NOT having an allowance to cover the cost of flights at half-terms for our sons to visit us in the States is one of the biggest heartbreaks of our current posting.
We rely on friends and family to look after the boys during weekend leave and half-term holidays. How people cope without loved ones close by, I have no idea.
We have looked at paying for them to fly here but cost is a barrier. An unaccompanied flight for both boys is around $2,600 (equivalent to £1,600). As it’s so difficult for me to work in America that’s beyond our means, especially three times a year.
The alternative is that I fly back to the UK but doing so would mean I have to leave my youngest son behind as he is in a US school and I don’t want him to miss any more classes than he has to.
This would half the cost of the flights but I would need to hire a car and then rely on people to put us up or rent somewhere.
I struggle to explain to my 11-year-old why we can’t see him at half-term. His way of dealing with it is to not speak to us, which breaks my heart.
My eldest is a little more understanding but I feel that at 13 this remote parenting is damaging – we’re not close enough to offer the guidance and encouragement he needs, especially where his school work is concerned. He’s due to choose his GCSE options soon and I feel out of the loop on the decision-making process.
I’m not one to whinge but if there is anything that can be done to help, it would be greatly appreciated.
Name & address supplied
Response from Lt Col Steve Bostock, SO1 Allowances: The current entitlement gives children three flights/journeys per annum and those who choose to apply for Continuity of Education Allowance are aware of that from the outset.
Clearly if you are in Europe you can nip back for half-terms and key events at relatively small cost. It is appreciated that for those further afield this is going to be more expensive.
It may sound clichéd but it boils down to money when considering what more can be done. We’ve been fighting hard to keep hold of the allowances that we have and to buy back those reductions that have caused the most pain.
At the same time we have to ensure that we continue to deliver the savings directed in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. I am afraid additional School Children’s Visits (SCVs) are not currently seen as a priority (especially now that we have restored the undergraduate journey) and there are other allowances that we would want to enhance first if we ever found the money to do so.
There will be an opportunity to look at SCVs and overseas travel in general in the development of the New Employment Model, but I suspect that the prevailing view will be that three flights a year is reasonable for the taxpayer to fund.
Sorry not to be more optimistic.