For some locations post-Brexit, it’s become more challenging for army family members classed as NEETS – young adults who are not in full-time employment, education or training – to live and work in Europe when accompanying their parents.
Esther Thomas, AFF’s Manager Overseas, explains: “The issue is that families are tightly regulated with regards to ‘dependancy’ status as this is fundamentally linked with immigration, eligibility to accompany, entitlements to services and the right to work in another country.”
With current MOD policy only recognising young people aged 18-24 in full-time education as full dependants, families posted overseas have always had to seek prior permission to take their NEETS with them, unless they are taking a gap year, or are physically or mentally incapable of supporting themselves.
Esther spoke to a few families who have had to make tough decisions, but were willing to share their experiences to help others.
Terri (main photo with her family) contacted AFF when it became apparent that her two eldest children would not be counted in the family’s overseas housing entitlement. She feels that the army policy is outdated: “In the current climate, young adults are not able to move out; they have only just finished school, are starting their first jobs and don’t always have the funds to live independently.”
For Terri this lack of housing entitlement, along with restrictions for their young adults to get jobs or volunteer, plus some other family dynamics, resulted in the family not actually taking up the overseas posting.
KNOWING THE RULES
In contrast, Justin, who was posted to Belgium, told AFF: “It wasn’t a preference, so it came as a bit of a surprise. I hadn’t given much thought to the possible impact of EU exit on our family circumstances.”
His two eldest children had lived with them in their quarter in the UK, so their intention was for this to continue in Belgium, but they soon realised that they were not covered by the NATO Status of Forces Agreement and in a post-Brexit world, had no automatic right of residency and no right to work. There is currently no alternative visa process to allow them to reside or work legally either. To overcome this, one of Justin’s sons, aged 21, has enrolled for an online university course which puts him into a full-time education bracket. Their eldest, at 26, has had to move back to the UK to live with his grandma due to restrictions which mean he could only visit for 90 days in a 180-day period.
Justin says: “We are no longer covered by those EU-wide agreements, it’s a must to understand what it actually means for your family before accepting an overseas tour.”
MAKING THE MOST OF IT
In the meantime Martha is making the most of her overseas experiences. After starting a language degree in the UK, she decided it wasn’t for her and returned to her parents’ home in Cyprus. Looking for a new focus, she decided to qualify as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, completing her course online. Fortunately, in this location family members with full or limited status may apply for UK Dependant jobs on camp but must register with the Republic of Cyprus if wanting to work outside the Sovereign Base Areas.
On qualifying she set up her own business and now has a local business licence.
Esther adds: “Whilst we’re delighted that some chains of command are demonstrating a degree of flex in continuing to consider applications for NEETS to accompany families overseas, AFF will continue to push for improved comms on the impact of Brexit. Families need to fully understand what is and what’s not available to enable all family members to make the most of an overseas posting.”
Head to aff.org.uk for updates.