MORE than 8,300 families took the opportunity to have their voice heard when we ran our Big Survey 2016: The Future of Military Housing. This is an extraordinary response and I want to start this article by thanking every one of you who completed it.

You have given us a voice much stronger than we ever expected and we are truly grateful for your support. Your evidence cannot be disregarded or brushed under the carpet and this is the most powerful thing we could ask for.

No surprise

I don’t think any of the results from the survey came as a surprise to us here at AFF; most of us are closely linked to the Army ourselves, and we work with Army families day-to-day so we have a very good feel for what you are going through. However, one of the hardest things for us is to show that this is not just hearsay, or something we have picked up on social media, but wider ‘scientific’ truth. The evidence produced by our surveys and taken from our database is absolutely crucial when influencing policy makers and the senior chain of command and this year’s Big Survey is testimony to that.

What came out of the survey?

Firstly, and most importantly, the survey really showed that Army families value and want to keep their SFA. 70 per cent of respondents said they would prefer to live in SFA compared to 30 per cent who supported a rental allowance when mobile.

This was closely linked to the feedback of the importance of SFA patch life and the support and security this brings you. SFA is so important that 46 per cent of our families said they would consider leaving the Army if SFA was removed and 30 per cent said they would definitely leave if SFA was removed. These figures cannot be ignored. They show that there would be a severe retention issue if SFA goes which would impact operational effectiveness for the Army.

There was little support for the perceived ‘positives’ of the Future Accommodation Model (FAM), such as home ownership and flexibility of housing. Whereas some families aspired to buy a home, only 7 per cent wanted to do so within 50 miles of the unit as FAM initially suggested. We are, however, delighted that since we published our results, the 50 miles restriction seems to have been removed from the FAM proposal which is good news – and hopefully a sign that policy makers are listening to you.

We have a really important job to do

To ensure that the voice you have entrusted us with is heard in all the right places, I have discussed our survey results with not just Mark Lancaster, Minister for Defence, Veterans, Reserves and Personnel, but with the most senior Army command and policy makers.

I don’t think anyone can say that they have not seen the survey results and heard me argue the case for our families, SFA and patch life – and we will continue to make our case!

The question now remains, how much emphasis will be placed on the families’ voice? My view is that families are key stakeholders in this potential policy change and the MOD cannot afford not to listen to us. We have a very strong argument and evidence to back us up and I feel hopeful that our voice will be taken seriously. Keep an eye on AFF’s communication channels for updates.

Big Survey: Fast facts

Respondents to our future of military housing survey

95 per cent
Serve accompanied as they want to live as a family

74 per cent
Like living close to other Service families and being part of a community

11 per cent
Would choose to live in their own home and have their soldier weekly commute

4 per cent
Would like a private rental allowance

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