COVID-19 has brought huge upheaval this year, which has affected many areas of army families’ lives, including their finances. AFF’s money & allowances specialist, Claire Hallam, explains where to get support if you’re struggling…

Half of families who responded to AFF’s quick poll in July revealed that they have been negatively affected financially by the pandemic. Issues included increased food costs with children off school, and spouses who had handed in their notice, only to find that postings were subsequently suspended.

So, where can you go to get help and support if you are struggling financially and are not sure where to turn?

The Money Advice Service website is a great starting point and offers a wealth of information, including tools to
help you plan a budget.

Citizens Advice can also offer advice on debt and entitlement to benefits and StepChange offers comprehensive debt guidance.

What if I’m overseas?

The Royal British Legion benefits, debt and money advice service can help you to sort out any debts you may have with UK banks and help you get any UK benefits you may be entitled to.

You can also speak to your unit welfare team who may be able to signpost or refer to specialist agencies local to you.

Sound advice

Valerie Walwyn-Tait, CEO of Plane Saver Credit Union, has lots of tips on remaining financially resilient during the
COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, don’t ignore them,” says Valerie (pictured). “Many people leave it too late before they seek help or advice. This often means that they are too far down the cycle of debt for a positive outcome or to halt the decline into serious debt. These debts will follow you for many years and could have a detrimental impact on your ability to buy a house or car, for example.”

Valerie was a single mother working hard to make ends meet, when she learnt an invaluable lesson.

“Someone like myself sat me down and helped me to better understand the immediate and long-term impact of my financial situation. It was a struggle to feed the children and pay the bills. Eventually, I made it out of debt and got my finances back in control. It wasn’t easy, but it’s been well worth the struggle. With all the lessons I learnt then,I now live relatively debt-free,” she adds.

Money worries can harm relationships, the ability to perform your daily duties and affect your mental health.

Valerie advises: “They’re a big source of stress and it’s important to talk to someone if you feel the situation is
spiralling out of control. As a veteran and military wife, I know that your time in the military is the best time to build your financial resilience because life as a civilian is much more financially precarious.”

Credit score

Another bit of valuable advice is to look at your credit file.

“There are many credit agencies out there and it’s free! I’m amazed at how many people apply for credit and get
annoyed when they’re refused. If only they had looked at their credit file, they’d see why,” says Valerie.

“Remember that the more you apply for credit, the lower your score gets, even when you have been refused or
decide not to go ahead.”

These organisations have lots of useful information:

planesavercu.co.uk
aff.org.uk/advice/finances/debt-and-savings
stepchange.org
citizensadvice.org.uk
britishlegion.org.uk
moneyadviceservice.org.uk

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