I REMEMBER reading a letter in the AFF Journal from an Army spouse who highlighted the fact that the chain of command were not taking into account the strain on Army families’ finances when planning events and activities where soldiers are required to pay from their own pockets to attend a compulsory social event. The response from command to that letter was good – it promised to make units more aware of the need to think about families’ already stretched budgets when planning activities so that it was affordable or not compulsory to attend.
I am writing to highlight that I don’t think that message has yet sunk in to some units and regiments. Some people are carrying on like before. Like our civilian counterparts, we are all feeling the strain financially, eating out has become a very rare treat and our soldiers’ pay has not gone up with inflation.
It really is so important that senior officers take note. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an informal barbecue or a dinner in the Mess, it really is time that organisers of such events thought about what people can realistically afford or give people the option to not attend without it being frowned upon.
It is still really important for morale and team spirit that we continue get-togethers but let’s all be mindful of how much things cost these days. The Army will always know how to party when we need to, but we don’t mind if it’s not a three-course meal with fine wines. My soldier was recently told by his boss to attend a working pub supper – a three-line whip. This would have been fine if it had been pub grub but it wasn’t; it was one of those pubs that has gone from serving pie and mash to fine dining and his bill at the end was £40!
The Army needs to realise that people cannot afford to go on as we have done in the past and quite honestly we’ve got other things we would rather be spending our money on.
Name & address suppliedResponse from PS4, Army Welfare: Thank you for your letter; this is not the first report of this sort that I have seen. I am very supportive of your comments and agree that not all get-togethers have to be lavish events. As you say, social gatherings are important for morale and they do indeed build cohesion, but commanders must be aware of the context in which they take place. I have already written to the chain of command to remind them about this issue and I will be using my quarterly Welfare Matters newsletter to inform and remind commanders further. Mindful of the current financial situation, The Royal British Legion in partnership with Standard Life Charitable Trust developed MoneyForce, an online financial awareness and management tool for the Armed Forces community. You can find the site by visiting www.moneyforce.org.uk