Earlier this year, AFF’s Big Survey received a record number of responses when we asked how you want to live as an Army family. The results will help inform the MOD as it plans how Service families will be housed in the coming years under the Future Accommodation Model. Army&You spoke to six families living in different types of accommodation to find out what works for them and what compromises they’ve had to make…

huntnov16The Hunt family

Accommodation: Four-bedroom, new-build SFA
Location: Andover
Number of postings: 12
Children/pets: Two girls and one Labrador

Plus points (spouse Alison):
The key for us has been to provide a stable education for our girls through boarding school, until this year when the local sixth form provided a better option.

I haven’t followed one career path because of moving, but I have always found work and this has helped to establish a local friendship group in addition to the patch social life.

Our new-build house has a modern feel and it’s nice to have a modern kitchen and functioning boiler!

As the girls have got older, the lack of local friends during the school holidays has become an increasing issue.

Ideal way to live:
I come from an Army family, so moving regularly is a part of my life. Understanding the system and carefully choosing our postings has allowed us to be flexible and we have made it work.

ingramnov16The Ingram family

Accommodation: Own home
Location: Scotland
Number of postings: 16 in five countries
Children/pets: Two boys

Plus points (spouse Carol):
Our main reason for buying our own house was stability for our two children, both of whom are on the autism spectrum and require specialist education and support. Scotland is an area I know well and I have family support for the first time in 20 years, which is a major bonus.

We can also afford it, which would not be the case in many areas, and we have already established a family home for when my husband retires in about five years’ time.

We miss being part of patch life and having the support of other families – although we still go to events on a patch nearby – and it takes time to get to know your neighbours in the civilian world.

Ideal way to live:
I think for the majority of people SFA works; I can’t imagine the added stress of having to find a home every time you are posted on top of everything else. It worked very well for us for many years, and I think it would be to the detriment of life as an Army family if SFA was no longer available.

thompnov16The Thompson family

Accommodation: Private Finance Initiative home
Location: Suffolk
Number of postings: Four
Children/pets: Five kids and one dog

Plus points (soldier Phil):
This is by far the most modern and best maintained Army home we have lived in. We are happy to pay the premium for it.

We have moved around as a family and notice how sociable our children are. They have had to make friends quickly and are always confident in a group where they don’t know anyone.

I don’t think the Army system takes the stress out of moving. We should be given more flexibility to move during a school holiday either before or after the posting start date. I have five days’ relocation leave to pack, unpack, settle in and clean a property to move-out standard, the same as a single soldier who has one room.

Our biggest issue is my wife’s career. She feels that she has been turned down for jobs because she is an Army wife.

Ideal way to live:
We desperately want our own house but there has never been the option to be posted within the garrison area. Stability to us means being located together as a family for a decent amount of time, combined with regular working hours.

hoggnov16The Hogg family

Accommodation: SFA
Location: Giffnock, Glasgow, with no Army support
Number of postings: Three in eight years
Children/pets: Two boys

Plus points (spouse Helen):
I believe that moving around can make us stronger people and it teaches us to be versatile and adaptable. The children are definitely developing stronger characters because of this. For us, stability means keeping the family settled and together and following a routine.

Our house has a large garden but an awkward internal layout and it’s in need of a lot of work. There’s no Army community or support here and the other half is away so much of the time, often without much notice. We have never received a posting from our shortlist which has led to moving to areas we would not have chosen.

Regularly leaving friends is hard for both the children and myself; getting started in new schools and/or rebuilding my career is definitely a setback.

Ideal way to live:
Having more structure, being kept in the loop and knowing when things are going to happen would help our Army life. When a posting has been given, it shouldn’t be changed several times.

hickmannov16The Hickman family

Accommodation: Substitute Service Families Accommodation
Location: Andover
Number of postings: Six in eight years
Children/pets: One daughter and a cat

Plus points (spouse Isobel):
This is the first period of stability for us in recent times as we will be staying here for at least two years and have been able to make both military and civilian friends.

Even though we’ve had what feels like house-moving whiplash up to now, I have enjoyed living in different places and meeting some wonderful people.

Living in SSFA initially meant that there was a lot of uncertainty whether we would find a place in time for my husband’s new job to start. You can only look at what’s available in the coming month, so it’s more stressful and ‘last minute’ than normal SFA allocations.

Maintenance can sometimes be a slow process with a middle man contractor acting on behalf of military tenants. They contact the estate agent, who contacts the landlord to approve any repairs.

Ideal way to live:
We would like to live and work in an area for a longer period of time to gain more family stability and enable us to buy our own property without the obstacle of moving every few years.

earlnov16The Earl family

Accommodation: SFA overseas
Location: Dhekelia, Cyprus
Number of postings: One
Children/pets: Stepson (9) who visits in the holidays

Plus points (spouse Elizabeth):
I am lucky and have a job so I have been able to create stability for myself outside of our house and family. We have an amazing view and a beautiful garden that I have cultivated since living here.

The main compromise for us has been over the choice of house, the size and the location. As I work from home, I need a study so we are limited to the number of guests we can have here. Stability really depends on whether my husband is away.

We’re a long way from family support networks and public transport and facilities for children are limited. Living on a holiday island means that travelling anywhere during the holidays is very expensive.

Ideal way to live:
I would like to be based closer to my university so I have the option to lecture there. We would love our own home and not having to move every two years. However, living unaccompanied would place huge strain on us, so the only option is to relocate as and when my husband is posted.

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