Army&You chatted to some of the delegates at AFF’s Big Debate to find out more about their burning issues about life in and around the Army..
The top issues are definitely housing and the mobility of families. For me, it is the ability to form a career whilst moving every 18 months. There are questions to be answered and more to be done but I appreciate all the work that the AFF does.
I am interested in how the transition [of Service children] from one school to another is going to continually be addressed. It is an on-going issue for lots of families with young, primary school-age children.
If people are going to be staying put in one location [as a consequence of rebasing] then the infrastructure needs to be built and that is a big concern. The councils will have to work closely with the MOD and work out who is coming and going where because the last rebasing I was involved with saw a lot of people arrive and there were not enough school places despite the fact that over 3-4 years of planning had been in place. There is concern that that is going to happen all over again in various different places around the country.
One of my big questions is why, given the amount of money that needs to be spent on quarters, are we not allowed to provide our own capital upgrades to properties – even if it is within the rules. A lot of us are prepared to use the right carpet, right paint, the right shower make; all we want to do is fit it ourselves because we understand that there isn’t the money to fit it for us. Under the current rules it is very difficult to get the permission to do that and what I’m hoping is that under the new housing contract it is going to be possible or easier for us to do that and invest in our own homes.
For example if there is a poorly maintained shower and someone is prepared to pay £600 to put in a better shower for themselves to benefit from it then why can’t they do it?
My question regards education support for spouses who were school leavers at 16 and haven’t acquired Level 2 qualifications or A-levels. I have A-levels and have embarked on a degree funding myself. There isn’t the support that there is for people that need to require level 2 or 3 qualifications for those that want the level 4 qualifications but have not been able to do so because of their husband’s career.
To be honest, it is the same questions every time – regarding the quarters and lack of them. The biggest thing is housing. Getting the guys’ faults fixed and rectified, overpriced bills when it comes to utilities (certainly on the Canadian Estate in Bulford) and it is about all the agencies working together. I understand that CarillionAmey is a one-stop shop but how will that differ and will it be any better? I understand that there is a transition but is it going to be any better than what we’ve got? At the end of the day moving from one company to another, who is going to be worse off? Families.
For me it not about employment or children but the housing issues, which have been on-going for 30 years now. [The MOD] is putting great faith in this new housing contract but I don’t believe it quite honestly, unless they’ve got pots and oodles of money from somewhere. I think as an Army wife that spouses and housing come last in the pecking order.
Employment is very tough when you move around – especially when you’ve got wee ones. It is nice to see so many companies here who are forces friendly. If they are what they say they are and start employing it will be good.
We’ve just done a big move from Edinburgh. We obviously had to leave the house spotless and I had no issues with my new house in Belfast – it is a brilliant house, clean and everything. However, I got a letter saying that I am being charged for what looks like a watermark on a door from where I had cleaned and a rust mark under the sink from a can. I have been charged £35 for that and they are going to charge me another £30 to vacuum a house which was vacuumed. How can they justify that? I have heard of other people getting charged for light bulbs and being asked to pay something stupid like £20 for a bulb.
I came for the jobs fair. When wives move away from an area they lose their jobs. There is employment out there if you have got the time and energy to look but I don’t think a lot of the wives have got the inclination to look – they want it to come to them. If there were more job-specific adverts in Army&You for recruiting campaigns targeting wives and families that would be amazing.
I hope the new housing contract delivers. I’ve lived in quarters for the past 15 years and it can’t be much worse than it has been. Things can only get better so fingers crossed.
I was here two years ago and it’s the same thing again – it’s always about accommodation and it doesn’t seem to get resolved. My question is will the new company coming in deliver? They’ve made a lot of promises so hopefully they will. I’ve been married to a soldier for a long time so I’m not that confident, but we’ve got to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The standard [of quarters] and the delays in having repairs done is a major problem.
I think the big questions surround the settling in of recent changes. We’ve been through the redundancy bit but the New Employment Model and the changing of the pension, and the uncertainty over whether they will penalise us, are concerns.