Anyone who has experienced an overseas posting will recall how much admin there is to complete before you go. Fortunately, the Families Section is on hand to help smooth the process.

AFF’s Manager Overseas, Esther Thomas, links in with Mandy Skidmore, the Families Section Manager, and her team on a regular basis. Over the last few years, they’ve seen several improvements, but have also managed a few challenges, especially throughout the Covid situation.

Esther recently visited face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic, she reports: “Our strong working relationship with this team is invaluable. They play a vital role and have a huge workload despite being a small team of eight.”

Primarily, they help arrange the safe passage of all families who are posted overseas, whether that’s from the UK or directly from another location abroad. This can be upwards of 2,000 families a year – that’s possibly 8,000 journeys if you include all family members involved!

Get in touch early

The ‘call forward process’ can take up to three months. Deputy Manager Heather Extence says it’s best to contact the Families Section by email, as soon as you know you’re heading overseas. “The team is happy to process requests from those of you who have been informed verbally of your assignment but are not yet in receipt of the paperwork. This is especially important where it’s a short-notice move,” she explains.

This email is vital as it triggers the medical and educational supportability checks required for all accompanying family members – which includes children and young adults in full-time education in the UK who don’t live with you permanently. This period also allows for any welfare or security issues to be identified and resolved.

If you’re part of a unit move, you’ll be guided through the process via your unit welfare team supported by the Families Section.

“The process has been much smoother than I imagined and I am super grateful to you and everyone else who has provided guidance along the way!”

Support in-situ

Once you’re overseas, the Families Section is also responsible for booking School Children’s Visit (SCV) flights for many rest of world locations, so are experts on finding the best routes, fares and unaccompanied minors options for youngsters at boarding school.

Mandy says: “In my tenure no one has missed a flight due to the Families Section! My team often go above and beyond until they have a solution, always putting families’ safety first.”

Another key role is to make sure everything is in place before they authorise your travel tickets, travel visas, and dependant status stamps that you may need in some locations. Non-UK citizens and their families should be advised by the Defence Travel section on additional travel documentation needed.

“Thank you for your patience and perseverance in continuing to support my family’s requirements during this process, you have been totally understanding and empathetic to our situation.”

Areas not covered

There are some things that the team is not responsible for. The Families Section:

  • Does not contribute to any medical or educational supportability decisions, they purely collate the authorities once approved.
  • Does not book hotels or hire cars – this is the responsibility of the losing unit.
  • Does not support your move back to the UK – this is the responsibility of the gaining unit.

AFF’s top tip is to let the Families Section know your anticipated date of travel in the subject line of the initial email, as the team will prioritise in order. You should also state which location you’re going to so that your family pack can be posted. Email or 07977 824330.

“There is always someone at the other side of the phone or email that is always helpful. I know it’s a thankless job but please, on behalf of my family, thank you.”

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