is also to support and advise units managing their own PRD in recovery.

“If transitioning, once the family knows where they are going to live, the service person could be either given a ‘Unit Assist’ by a PRU or another unit closer to their new home for continuity of recovery support. They can still remain in contact with their current unit,” explains Calum.

“The PROs continue to support all service personnel for up to three months after they leave. Where there are ongoing welfare needs post discharge, PRD and their families can be referred to Veterans UK via if they continue to struggle or have ongoing family needs that require support.”

For a full list of organisations that may be able to support you, scan the QR code right. A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 35


Now in it’s 24th year, SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity’s adoption service – has already helped dozens of people create loving families.

It’s a professional, but friendly, registered adoption agency that champions equality and inclusion, and welcomes applications from all members of the serving armed forces community.

SSAFA fully understands the complexities of service life and supports people through postings and deployments, ensuring that prospective adoptive parents do not have to start the process again if they have to move.

Because of its dedicated post-adoption support service, expert practitioners are there for the whole life of a family’s adoption journey, and while it follows the path of civilian adoption services, it is, crucially, set up for the military.

The service covers the whole of the UK and also provides advice to serving personnel based abroad – although placements can only be made with those currently living in the UK.

To learn more about what support is available, search ‘adoption’ at A

Our journey

When they first met, John was in the Royal Welsh, Fiona was with the Royal Artillery and both were instructors at Bovington in Dorset.

“We were together just shy of two years when we started talking about making a family,” says John.

Fiona adds: “I’m from a big family and you think it’s a no brainer, that when a couple meet, you start a family and it’s really easy to do. And nothing’s happening! IVF was very expensive and it wasn’t working. So that’s when we said enough is enough.

“We didn’t want to financially break ourselves any more because we wanted to be able to afford to make memories with our children,” she says. “Adoption was the only route left open to us.

“SSAFA was the natural choice because we were both serving. By the time we made the initial call a lot of emotional heartbreak had already been fought through.”

John remembers the anticipation of sitting in the car outside the foster carer’s house, waiting to meet their boys for the first time.

“All the emotions were building up,” he says. “The first time it was only an hour, and we’re like, ‘what if they don’t like us?’, ‘what if they don’t come to us?’.

“But as we walked down the drive, they were sitting in the porch and... the smiles on these two kids,” recalls John. “They were absolutely beaming, jumping up and down and bouncing! It was fantastic!”

Fiona says: “It was absolutely magical. To this day, they still remember exactly what we were wearing, my blouse and shoes, John’s shirt: ‘Mum, do you remember when we first met, you wore those shoes and you were wearing a perfume!”

On 25 June 2014 – Armed Forces Day – the boys came to live with John and Fiona. “For anyone in the armed forces thinking of adopting, SSAFA understands the jobs that you do,” John says. “Wherever we were, they would always support us.”

“Armed Forces Day marks a homecoming for us as a family,” says Fiona. “SSAFA will always have a massive place in our hearts, because they’ve made our dreams come true!” A

36 | | Army&You Summer 2023
Fiona and John Hookway’s adoption story...

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Army&You Summer 2023 | | 37
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Dividing lines

If your relationship ends, you’ll need to consider how to divide your money and assets, and find out what financial help you may be eligible for during this difficult time.

AFF Money & Allowances Specialist, Claire Hallam, looks into your options…

Your first question may be ‘what financial support will I be eligible for?’ It’s wise to check what benefits you can claim first, you can use the government calculators via

Input all your details to find out what you may be eligible for depending on your circumstances. An advance of Universal Credit (UC) may be available if you need financial support until your first payment.


There are some barriers for non-serving partners, however. If you remain in a quarter after the 93 days’ notice to vacate, you would not be able to claim the housing costs element of UC.

Whilst UC can be claimed when you’re posted overseas, it’s only as a joint claim with a serving person. Therefore, non-serving spouses whose relationship breaks down can’t start a claim separately whilst waiting to return to the UK, which can have a significant impact.

We’ve raised both of these issues with the MOD and Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). The MOD is working to resolve the issue of UC housing costs, and we’re waiting for a response from

DWP on separation overseas. We continue to highlight the severe financial disadvantage in these areas. Your evidence helps us, so contact if you’ve been affected.


If you’re living in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) as the non-serving spouse, removals are generally paid from the duty station to where you’ll live after separation, but not for those of you separating from a long-term relationship. If you’re serving, and continue to be entitled to SFA when you change your PStat Cat but are still required to move, you may also be eligible for removals.

Parents need to work out costs for children – the child maintenance calculator is a useful tool which shows the amount the government would calculate for you. You can come to a private agreement or use the child maintenance service (CMS) – more at – for which there may be fees.

38 | | Army&You Summer 2023 MONEY & YOU
If you can’t agree how to separate your finances, then mediation may be an option to help you come to a compromise.
Image: Liza Summer for Pexels.


Separating your finances on divorce will be individual to each couple. It will include looking at all of your assets like property, savings and pensions, and agreeing how to separate them and make a legal arrangement.

If you can’t agree how to separate your finances, then mediation may be an option to help you come to a compromise. If you’re not able to come to an agreement, then you can ask a court to make a decision for you.

For an armed forces pension, getting a Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV) from Veterans UK is the first step to find out what it’s worth. Veterans UK is part of the MOD and administers the Armed Forces Pension Scheme – you can find useful information at its divorce section by searching ‘armed forces pensions’ at

Once you have the CETV it may be best to seek professional legal or financial advice from someone with knowledge of armed forces pension schemes to understand your rights and


Advice Now online guides on pensions, finances, and mediation

Money Advice Plus

If you need support for domestic financial abuse Tel: 08081 968845

Surviving Economic Abuse

The Law Society

Forces Pension Society

entitlements and the best way to share the pension, based on your circumstances.

The ‘pro search’ function at The Law Society will filter your location for solicitors that specialise in armed forces pensions. If you’re a member of the Forces Pension Society, they may be able to help. Whether you can get legal

aid to support with your costs may depend on where you live, as the rules are different across the UK. It may also depend on how much you earn, whether you’re on benefits or if you have been a victim of domestic abuse. To find out more, search ‘How to pay legal fees on divorce’ at A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 39
Image: Alaur Rahman for Pexels. Image: Alena Darmel for Pexels.

Doing time

A spell in ‘Colly’ will no doubt have a significant impact on both service and family life. Personnel from all three services could face time at the Military Corrective Training Centre for offences that carry sentences of anything from 14 days to two years. Whether or not they’re able to continue their career following their detention, it’s bound to be a worrying time for everyone. We paid a visit to the MCTC in Colchester, to find out more…

WHEN you go behind the wire, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just like any other camp. Yes, there are stricter protocols, but the surroundings appear familiar and there’s a sense of positivity.

The focus is on rehabilitation, preparing detainees to return to their unit, or getting them ready for civilian life. There’s a reason why the reoffending rate is less than ten per cent, far lower than in state prisons.

How does the process work?

There are three grounds on which personnel can end up here, as MCTC Welfare Officer Alison Tait explains: “There’s court martial from which you can be sent here and then potentially soldier on or be discharged. Or court martial where you can be sent to a civilian prison and you come here first to effectively leave the service. Or you can have a summary hearing from your

commanding officer, who looks at what you’ve done and makes a decision as to how many days you can be sent here for, within their legal remit.”

Detainees are split into A Company, for those staying in, and D Company for those discharging from the services when their sentence is complete. They’re normally housed in two separate wings, with communal areas in between, but with low numbers at the time of writing, they’re all in together.

What about families?

Alison says the biggest shock for families is when the soldier isn’t expecting to do time. “Perhaps they’re up

to see the CO and think they’re just going to get a few extra duties and then all of a sudden the CO says ‘you’ve got 30 days in MCTC’. Even if they’re going to a court martial, some will believe they’ll only end up with a community order – and that’s the impression they give their family.

“From the moment the court martial sentence happens, they are brought here. There’s no going home to your family first.”

Sometimes personnel, particularly younger ones, will try to play down the situation and tell their families they’re just away on duty. “When they get here we ask which family member they get on with the best, so they have someone to contact, because it’s miserable unless you’ve got someone to ring or have a Skype call with,” adds Alison.

Visits and contact

It’s the unit’s responsibility to check that the family is being supported, but the system isn’t perfect and sometimes people fall through the net. “I’ve called some welfare officers who haven’t even been informed by their chain of command that one of their soldiers is doing 28 days at MCTC,” says Alison.

“They might have thought that it’s a single soldier with no issues, but we’ve had a scenario where someone was going home every weekend to fill the fridge, do the washing and make five packed lunches for their two younger brothers because their parents were unable to – in effect, a weekend carer. These are things that welfare might not be aware of.”

Personnel have their pay stopped on arrival and whether

40 | | Army&You Summer 2023

or not you have other income, it’s a real blow to suddenly be without one salary. A Family Maintenance Grant covers the cost of Service Family Accommodation while the soldier is in detention and there is also an element which may support the non-serving spouse whilst waiting for a benefits decision or if unable to access benefits, for example if overseas. Families in their own home should receive support from the unit on how to manage finances. Charities such as SSAFA and The Royal British Legion may also be able to help.

Alison and her team make the detainees’ family considerations a priority on arrival. She says: “On the second day we go through the whole HARDFACTS [health, accommodation,

relocation, drugs and alcohol, finances, attitudes, thinking and behaviour, children and families, training and support]. Who are your dependents? Who’s missing you? Where do they get money from? Who puts food on the table?

“Picture all the standing orders and direct debits on your bank statement and just imagine that your pay that month doesn’t happen, it can be very worrying. We sit with them and go through all those responsibilities.”

Emotional wellbeing

The children’s charity Barnado’s works closely with MCTC and meets every detainee who has parental responsibilities, including those who are estranged from their partner and have limited contact with their children. They offer

support to families, wherever they are based, with tailormade resources for parents and schools to give children emotional support.

There’s a comfortable play area for family visits, with plenty of toys for little ones, and since introducing video calls during the pandemic, families can now visit virtually, which has proved invaluable during the current cost of living crisis, where travel to Colchester can be too expensive for some.

Mental, emotional and

physical wellbeing is a priority. The welfare staff ensure that detainees have access to counselling for drug and alcohol addiction, bereavement, emotional and anger management issues.

The chaplaincy is also on hand, with faith leaders from all major religions.

For Foreign & Commonwealth personnel, Alison links in with AFF’s F&C team. “AFF is always quick to respond and able to provide expert information and guidance on a subject that few others have the knowledge to advise on,” she explains.

Next steps

Those returning to unit are taken through a 16-week military training programme to give them all the military skills they need to go back to

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 41
Opposite page main image: At the smallholding (Scripture Reader Gavin Dickson, Senior Education Officer Sarah Brown, Welfare Officer Alison Tait and Farm Manager Pete Phillips). Clockwise: The welding workshop, church with art activities, Fudge the goat and friends at the smallholding and Sgt Hamish Newbatt with sniffer dog Sefer.
There’s a reason why the reoffending rate is less than ten per cent, far lower than in state prisons.

their roles. Cpl James Wright, Military Training Wing, says: “It’s skills they go through in basic training and we just refine them to a high standard. There’s no rank structure here so they all do the same training. They are natural leaders in many cases, so some do find it hard to adjust, but others are a great help.”

Life on the outside

If discharge is on the horizon, the education and training wing ensures that detainees are as well prepared as possible. There are classrooms, a library and an IT suite where they can go every day to work towards qualifications. Senior Education Officer Sarah Brown showed us around: “We do an employability skills level 2 qualification – as a minimum that’s what we want them to leave with. We base the coursework on what industry

they want to go into, tailor their CV and run mock interviews.”

There are also connections with local colleges and government-funded courses to get stuck into for those who are in for long enough. “There are so many, we’ve had people do anything from web design to barbering,” adds Sarah.

For more vocational qualifications, there are workshops for welding, forklift truck operation or mechanics, plus basic construction courses, with City & Guilds qualifications on offer. Some have managed to build entire bathrooms under the guidance of Construction Skills Instructor Colin Pethick: “Long termers do projects – I give them the plans and they have to do everything including electrics and plumbing. They come here in the morning like a normal working day.”

Connecting with nature

At the back of the camp is a smallholding with goats, pigs and chickens, as well as a vegetable garden and beehives. It offers a sanctuary to be around nature and kept busy with odd jobs that are

always needed, and it’s under constant development thanks to the passion and dedication of former soldier turned farm manager Pete Phillips. “Detainees can come over here and do basic farming, bits of carpentry, animal welfare and just general hands-on stuff,” he says. “There’s lots of potential here and we’re trying to improve it bit by bit.”

The establishment was given a good report last year by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, which headlined its priorities on education and care. Cpl Wright summed up the approach:

“I don’t think it’s because of one particular method that we employ, it’s a case of the multiple things we do here that come together and help people make the right choices.”

To find out more, search MCTC at A

42 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“We do an employability skills level 2 qualification –as a minimum that’s what we want them to leave with. We base the coursework on what industry they want to go into, tailor their CV and run mock interviews.”
Clockwise from above: Senior Education Officer Sarah Brown, the library, smallholding, play area and MCTC entrance.

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Leaving the army is a life-changing event no matter where you’ve chosen to settle. But few will experience a seismic shift like the Brown family, who have swapped military life for the harsh landscape of Australia’s Northern Territory...

Mission possible

Ben, a former army pilot, his wife Esther and their two sons Barnabus, aged four and Reuben, aged one, have left Hampshire to take up an assignment with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They’re living with the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land in some of the remotest regions of the country.

MAF is the world’s largest humanitarian air service. It operates a fleet of Cessna aircraft to bring medical help, relief services and

development to isolated communities of native Yolngu people.


Having joined the army in 2008 and been involved in operations in Afghanistan, Jordan and the USA, Ben says he enjoyed his time in the military but always knew he wanted to use his aviation skills for a humanitarian cause. “MAF flies in some of the most hostile and challenging scenarios in the world and they are serving

people who, without an air service, wouldn’t receive the care and facilities they need,” he explains.

Wildlife artist Esther first came across MAF while volunteering for a Christian charity in South Africa many years ago. She admits she’s following her dream to live overseas and work for a humanitarian organisation. “The remoteness of Arnhem Land is interesting but it’s a remarkable opportunity to serve the Yolngu people. MAF has a day-to-day

impact on people’s lives – it’s been great to meet the rest of the team and settle in, we’re already having an amazing adventure!”


With two young boys in tow, Esther felt a little nervous ahead of their move about the dangerous creatures they might meet. The area is notorious for saltwater crocodiles, poisonous snakes, spiders and jellyfish. “I’ve told the boys that although the

44 | | Army&You Summer 2023

water is beautiful, you cannot swim in it,” adds Esther. “It’s hot, humid and remote, but we’ve wanted to serve abroad with MAF for a long time and have been excited for this opportunity.”

Underlying the Browns’ move is a strong Christian faith and Esther believes it’s their calling: “For us, never has our faith been so strong, and we are having to trust in God.”

You can find out more about MAF at A

Smoothing the way in Scotland

Susie Hamilton is the Scottish Veterans Commissioner, and her role is to improve outcomes for veterans and their families in Scotland, championing the challenges they face and influencing policymakers to address any changes that are needed to improve devolved public services. We caught up with Susie to find out more about her job…


I took up the role in August last year. Having served in the Royal Navy and worked with veterans in the third sector, I’m well-tuned to the unique needs of veterans and their families and I’m passionate about ensuring these are met.


I want to see all veterans and their families equipped to thrive, with a positive transition period and a successful integration into wider society. They should have timely access to appropriate support and services, no matter where in Scotland they live.


My work spans a range of areas, including health and wellbeing, housing and employability, and a key focus is

making sure support is in place during the transition to civilian life.

I know that veterans’ family members can sometimes be overlooked, and that the challenges they face are not always widely understood in the civilian world. I want to rectify this by ensuring that public services and employers are taking their needs into consideration, and by highlighting the valuable contributions that military families make.


I’ve been meeting a diverse range of individuals and organisations from the veterans’ community, capturing its collective voice. This work is ongoing, but so far has provided me with a solid insight into available support, what the community feels is and isn’t working, and gaps in provision. It’s also helped to expose areas where further attention is required. There is lots of support out there, but these services are not always well known.

To learn more about Susie’s work, visit A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 45
If you’re heading north of the border when your time comes to leave the army, it’s good to know that there’s work going on to help ensure that your final move goes smoothly
Susie Hamilton

Life after loss

Cpl Hollie Davis was awarded an MBE earlier this year for her work creating the Defence Child Bereavement Network. She set up the network to help others who have faced similar tragedy after the loss of her son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2020...


When my son, Kitt, first died everyone wanted to help me but nobody in the army really knew how as the policy was vague. SIDS occurs in around 200 babies a year in the UK so knowing how to deal with it was made more difficult as it is rare.

I reached out to The Lullaby Trust who provided me with a befriender, who lost her son to SIDS in the 1980s. She showed me that there is a life after child loss. She showed me that he will always be with me but life continues by keeping my son by my side in my heart.

I often think I only made it through the worst time of my life due to peer support from those who had experienced something similar.

When I was at my lowest I didn’t eat, sleep or go out. I isolated myself and turned to alcohol. I wanted to care for myself better as I had completely switched off and forgotten how to function. I decided to do a charity event that was physical as it would help me mentally, help me eat, sleep and shower and I raised around £25,000 for The Lullaby Trust.

The publicity meant my inbox started to fill with messages from other serving personnel who had experienced miscarriages, stillbirths and child loss. This made me think that a safe space was needed for serving personnel to come together to share and receive support.


We rolled out as the Army Child Bereavement Network in July 2021. This quickly became tri-service, then included partners and veterans. In the first two weeks we gained 68

members – now we are just shy of 200.


We offer peer to peer support. Service personnel will normally post about their loss and then other members will offer support and understanding if they have been In a similar situation. We offer signposting to organisations and charities and provide care packages to help remind parents to care for themselves during the hardest part of their lives.


Yes, the feedback has been positive. One member said: “The network has given me the space to open up, learn, listen and keep going. It’s the most unique and incredible safe space.”

Another commented: “There’s something very reassuring about finding others who get it, who don’t judge, who show that life ‘after’ does go on.”


Finding out was truly a moment I won’t forget. I’d never even imagined that I would be considered for an award like that. I feel really humbled.


The aim is gain exposure and awareness. We have just managed to secure another £1,600 of funding for care packages.

These include things like face masks, bath bombs, chocolate, sweets, herbal tea, fluffy socks and candles.

Search Defence Child Bereavement Network on Facebook. A

46 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“The network has given me the space to open up, learn, listen and keep going. It’s the most unique and incredible safe space.”
Cpl Hollie Davis MBE

Fair play for all

YOU may not know much about the service complaints system unless you’ve made or been the subject of a complaint. Hopefully you’ll never experience either but the reality is that some service personnel may face issues like harassment or discrimination, which may lead to a formal grievance.

Independently overseeing the process to ensure it’s efficient, effective and fair for both complainants and those who are subject of a complaint is the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, known as SCOAF. Mariette Hughes took on the five-year role in 2021, we caught up with her to find out more...

“In a civilian job you would have some way of being able to raise something that has affected you in your working life,” Mariette explains, “it’s the equivalent of an HR system so anyone who is a member of the armed forces has the statutory right to raise a service complaint.”

What are the criteria?

progressing in your career, how you’re treated while you’re doing it, and how you’re being remunerated.”

Mariette is keen to encourage more service personnel to use the system, quoting stats from recent Armed Forces Continuous Attitude surveys which show that many incidents are going unreported. She explains: “I think it is underused. For the last three years I don’t think the stats have changed much, about one in ten people say that they’ve experienced inappropriate behaviour in the workplace – but only one in ten of those go on to raise a complaint.

“A very small percentage were able to resolve it informally, but far too many people say they didn’t think anything would be done, they thought they might be punished for raising it, or that they didn’t know enough about the system to do it.”


A complaint could be about anything that you feel has wronged you in service life. Common themes include career management, bullying and allowances. “This is not surprising,” says Mariette, “it’s the same as anywhere –you care about how you are

service complaints were ruled admissible

Greater independence

Complaints are no longer submitted through the chain of command and instead go to a central admissibility team, who decides whether or not it will proceed.

It’s a major change that’s been implemented under Mariette’s watch. “This was prompted by

recommendations from two reports and I am a big fan of it,” she says.

“If I’m raising a complaint, even if it’s not about my chain of command, it’s going to be about people who might have existing relationships and friendships. By raising it to a centralised admissibility team, the chain of command is completely out of it and you just get a simple decision – is it admissible or not? All of the services have seen a significant increase in the number of complaints since it went live [June 2022]. It’s a positive step to give people more confidence in coming forward.”

Impact on the family

If you’re a family member of

someone making, or is the subject of, a complaint, you may have concerns about how it’s affecting them. Mariette has this advice: “For both parties it’s not a comfortable position to be in. My office is doing a lot of work to try and make the system feel better and easier to use but it is still very stressful. The system takes quite a long time so that’s a significant period that people are living with this emotional burden. Information on how the system works and the rights and protections that are available to soldiers is available in the public domain. Even though my office can’t deal [directly] with families, it’s helpful to be aware of how the system should work, what should be followed in terms of process and that everyone is entitled to an assisting officer.

“Personnel are instructed

48 | | Army&You Summer 2023
“Anyone who is a member of the armed forces has the statutory right to raise a service complaint.”
Mariette Hughes, Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF)

not to discuss it with anyone outside the process and that extends to family members, so that can feel quite isolating. My message to soldiers is that you can still talk about how you’re feeling without sharing the details. If you are struggling, tell people – speak to your family or your assisting officer.”

Bringing about changes

Whilst the ideal situation is that there’s no need for complaints, realistically, Mariette believes the best case scenario is that people feel confident enough to raise a problem: “We can’t fix things if we can’t see them. We can make observations about trends, but if a big chunk of the complaints aren’t being raised, we don’t know where efforts should be focused.

“If we are starting to see a swell from a particular cap badge or area, it’s something we can feed back. Similarly, if

we see significant statistical shifts or more of a certain type of complaint, we can ask ‘what’s going on?’ or have a look at other influences. We might have campaigns prompted by complaints and we might have complaints prompted by campaigns.”

Spreading the word

Mariette and her team are also actively promoting the system with a series of outreach visits to units, training establishments and the chain of command.


66% of complaints were closed within 24 weeks (tri-service target).

The average service complaint takes 35 weeks to process.

43% of service complaints are upheld (partially or fully) in favour of the complainant.

3 largest areas of complaint concerned:

● Career management – 39%

● Bullying, harassment or discrimination – 24%

● Pay, pensions and allowances – 9%


“We do a number of things at different levels because we know that awareness of the service complaints system is mixed at best – and awareness of my office is worse. So we’re trying

of service complaints are upheld (partially or fully) in favour of the complainant

Female service personnel remain overrepresented in the system, making up 21% of complaints but only 12% of the armed forces.

to make it clear to people that there is a system, there is an ombudsman, I am independent and I am there to support you.

“Utopia is finishing my term and being able to write an annual report that says the

system is efficient, effective and fair. If we can get to the point where decisions are right and decisions are made on time, trust and confidence will start to grow.”

To find out more about service complaints, please see JSP 831 or go to A

*This applies to Service Families who are eligible for the Continuity of Education Allowance, entering chool

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 49
Girls and Boys, Day and Boarding, Nurser y to Sixth Form
Charity No 525616
e have a long tradition of working closely with Forces Families


AFF works closely with the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance, a UK-wide partnership that brings organisations together to help improve the outcomes of a service child’s education experiences.

SCiP Alliance’s Director Phil Dent explains how they have committed to putting the voices of armed forces children and young people at the centre of all they do: “Being at the heart means being central to activity throughout the Alliance, but also central to our values. We listen because it’s the right thing to do, because we care about young people, and because we will do a better job helping service children thrive as a result. Listening to young people’s voices cannot be a tick-box exercise, it must have a meaningful impact on their lives.

importance of listening to service youth and valuing their experiences.

We caught up with Lizzie to find out more…


Service children have often grown up with frequent moves, parental deployments, and ever-changing friendship groups as part of their everyday routine, thinking this is nothing out of the ordinary. However, it is only as they begin to progress through education that these changes become problematic and can start to introduce hurdles in the classroom. The only way that these hurdles are going to be overcome is by listening to the voices of service children, acknowledging and understanding their experiences.


experience rather than one that purely comes with challenges, and that – just like any other young person – a military child can do absolutely anything that they put their mind to, with their experiences of military life making them stronger.


“Allies throughout the community are doing pioneering work and sharing with others. Researchers are undertaking projects with children as co-researchers, and universities and charity partners are using creative media, art and poetry to bring service children’s experiences to wider audiences in powerful ways.”

Young adult service children have key positions on the SCiP Alliance’s board and management groups. Service youth representative Lizzie Rodulson chaired its national conference, held in Birmingham, and gave a talk to attendees about the


I wanted to increase the profile of service children across the UK and show that, despite the many challenges, they are versatile, adaptable, capable and resilient.


I hope to show that coming from a military background should be seen as a positive

I will always be grateful that I grew up as a service child. It allowed me to travel widely, live in Germany and Denmark and make new friends from around the globe. I was able to visit my dad in the Falkland Islands and, when he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, I was able to form a worldview of why he had to go there. These positives informed my transition to adult life.


Be yourself and embrace your experiences! It was only when I discovered the SCiP Alliance I realised the opportunities I had being a service child gave me a mindset and skills positively different to my peers – be proud of those differences! A

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“Be yourself and embrace your experiences! It was only when I discovered the SCiP Alliance I realised the opportunities I had”
Lizzie Rodulson, Service youth representative


A youth-led campaign from Forces Children Scotland (FCS) seeks to increase public understanding of the challenges service young people can face when a parent decides to leave the armed forces.

Many young people told FCS that they seldom feel heard and that many of their experiences are simply not on the radar of civilian audiences.

Super student support

Barton Peveril Sixth

Form College

in Hampshire has made a firm commitment to support service students throughout all stages of their time there.

To ensure no child is missed, students are asked on the application form and at enrolment to state whether they are from a service family. Kathryn Townend, a Student Progress Adviser, is responsible for supporting service family students. She interviews each one and outlines the support available to them while they’re at the college.

“They’re also supported with their post-college pathway and encouraged to highlight their service status when applying to universities.”

The charity secured funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. They partnered with Effervescent to bring together young people from armed forces and veteran families to plan and co-develop the campaign over the past year.

Tornado features three videos which focus on feeling powerless in the face of change, lost and alone in a new place, and feeling worried about what lies ahead. A tornado theme has been weaved through these stories to reinforce the lifechanging impact felt by many within the group.

The partnership brought the group together for a residential last year so they could share their experiences, creativity, and ideas and find the creative spark that would shape the films.

“Once enrolled, service students become part of the college’s Access+ programme, where they will have one-to-one tutorials to address any potential challenges,” explains Kathryn. “They receive regular emails about the support and opportunities available, such as the Service Family Students’ Society, a weekly lunchtime social group.

Last year Barton Peveril contributed to a national research project Diversity meets complexity: supporting Armed Forces young people to thrive in post-16 education. It gave service students the opportunity to share their experiences of growing up in a military family and helped increase the understanding of the impact it has had on their ongoing education as they become adults.

Kathryn states that through the support offered to service students by the college, they have seen an increase in students going on to access higher education, proof that the support scheme works and demonstrates that “service family students will never be left behind at Barton Peveril”.

Sophia, aged 15, whose family made the transition to veteran status last year, says: “It’s so good knowing that my experiences could potentially help other young people who will go through what I have. Being involved in this project has also helped me to develop confidence and many important skills like communication, organisation and teamwork.”

Go to forceschildrenscotland. for more.

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 51 EDUCATION & CHILDCARE

Broadening horizons through travel and trips

AT the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, students have vast opportunities on-site within the 150-acre grounds, as well as chances to broaden their horizons through overseas travel and trips.

The school, offering affordable full and weekly boarding options, boasts a variety of academic, adventurous, and co-curricular trips throughout the academic year. Weekly boarding house activities include trips to the cinema, bowling, shopping and house dinners. While academic trips range from science investigations and theatre trips to museum visits and foreign exchanges. Annually, the school visits CERN in Switzerland and attends foreign exchange trips in France and Spain.

Students who are part of a sports team will have the opportunity to attend away matches, regional and national competitions, and attend training by professionals – recently hockey students were coached by Olympic gold medallist Georgie Twigg. International tours take place regularly as part of the sports scholarships offered by the school in rugby and hockey.

As an accredited Duke of Edinburgh’s Award provider, the school offers bronze, silver and gold awards, and the school is also one of the largest Combined Cadet Forces in the country. As part of this, students complete an expedition where they spend a week away engaged in camp craft and navigation training, kayaking, sailing, climbing, abseiling and hiking. Recently, students have

volunteered abroad as part of their gold award, including at a rehabilitation programme for turtles in Greece.

The annual ski trip is also a popular choice for students, and one which has been offered for more than 40 of the school’s 220year history. Students undertake training and can test their ski and snowboarding skills on the slopes of the Alps.

Regular oversees expeditions

are also offered, in the past destinations have included India, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. These 21-day expeditions include travelling through the countries, exploring and experiencing the wonderful scenery and culture on offer.

The school, open to 11–18-year-olds, is very proud of the opportunities it provides for students. To find out more about the school, visit

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Inspiring minds through sport

How Ashford School’s sporting opportunities enliven education

ASHFORD School is made up of a proud and diverse community of staff and children from all over the world. We embrace and celebrate individual talent and champion what makes Ashford School the unique learning environment that it is: a place where students and staff are inspired and in turn inspire others.

Sport is pivotal to life at Ashford School. We pride ourselves on the plethora of sporting opportunities available to students with a core and extensive co-curricular programme that is tailored and accessible to all. Our ambition is to field competitive teams across all our major team games, swimming, biathlon, athletics and tennis, but this is no more important than providing opportunities that will promote a lifelong love and participation

in sport.

Our ethos of ‘Sport for All’ sees us immerse our students in as many opportunities as we can in their younger years, so that they can find their passion and work on developing this as they progress through the school.

We are fortunate to have a large department of PE specialists, further enriched with external coaches, many of which have or currently play or coach at the highest level. Our school has recently undergone significant

investment in stateof-the-art sports facilities, allowing us to host many tournaments and events for the benefit of our students and the wider community.


We are passionate that sport inspires students to broaden their horizons by meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. We offer pre-season tours in core games to different venues in the UK along with travel opportunities further afield in Europe, and recently the

High hopes for our high achievers

WE have lots of school trips planned for this year – which include everything from Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expeditions and tackling the Ten Tors to rock climbing in the Alps.

Those going for their gold DofE awards will tackle the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons, while a team of six Year 10 pupils will be darting

around Dartmoor as they take on the 35-mile Ten Tors event.

Looking further afield, a team of six highly-trained and motivated Clifton College pupils (Year 10 to Year 13) will undertake a once in a lifetime expedition to the Italian and Julian Alps to bolt, lead, climb and name a first ascent rock route.

A first ascent is the first successful, documented

attainment to climb to the top of a particular climbing route. First ascents are notable because they entail more exploration, challenges and recognition than climbing a route pioneered by others. The person who performs the first ascent is called the first ascensionist.

The annual ski trip is also a firm favourite for our students. Ashford School’s dedication to sport can be seen through our recent record number of excellent sporting performances at district, county and regional level, and we are thrilled to see an increasing number of students playing at a national level. As we draw to the end of the academic year, and with cricket season currently in full swing, we are proud to be named as one of the top 100 schools in the UK for cricket in The Cricketer’s Schools Guide 2023. Our girls’ U15 and U13 teams being crowned indoor national champions and runners up at Lord’s in 2022/23, are a shining example of our strength in this field.

For more information on the all the opportunities available to our students, please visit

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 53 SPONSORED FEATURE

Exploring the benefits of boarding

THE boarding landscape has changed considerably over the years. Tom Rainer, Deputy Head (Pastoral) and Head of Boarding at The Pilgrims’ School, talks about the benefits of boarding and how it can prepare a child for senior school...

Why is it beneficial for boys to board?

Boarding has evolved over the years into a supportive, family-friendly environment. Independence has long been cited as a benefit to being a boarder and rightly so. However, this does need to be at the right time, and it does not suit a ‘one size fits all’ approach. As the world is becoming more global, our young boarders will be better prepared to embrace the world

around them in future years. They don’t see international cultures as differences, but comment on their uniqueness and state it adds to our diversity.

How does boarding prepare for life at senior school?

The route into adulthood, independence, taking responsibility and becoming more community aware is an interesting journey. At Prep School we do just that – prepare them for their future. At senior schools all of

these categories are developed even further. It is encouraging when senior schools state that boys from Pilgrims’ arrive well-prepared and the boys themselves comment on how ready they were to embrace the next step with self-assuredness, confidence and humility.

How do you support boys with pastoral care?

The journey isn’t always easy or smooth. Like all of us, children have good and bad days. Supporting them to navigate this journey and to learn to selfregulate emotions, time, work and interactions, while enjoying the boarding experience, is essential. Our tutor system is well thought through to enable all of these areas to be considered. We have specialist staff, such as a Director of Wellbeing, to help individuals

when needed and to develop a programme of health-related activities. PSHE education lessons delve into the Personal, Social, Health and Economics areas further. Relationships and Sex Education also looks at how youngsters navigate the issues of puberty in the modern world in a positive way.

How we engage, develop and make lifelong positive relationships that are beneficial for all is our aim. A recent Independent Schools Inspectorate’s Inspection found that at The Pilgrims’ School “boarders are supported to develop good relationships with fellow pupils and staff which is based on mutual trust and respect”.

Many roads to travel at Farleigh

FARLEIGH may sit in a bucolic setting, nestled in the centre of the Hampshire countryside, but it still believes wholeheartedly that its job is to prepare pupils

to fly that nest armed with as much knowledge and curiosity about what lies beyond, as the rigour of the educational timetable allows.

All pupils in Year 6 take part in Farleigh’s (internally) famous, week long annual excursion to northern France, and in Years 7 & 8 many choose to attend a skill-extending ski trip to Serre Chevalier in the French Alps during April each year. These international opportunities are supplemented by a funpacked Activities Week in the penultimate week of the summer

term, during which the children from every year in the prep spend a number of nights away or under canvas, undertaking exerting and character-forming challenges (laced with campfire sing-songs and delicious food). By Years 7 and 8 the children are away for a full week, navigating their way across beautiful moorlands and largely managing their own tents and catering (with a little help from nearby staff).

On top of far-flung travel, there are multiple opportunities to see the wider world each term in the form of trips. Every department works hard to provide the most interesting experiences for the children across the whole school, be this to learn more about STEM and the world of Formula 1, how the Romans built their bath-houses

or what makes a professional theatre run backstage.

Farleigh pupils are given numerous dramatic and musical opportunities to watch and take part in fascinating workshops and performances, locally and nationally, and all pupils go on informative trips that support the history, geography, art, sporting, English and STEM syllabuses. The children also debate, orienteer, have the opportunity to visit Catholic sites and a one-day retreat and attend invaluable leadership and Model UN days at senior schools.

They leave the school at the end of Year 8 imbued with understanding about what the world has to offer, fully aware of the potential within them and the many adventures to come!

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Escaping the confines of a classroom

IN addition to being universally popular with students, getting outside the classroom and school environment provides those at Gordon’s with experiences that take them outside their comfort zones, improve their team work and teach them new skills.

What better way to learn Spanish and about the way of life in Spain than by actually visiting the country and immersing themselves in the culture and language? Or visiting the Belgium battlefields to actually see the trenches and learn about World Wars?

As well as academic trips leaving Gordon’s, there are cultural exchanges, opportunities for debate with the school’s Model United Nations or to perform music or play team sports on pitches or courts both here and abroad.

The school’s iconic Pipes and Drums are prolific travellers, performing engagements locally as well as further afield including the

World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland, and at Menin Gate, Ypres for the Last Post Association Remembrance Service.

Students taking their Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards on The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme have the opportunity to experience adventurous pursuits and challenge themselves in a myriad ways in a vast range of locations.

Expeditions for the awards are undertaken both in the UK and on challenging terrain such as the base camp of Everest; the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador; Morocco and Iceland to name but a few. Students are required to be self-sufficient, carry their own food and orienteer in unfamiliar landscapes. Not only are these expeditions seen as beneficial for students’ physical and mental health but through taking on the disciplines involved, they build their confidence, ability to handle pressure, time management and leadership qualities.

Students also have the

opportunity to take part in trips or visits of a more recreational nature such as the annual ski trip or perhaps Army camp for members of the school’s Combined Cadet Force.

In 2018 students and staff headed to Sudan on a visit that was the first by a European school. For students and staff embarking on the inaugural trip to Khartoum and the International Community School (KICS), it was a chance to travel in the footsteps of General

Gordon, in whose honour the school is named, and to forge links with KICS, which are maintained today.

Increasingly the chance to study or play a sport with a residential element is seen as not only leading to greater independence and confidence for students but an experience that instils character, builds stories and ultimately provides students with memories for life.

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 55 SPONSORED FEATURE
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Helping Military Personnel, Past and Present, Weather a Financial Storm

ARMED Forces charity

SSAFA recently reported that 87% of the veterans they work with have experienced financial hardship since leaving the military, with 67% reporting problems managing their finances or debt.

With the UK cost of living continuing to sting, people are looking to save money wherever possible, especially when it comes to utilities and household purchases.

The defence community can experience a number of challenges over the course of their career, many of which only become apparent when returning to civvy street. Because of this, Defence Discount Service seeks to lend a ‘helping hand’ by assisting serving military personnel, veterans and their families to reduce financial strains and avoid monetary difficulties.

Joining forces with the likes of BT, BOXT, Sky and O2 to offer its 650,000 members exclusive discounts on everyday necessities, the MoD’s official discount provider is helping to support the defence community through the current financial storm.

A Defence Discount Card can also be purchased for £4.99 for access to discounts in high street stores, restaurants and leisure venues and is valid for five years.

To register or find out more, visit

and co-founder of Defence Discount Service

Current deals include*:

● BOXT - £60 off the cost of a new boiler

● BT - Exclusive BT Broadband deals, plus up to £100 reward card

● EE BroadbandExclusive savings on Fibre Plus and Full Fibre Packages

● Go Compare - Receive an Amazon gift card worth up to £30 when purchasing qualifying insurance

● Gousto - 65% off your first box plus 25% off all boxes for two months

● Halfords Autocentre10% off car servicing or get a free MOT with a full or major service

● HelloFresh - 65% off your first box plus 30% off for 2 months

● O2 - 25% off O2 Refresh airtime plans

● Plusnet - Exclusive savings on broadband contracts

● Rhino Home Protect - 10% off home buyers’ protection insurance

● Sky - Sky TV and Netflix for £23 a month (other exclusive savings available)

● Warmzilla - £100 off all boiler packages

● Wilko -  Save 10% when you spend £30 online

● Virgin Media - Save up to £180 on selected bundles over 18 months PLUS no setup fee on all bundles.

● Vodafone - Save 15% on your airtime plan

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 57 SPONSORED FEATURE
*All discounts are correct at the time of issue. Refer to the website for all up-to-date discounts.

Emotional rollercoaster

I’m a military wife to William, and dog mama to Wilma (our shy border collie). I became part of the military family in 2020, when we moved to Colchester.

I remember being instantly made welcome by the soldiers and I was treated like a member of the team. There is such comradeship, laughter, and all-round support, unlike anything I’ve known before.

Army life for me has been so many things. Beautiful and sometimes bittersweet. Uncertainty has become the norm. Learning to establish a life without my partner nearby (or available) was testing as was accepting that plans can (usually!) change several times. I’ve felt a multitude of emotions, from pride to worry, excitement, sometimes disappointment, from deep love to loneliness, sometimes all in the same day!

Although there are challenges, I wouldn’t have it

any other way. I’ve discovered that army life brings a brilliant balance of staying physically fit, doing meaningful work, and meeting wonderful people across the country and the world.

As a spouse, getting to know other army spouses has been so good, and particularly meeting female soldiers/officers has been an amazing way for me to form great friendships. I’m so thankful to these new friends. I have learnt so much from them, and they have been great company.

To support my husband and his colleagues, in 2020 I created Heart Mind & Soldier Yoga dedicated to providing yoga to soldiers and the military community. It’s my absolute joy.

I have been privileged to teach the soldiers on the camp, at the army gymnasium, and local army families at the garrison church. It is such an

BLOGSpot Best blog

honour to be part of the military community.

As I write, my husband is overseas. I’m looking forward to being together again. I’m sure lots of you can relate to this – when we are together it feels like magic! A

Jennifer is also releasing a ‘Poetry Songbook’ this autumn, look out for a chance to win a copy in the next edition of A&Y

AMY is our Best Blogger for this edition – she wins a three-month posy subscription to FlowerBe – a flower gifting service based in Penarth. They’ve been delivering ‘Thoughtful Little Flowers’ through the UK’s letterboxes for more than three years. They create

beautiful posies daily with a selection of seasonal flowers and foliage that last two-to-three weeks in a vase. Their bestselling three-month posy subscription comes with a perfect little vase to display your sweet seasonal flowers every month –

58 | | Army&You Summer 2023
Welcome to Army&You’s Blogspot. Write your thoughts about army life and send them to

Personal approach

As an army spouse I have had to, like many others, continually adjust to and make choices about how I navigate this distinctive way of life, that is, this military life!

My journey so far has meant that I have had to cope with deployments, relocations, saying goodbye to colleagues, and manage the rigmarole of many house moves.

These demands have posed challenges every time, but they have also brought opportunities for new encounters, friendships, and a greater sense of independence.

Yet, from time to time, I have found myself wondering whether there may be better,

alternative choices for our family.

When the demands of military life take their toll, I have noticed a greater internal calling to set down roots in one place, leaving the transitory life on patches behind.

However, having attempted to achieve ‘stability’ in one place before, the seeming benefits of living in one place soon began to be outweighed by some unintended consequences. Against the backdrop of military-led initiatives, such as the Future Accommodation Model pilot, I became curious to find out what other spouses’ experiences were – were they similar or different to my own?

The extra mile

As part of the training package for my husband’s next role as a Defence Attaché, I was given the opportunity to attend a course which included defensive driving techniques at the Defence School of Transport in Leconfield, East Yorkshire.

Despite having survived three years without incident on the roads of Kuwait, I was keen to take up the chance to improve my driving and learn new skills.

The first day of our training package was classroom based. Led by an engaging group of instructors, we were taken through the theory of ‘road craft’, which gives you the skills to increase your awareness of factors that can affect your driving and so make you a safer driver.

We learnt how to recognise and anticipate hazards, and plan our driving, to give ourselves more time to react to complex situations.

Despite having been driving from the age of 17, it was a serious reminder of the importance of thinking ahead when behind a wheel.

One whole day was spent driving around the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. Whilst one of us practised our map reading and navigation skills, the other drove.

From Scarborough, to the highest pub in Britain, the Tan Hill Inn, we were put through

As a psychology researcher, I took hold of this opportunity, and completed my research on this topic, exploring the lived accounts of military spouses who had experience of living outside a patch community, and the implications this had on their sense of wellbeing.


army spouse is what allowed me access to our tight-knit community, and the personal and subjective experiences of fellow spouses.

My research was both personal and professional. Many friends (particularly those outside of psychology) would say “isn’t this a bit too close to home?” in regards to conducting ‘scientific research’.

However, I maintained that my own connection and experience of being an

In research terms, I was an ‘insider’, and there were many things to consider. However, I would encourage those who have a keen interest in undertaking research within our community to not be put off, as our own personal stories have so much to offer the research process. A

and practical training in wheel changing, vehicle recovery and towing, the latter two being completely new to me. Without the comfort of having the RAC on call at our new posting, I’m now confident I could get myself to a garage in the event of a breakdown in the middle of nowhere!

our paces along a variety of different roads, with our instructors giving advice on how we could improve our road positioning and hazard awareness.

It was a tiring day and we welcomed our breaks along the way, especially at the Wensleydale Creamery, where we stocked up on cheeses to take home!

Back at Leconfield we had lessons in safety awareness

The most challenging and fun part of the course was the off-road element. We were taught how to survey the ground and the best way to prepare a vehicle for going off the beaten track – through rivers, down steep banks, and over rocky terrain. It’s amazing what a 4x4 can do!

A big thank you to all the team at Leconfield for their patience and good humour. I’m now putting my road craft skills into practice every time I get behind the wheel – and have added a 4x4 with a winch to my wish list – a girl can dream, can’t she?! A

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 59




The top entries from Reading Force’s writing competition can be read in a new anthology, My Forces Life

The charity asked the military community to submit a piece of writing, so children, partners, serving personnel and veterans picked up their pens and entered poems, diary entries, personal reflections and fiction.

BFBS radio presenter Mark McKenzie, who was one of the judges, said: “I read the first story, it was exceptional, it had me close to tears. It was going to be the winner… then I read the next one and realised I was wrong. Writers, well done. I hope you enjoyed writing your words as much as I enjoyed reading them.”

You can get a copy for a donation via hattie@



Co-developed with young people from armed forces families, a new board game and comic book, Forces Life, aims to help civilian classmates and teachers to better understand what it’s like to be a military child.

Many young people had told the Forces Children Scotland charity that their experiences are not on the radar of civilian audiences. So with funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, they developed the game, which is a take on snakes and ladders.

Young people involved in the project created special gaming cards to share experiences and introduce a fun point-scoring system.

They’ve also put together five short stories in a comic book that accompanies the game, which includes topics like deployment, postings and new schools. Order yours for free via


Youngsters from military families have been having fun at Burlington Lodge –the new purpose-built residential unit near Bath.

Run by the Army Welfare Service, the modern unit at the Services Cotswold Centre houses 38 beds, a lounge area, kitchen, and lots of other facilities on site.

Young representatives came together for the Tri-Service Youth Voice Steering Group at the lodge recently. Alongside fun trips to Longleat and Bath, the group planned how to gather opinions of other children and young people from service families – watch out for a survey soon!


Meanwhile AWS Community Support Teams from Thorney Island, Aldershot and London enjoyed a joint residential trip to Burlington Lodge for families with children with additional needs.


Look out for lots of fun activities from military children’s charity, Little Troopers, this summer!

As part of its All Together deployment club, the charity will be running a teen residential in July and an adventure day for 7-13 year olds in August. For under 10s, there’ll be a packed programme of exciting online events and workshops starting again from September.

Little Troopers also has a fundraising climb of Snowdon on the horizon and is inviting military families and service personnel to take part – for details.

The first ever Service Children Awards Cymru will take place this October with nominations opening soon! The categories include: contribution to sport, community, unsung hero, and service children champion. It’s hoped those short-listed will tell their stories and act as role models for service children across Wales. The event takes place at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon and will be supported by the band of the Prince of Wales – the nominated charity is Little Troopers.

The awards are being run by Veterans Awards CIC and SSCE Cymru with support from the armed forces in Wales – details at

Aggie, AWS Community Development Worker (London), says: “Our families were truly impressed with the facilities including comfortable accommodation, a community centre, skittle alley, and a fantastic new playpark. In contrast to bustling London, our families relished the peace and tranquillity of the site.”

Burlington Lodge can be used to support tri-service community support residentials, cadet forces and other military groups. For booking info, email

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Tri-Service Youth Voice Steering Group Families from the South East


Isabelle Lesinski has an unusual hobby – she’s been carriage driving from an early age and won the junior championship last year at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Here, Isabelle, whose dad Neil is serving, tells us more…

It’s quite a niche sport to take up, how did you get into it?

Mum did it as her job when she was younger. She bought our pony, Bonnie, from her friend. When we were little my brothers and I all rode Bonnie. She has been our one constant through army life. Wherever we have moved she has come with us.

Tell us a bit more about the junior champs...

Winning felt like such a surprise! I felt proud of Bonnie and myself. It was a big class and huge atmosphere. Have you always had a natural talent for it?

I became too big to ride Bonnie but still wanted to do things with her so driving was the obvious step. Mum trained her and helped me get started. Our British Driving Society Lincolnshire group is very supportive, offering lots of activities, so it’s been a gradual process.

What does it take to be a good driver?

A lot of practice and dedication. Bonnie has to be kept fit so whatever the weather we drive and make sure she has everything she needs.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My plans are to keep improving. We have a new young pony but we won’t be driving him for a little while yet. I’m hoping he will be my new partner when Bonnie retires.

More at


As well as offering a range of support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served, Scotty’s Little Soldiers provides respite breaks – and its latest lodge is now open.

The breaks give bereaved military families a chance to get away from their daily routines and make happy memories together, and because they’re organised by Scotty’s, families naturally have conversations about their loved one in a safe environment away from home.

The new lodge, based at Devon Cliffs in Exmouth, has been funded by Forces Support. If you know a family who could benefit, go to


When army spouse Mandy was looking for an all-in-one resource to help her children cope better with their dad’s deployment, she couldn’t find anything that met their needs, so she decided to make her own.

Dandelions Have Heroes: The Deployment Journal aims to help children navigate through periods of ‘hero separation’ and also doubles up as a lovely keepsake.

“I have drawn on my knowledge both as a mum and a mental health practitioner for children and young people. I have integrated coping strategies and emotional literacy,” says Mandy.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy, see page 3 for entry rules.



Congratulations to nine-year-old Magnus Lavery, who made this fab model, called ‘Blockie’, for his soldier dad. We especially love the camo detail! Magnus wins a £25 Amazon voucher.

Send a pic of your children’s creations – of anything related to military life – to editor@aff. to be in with a chance of winning a £25 Amazon voucher and to feature in a future edition of Army&You. If yours doesn’t make it into print, we’ll post it on social @ArmyandYou


Theatre Tokens can be used at more than 300 venues nationwide, including all of London’s West End. So whether you’re finding out what’s on at your local theatre or planning a trip further afield, you can treat yourself to some culture.

Head to to see participating theatres and check out what’s on. There’s no expiry date, so you can use your Theatre Tokens whenever you like.

To win a £50 theatre token, enter by midnight on 6 August 2023 via the QR – full T&Cs at

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 61
in a future edition –
us about your favourite things to do when school’s out and feature
‘Blockie’ by Magnus, aged 9 Founder Nikki Scott with the Palin family, who have been supported by the charity for ten years.

the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, a state boarding school for boys and girls aged 7-18.

• A vibrant and diverse boarding community

• Over 100 extra-curricular activities on offer

• Situated in 260 acres of picturesque parkland, only 40 minutes from Heathrow Airport

62 | | Army&You Summer 2023 Contemporary Catholic Coeducational Boarding & Day 3-13 Farleigh School, Red Rice, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 7PW Farleigh Open Morning Saturday 23rd September, 9.30am Scan here to pay a visit to Farleigh Please contact our Registrar, Sarah O’Rorke: E: T: 01264 712838 ai168683059625_Army & You SUMMER 23.pdf 2 15/06/2023 13:03:16 Gatton Park,
Tel: 01737 @RAASchoolGatton
Reigate, Surrey RH2 0TD

Escape to character and charm WIN


Rev up this summer

Head to The British Motor Show in Farnborough for an action-packed day out for families and car fans.

There’s amazing stunt shows, test drives, supercar experiences and rides alongside hundreds of new, classic, modified and supercars on display.

Little ones can compete in slot racing, build their own model car, get the fastest time in remote control car racing, smash lap times in the driving simulators and turn their hand to car wrapping too. Find out more at

Royal designs

Win a King Charles III coronation collection mug and canvas bag set, plus a Queen Elizabeth II commemorative collection mug and tea towel set by British designer Victoria Eggs.

Everything Victoria Eggs is hand-crafted in the UK, the Fine Bone China is made from hand mined Cornish clay, and the textiles are printed with vegetable inks on to unbleached 100 per cent cotton. To see the full range, visit and follow on Instagram @victoriaeggs

We’ve got five family tickets (two adults and two children, under fours go free), worth £47 each, to give away for any day of the show from 17-20 August. *Note, this giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday 23 July 2023.


Innovators of all ages will love Geomagworld – the creative and imaginative world of magnet-building fun.

Through its magnetic rods and steel spheres, Geomagworld offers a constructive and educational environment for children to explore the limitless possibilities of magnetism.

From building blocks to complex structures, Geomag encourages creativity, engineering capabilities and problem-solving skills. Made with 100 per cent recycled plastic, the certified toys are perfect for a fun and sustainable learning experience. More at

Enter to be in with a chance of winning a Geomag (338) Glow 60 Piece Set.

Classic Lodges, a nationwide collection of exclusive hotels, is offering A&Y readers the chance to win a luxury one-night stay for two at any of its fabulous locations, including a delicious three-course dinner, followed by breakfast the next morning.

Whether it’s a peaceful country escape or a city centre, each of the hotels within the collection have their own charm and character.

Steeped in history, all of the hotels have stunning views to accompany the suites and rooms – including the Old Swan Hotel in the heart of Harrogate, the luxury four-star Lakeside Hotel & Spa in the hugely popular Lake District, and the impressive Charingworth Manor set in the picturesque Cotswolds. To book a stay, visit specialoffers

T&Cs: Prize open to serving regular or reserve families only. Dinner, bed and breakfast prize is based on two people sharing a Classic room for any Classic Lodges hotel, excluding Grovefield House in Buckinghamshire and The Hickstead hotel in West Sussex. Full T&Cs at

Enter here:

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 63
Click the giveaways tab at
HOW TO ENTER: Click the giveaways tab at and follow the links. One entry per household per giveaway. Closing date for entries is
6 August 2023 unless otherwise stated. See page three for
competition rules.
Your information will not be used
marketing purposes. Winners’ names and
are published on the Army&You website.

Book Club

Army&You and Reading Force Book Club, have fun sharing books!

Friends indeed

Published by: HarperCollins

I LIKE this book because it is about friends. When one of them is sad the other helps them, they are kind to each other. I like making my friends happy. When you hug someone or help them you fill their bucket up. We’ve been doing about that at pre-school.

WE ENJOYED sharing this book together and talking about it. We loved learning about Pip and Parker’s friendship through the book. They made paper boats and flew kites together. We really liked the page where they are looking up at the clouds and talking about the pictures they can see. This is a great bedtime story too. We would highly recommend this book and we give it a 10 out of 10.


SILVER LININGS is such a beautiful book which explains that good friends do not have to speak to each other to have a good time and they can support each other without words. The illustrations are beautiful, lots of talking points. Evie particularly liked when the friends made animals out of the clouds as that is what we do. She found it very funny that they made paper boats and could use them in alternate ways. This is a very special book with a wonderful meaning that we will read over again.


64 | | Army&You Summer 2023
us what
In this edition’s
and Reading Force Book Club, service youngsters tell
they thought of Silver Linings by Fiona Woodcock.
Enter our giveaway to win a copy of Silver Linings and a Reading Force scrapbook. See page three for entry rules. Already read it? Tell us your thoughts @ArmyandYou Share a book and chat Sign up at
fun with your family Follow our Facebook page for book giveaways Reading Force is a registered charity No. 1159890
lo ved doing Reading Force with all my family because it brought ever yone together! The stickers and the theme of the journal are per fect. FREE forallserving &veteranfamilies ReadingForce readingforce ReadingForce and we’ll send you FREE books and resources for your children and teens
(4) AND
READING FORCE is the free shared reading initiative for forces families where you can share a book and talk about it, together at home or via video call if separated. You’ll receive a free book and scrapbook to fill in with your thoughts, letters, drawings and photographs. It’s a fun way to keep connected. Teens receive a special journal. Take part via your children’s school, HIVE, or register online at your wouldchildren like to review books for the A&Y Book Club, email uk with their names and ages

Fee-Free Mortgage Advice

Whether you’re looking to use the Forces Help to Buy scheme, finding your first mortgage, want to switch rates to save money or releasing capital to renovate your own home… you can get the advice you need by calling the Fee-Free Mortgage Advice Service -provided by Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited.

It’s as easy as this

You’ ll be asked a few simple ques tions, incoming s, ou tgoing s, that kind of thing. It takes around 15 minu tes. Then it ’s an appointment with one of their impart ial mort gage ad visors . They take the time to understand what you’re look ing for, before coming back with the most suit able option for you. They will then guide you through your mort gage jour ney.

A mort gage is a loan secured agains t your home

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mort gage .

Important things you should know:



Lines are open: Mon-Fri 9.00am - 5.00pm or reques t a call-back at /mortgages

Or scan QR code

PMGI Limited, trading as Forces Mutual acts as an intermediary for the purposes of introducing its customers to Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited, part of Tenet. You will not receive advice or any recommendation from Forces Mutual. Such services will be provided by Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited who will provide Forces Mutual with information about the services you have received. Forces Mutual will receive % of any lender procuration fee from Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited in connection with the provision of mortgage broking services.

recorded any may

call could put you on your way to a better deal
PMGI Limited, trading as Forces Mutual, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Financial Services Register No. 114942. Registered in England & Wales No. 1073408. Registered office: Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited is an Appointed Representative of TenetConnect Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under reference FRN: 149826. Tenet Mortgage Solutions Limited is a company registered in England and Wales under company number: 09111571 and whose registered office is at 5 Lister Hill, Horsforth, Leeds, LS18 5AZ. or
security, all calls are
be monitored. FM3086



Whole School - Saturday 30 September Virtual - Saturday 7 October

Army&You Summer 2023 | | 67
An exceptional start in life for boys aged 4- 13 “Boarders are supported to develop good relationships with fellow pupils and staff which is based on mutual trust and respect”
- ISI I nspection 2023
Use QR code to book a visit
he Pilgrims’ School, Winchester
T 01962


Our whole person, whole life approach ensures we are here to support members of the Army family through all of life’s challenges – whether that involves bereavement, injury, getting back to work, elderly care and much more

To learn more about our work and to discover all of the ways you can help us raise funds for soldiers, veterans and their families visit SOLDIERSCHARITY.ORG

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is a registered charity in England and Wales (1146420) and Scotland (SC039189) and registered as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales (07974609). SUPPORT US AND YOU SUPPORT THE WHOLE ARMY FAMILY
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