We have been hearing from many of you about how the rising cost of living is affecting your household finances. If you’re wondering what support is available, it may be worth looking into whether you’re entitled to claim any government benefits.

Claire Hallam, AFF’s Money & Allowances Specialist, says: “There’s often still a misconception that being in the army means you can’t claim benefits.

“This isn’t the case and, following work by our team, there’s now a specific process for claiming benefits like Universal Credit when you’re assigned overseas.

“If you’re in any doubt about what you’re eligible for, do a benefits check-up on gov.uk and make sure you’re claiming all you can.”

Universal Credit

Universal Credit helps support families on a lower income and has different elements such as housing costs, childcare costs and disability. It will eventually replace many existing benefits, like housing benefit or tax credits.

How much you can claim will depend on your age, household income, how many children you have, the type of housing you live in and whether you have any savings or investments. Currently, there are around 3,600 service personnel claiming it.

If you’re claiming existing benefits like housing benefit, tax credits or child tax credits and are considering changing to Universal Credit, it’s important that you seek specialist benefits advice first.

Example 1:

A service person lives with their spouse who is not working
Both are over 25 years old
They live with one child in SFA
The family has no savings
Their monthly household income is £2,018.73
= UC payment per month is £136.88

Example 2:

A lance corporal is a single parent and has two children, aged 7 and 3
They all live in SFA together
The three-year-old (no disability) attends nursery three times a week
The service person doesn’t have more than £6,000 in savings and investments
= UC payment is £206.17 a week or £893.44 a month

Top tip

If you’re applying for Universal Credit and you live in Service Family Accommodation, you’ll need to put ‘private accommodation’ on the application. See the money & allowances pages at aff.org.uk for advice and evidence needed.

Other benefits

There are a range of other benefits, which aren’t always based on your household income, some may be based on your national insurance contribution history and previous earnings.

New-style Jobseeker’s Allowance could support you if you’re out of work for up to six months. It’s not based on household income or savings but on previous contribution history.


Army wife Hannah moved with her husband on posting and had to leave her job. She was looking for work in their new location.

“I didn’t think I could claim anything as I thought our household income was too high,” she said.

“AFF sent me more information on new-style Jobseeker’s and suggested I check. I was able to claim around £74 a week for a few months while searching for work.”

How can I check what I’m entitled to?

There are benefits calculators where you can enter all your details and work out what you could be eligible for at gov.uk/benefits-calculators

Can everyone claim?

Some people may not be able to claim benefits, for example, if you’re from outside the UK and have ‘no recourse to public funds’ on your visa. If this is the case, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not claiming any benefits which are classed as public funds.

Some benefits can’t be claimed together. For example, the MOD’s wraparound childcare scheme requires a tax-free childcare account, but you can’t claim Universal Credit and tax-free childcare at the same time.

AFF is still highlighting some areas of disadvantage, particularly for separated spouses, who can’t claim Universal Credit housing costs if they stay in a quarter after the 93-day notice to vacate period is up.

If you feel you’ve been disadvantaged by being an army family when claiming benefits, contact moneysupport@aff.org.uk

Benefits help

The Royal British Legion’s Benefits, Debt and Money Advice service – search BDMA at support.britishlegion.org.uk
Citizens Advice citizensadvice.org.uk
Citizens Advice Scotland Armed Services Advice Project adviseasap.org.uk
The Department for Work and Pensions has more than 60 Armed Forces Champions who can help deal with complex cases. Contact your local job centre for more support.

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