As the British Army moves out of Germany it would be easy to forget that Service personnel and their families are still based in a range of locations across the world. Catherine Spencer, AFF Chief Executive, explores the needs and issues for families posted abroad…
Overseas postings can offer a range of adventures and experiences, and for many of us, these postings are the attractions of Army life.
My family has enjoyed living in Canada, Cyprus and Germany and our children have undoubtedly benefited from experiencing different cultures.
I was fortunate that I found jobs whilst away from “home”, but the lack of suitable employment for families in overseas areas remains one of AFF’s main concerns.
We’ve recently asked that civil service positions overseas are opened up to allow applications from Army spouses.
Recognising that you offer varied skills and experience, it makes sense to tap into this existing resource. It would cut the cost of operating overseas as the MOD would not have to pay for another civil service family to be based there.
The MOD will need to engage with trade unions on this issue and whilst families in Germany might not be there long enough to see the benefit; I certainly expect to see the policy explored worldwide to make overseas postings more attractive.
I am particularly concerned about the impact on your family finances and the on-going effect of CV gaps.
The move towards a more stable Army on home soil will create a wider gap between those of us based in the UK and those of us overseas.
Another obvious area of disadvantage is the frequency with which you can see children who are at boarding school.
The current allowance of three School Children’s Visits a year is woefully inadequate. With the modern culture of weekly boarding, regular exeat weekends and half-terms, it is unacceptable that those of you based overseas, most likely to be without access to a second salary, are significantly disadvantaged by trying to scrape together substantial amounts of money to see your children.
It is entirely reasonable to expect this policy to be changed to enable children to see their family at half-terms. See our Postbag page on 66 for one family’s view on this.
AFF has established an overseas branch to represent the views of families worldwide which will enable us to identify common issues and difficulties.
We want to ensure that families based overseas get a fair deal.
Our new AFF Overseas Director, Phil Robertson (pictured), will work closely with our Specialists to provide guidance to families assigned overseas and we look forward to hearing your views as to which other areas need focus.