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A new section has been added to the Naval Families Federation website offering advice and guidance through the complex rules and regulations on UK visas and citizenship.

 

The new pages complement the personal advice offered by recently-qualified NFF immigration adviser Peter Hawley, who handles cases and enquiries from serving military personnel and their families, as well as veterans and their families who are still under Armed Forces immigration rules.

 

Information contained within the UK Visas and Citizenship pages will not only assist serving sailors and Marines and their families, but will also be a boon to the Chain of Command and supporting agencies.

 

UK immigration rules are an area requiring a degree of specialist knowledge – getting it wrong could lead to a costly error, or a situation which has major implications for future immigration applications.

 

As such, the information provided – compiled with the help of military immigration law specialist Joanne Sullivan of GBS UK Immigration – offers general guidance.

 

The pages also signpost to other websites which cover or specialise in visa and citizenship matters such as Gov.uk – the official UK government website – and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), which regulates immigration advisers.

 

Pete (Peter.Hawley@nff.org.uk) is qualified to provide immigration advice for all applications within the Immigration Rules for the following categories at Level 1:

  • Applications for entry clearance, leave to enter and leave to remain for visitors and family members;
  • Nationality and Citizenship;
  • Some aspects of EU and EEA immigration law.

 

He will not advise on enquiries relating to student or work visas, which are outside the scope of the NFF, and requests for advice on more complicated or specialist immigration issues will be referred on to agencies qualified to Level 2, in most cases either Joanne Sullivan or Katherine Houlston of the Army Families Federation (AFF).

 

For further details of how the NFF can help you in more complicated immigration issues see the OISC statement on our website at nff.org.uk/oisc-details/

 

NFF Chief Executive Officer Anna Wright said:

 

“I am thrilled that the NFF is able to expand the suite of advice and guidance that we can offer into the complicated area of immigration.

“My colleagues field queries on immigration issues on a regular basis, and this is yet more proof of our determination to provide a comprehensive support service for all of our Royal Navy and Royal Marines families.”

 

The new web pages, designed and created by NFF Marketing and Communications Manager Cinmi Walker, went live today (8th September, 2020) and will be updated regularly as rules and regulations change.

 

The NFF website also offers advice on accommodation, education, employment, finance, leaving the Service, overseas assignments, relationships and wellbeing.

 

Posted on: 8th September, 2020

 

A new helpline providing support for Service personnel experiencing or witnessing bullying, harassment or discrimination has been set up by the Ministry of Defence to clamp down on instances of unacceptable behaviour in the Armed Forces.

 

The helpline, which will go live in September, will be staffed 24/7 by trained bullying, harassment and discrimination advisers and qualified counsellors, who will provide emotional support, information and guidance to callers.

 

Individuals will be able to report incidents anonymously to independent advisers and seek help on how to take issues forward, including through local support networks or the service complaints system, where necessary.

 

Establishing the bullying and harassment helpline was one of the key recommendations of Air Chief Marshal Wigston’s review into behaviour across defence that was published last year. The report found that while the majority of personnel behave appropriately, there is still an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour in the military. Thirty-six recommendations were made as part of the report, all of which have been accepted by the Ministry of Defence.

 

To evaluate the success of current measures and ensure progress continues to be made at speed, an independent review of Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) anti-bullying work will be led by Danuta Gray, a Non-Executive Board Member and Chair of the People Committee at the MOD. In this role she has overseen processes for managing the careers of senior military officers and senior civil servants, with a specific focus on behaviour and incentives across Defence. The review will commence on the first anniversary of the Wigston review (Wednesday 15 July 2020) and will run for approximately 3 months.

 

Read the government’s press release here

 

Uploaded on: 2nd September, 2020

 

On the 1st September ‘Strengthening Families – By Your Side’, a new offer of support for all Royal Navy families, will officially launch.

 

Strengthening Families – By Your Side has been developed by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) and Naval Families Federation (NFF), in partnership with the Royal Navy, Kings Active Foundation, Home-Start UK and Relate. This project is supported by funding over the next three years from the Armed Forces Covenant. In addition to this, the RNRMC have also brought together funded projects from the Naval Children’s Charity, Aggie Weston’s and KIDS to provide a comprehensive support package to service families whenever and wherever they need it.

 

This groundbreaking partnership will work collaboratively to address some of the key issues underlined in the RNRMC’s ‘Understanding of Need’ report, primarily looking at the gap between the support available for dispersed families nationwide compared to support available for those living in or near base ports.

 

 

Professor Janet Walker, who has been instrumental in the project’s development, said:

“Increasingly, as Royal Navy families choose to live away from their home base, many are experiencing loneliness and social isolation, the absence of a military peer group who understand and share the same pressures, relationship difficulties caused by time spent apart during deployments and weekending, and the unpredictability of home-comings and family time.”

“‘Strengthening Families – By Your Side’ can break down the barriers to seeking support and will assist members of Navy families, wherever you live and whoever you are, to access confidential and personalised practical and emotional help.”

 

The importance of support for dispersed families was echoed by Anna Wright, CEO of NFF:

“From my perspective the most exciting aspect of this project is that it supports our dispersed community.  With 39% living away from bases, having located in every county in the UK, it is essential that RNRM families can access appropriate support on the ground. And being able to self-refer to this support as a naval family is vital. We are delighted to be working with a group of charities that are collaborative, flexible and committed to supporting the naval lifestyle.

 

Mandy Lindley, Director of Relationships and Funding at the RNRMC added:

“By working together, we can deliver the improvement in quality of life that is needed by our service families. Strengthening Families – By Your Side is about early intervention and prevention, providing a range of services leading to improved family cohesion, conflict resolution, health and well-being, and increased levels of happiness.”

 

Further information

For more information about the full range of support available and how to access it please visit: rnrmc.org.uk/how-we-help/families-and-relationships

 

Posted on: 1st September, 2020

 

Researchers at Bath Spa University are conducting a new study to understand what helps or hinders teaching careers for spouses and partners of British Armed Forces personnel. Findings from the study will inform teacher training providers, like Bath Spa University, that want to recruit and support trainee teachers with a military-affiliated background.

 

Background

Research at Bath Spa University has identified specific challenges faced by mature students with a military-affiliated background, including military wives (Macer & Chadderton, 2020). Recent news reports suggest an increasing number of people are now considering joining the teaching profession since the Covid-19 lockdown. However, little is known about the experiences of spouses and partners of British Armed Forces personnel who want to pursue or return to a career in teaching.

 

About the Study

This study is supported by the three Families Federations and is being conducted via an online survey. To take part in the study, participants should be:

  • 18 years old or above
  • In a relationship (married/civil partnership or other) to a serving member of the British Armed Forces
  • Not serving in the British Armed Forces

Please click here to participate in the research survey. The survey will close on Friday 2nd October 2020.

 

Get in touch

If you would like to know more, please get in touch with Dr Mel Macer, School of Education, Bath Spa University at m.macer@bathspa.ac.uk

 

Posted on: 14th August, 2020

The following update from DCYP may assist people who are considering assignments to the USA with their children, and those who have clearance but have not yet traveled with their families:

BDSUS / DCYP EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION AWARENESS UPDATE AS AT 5 AUGUST 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been globally unprecedented and the situation remains uncertain. The COVID-19 pandemic in the US is still widespread and shows no signs of reducing in the near term (0-3 months). The pandemic continues to impact all aspects of day to day life and we know families are understandably concerned about children’s education for the forthcoming 20/21 school year. Defence recognises this complicates decision making for those personnel and their families considering or preparing to deploy to the US soon and that for many the situation will be deeply unsettling.

Due to the size of the US and delegation of decision making both to and below State level, varying approaches will be seen in different locations with a mixture of classroom, home and hybrid leaning. All States and school districts are routinely and regularly reviewing the situation and when State health authorities consider it safe and appropriate, schools will re-open. The unpredictability of this virus makes it difficult to predict when this will happen in each location. Decision making is also politically influenced.

BDSUS, together with the MOD’s Directorate for Children and Young People (DCYP), are committed to doing everything we can to provide advice and guidance during this time to allow MOD military and civilian parents to make informed decisions.

DCYP have conducted an initial review of the planned education provision for the Fall (Autumn) Semester in areas with the highest proportion of MOD children[1]. The primary concern of all school districts was the safety of children and staff, with their positions being informed by public health agencies. DCYP found that in all but one location the published planning for online provision established by school districts appeared adequate, meaning that it meets a level that ensures children have opportunities to engage with learning to a sufficient standard. Insufficient information was available from Clark County, Nevada to enable an informed judgement at the time of assessment.

Notwithstanding this assessment, the effect of COVID-19 on education for the Fall Semester 20/21 has been significant. Nearly all States will be required to maintain virtual lessons or adopt a blended learning format. While at present there are also no guarantees that the UK Autumn academic term will be uninterrupted, and comparisons between the US and UK are difficult to make due to this uncertainty, the transition to a new education system is challenging for children in the best of circumstances. With the current context of remote learning in many locations likely until at least the beginning of 2021, and potentially for the full academic year, schools are limited in their ability to provide new students with the normal support and induction, thereby increasing the risk of unsuccessful transitions. It is therefore important for Service and UKBC parents to carefully consider whether they continue accompanied with a planned assignment to the US, if they have children of school age.

To mitigate this risk, DCYP have identified an online tutoring programme called Tutor.com, utilised by the US Department of Defense for military families, that provides support for students in grades K-12. This tutoring service can be more flexible than traditional tutoring models, in that it responds to need rather than a rigid timetabling of sessions each week. BDSUS is urgently scoping the potential for our military and UKBC personnel to have temporary funded access to this learning capability for September. More advice on this will hopefully follow.

Parents should fully familiarise themselves with the planned format of learning being adopted by their receiving school district. They should also be prepared to support their children with home learning on arrival (as they will have been doing in the UK earlier this year).

For military personnel, parents may decide to explore other avenues for schooling their children such as CEA, retention of current service accommodation for the family etc.  BDSUS leadership will be writing to senior leaders within MOD and the single Services to encourage flexibility wherever possible, although decisions will inevitably need to be made on a case-by-case basis.  Advice should be sought on these issues from the individual’s own chain of command. Service personnel also have interim arrangements for additional allowances for children already in boarding school because of COVID-19, as per the Defence People AF Remuneration directed letter dated, 4 Jun 2020 (here).

We also recognise some parents will wish to investigate private education options within the US, for which two thirds funding is available for UKBC parents. However, it should be noted that continuity of ‘in-person’ tutoring is also not guaranteed in private schools and, due both to an increased demand and COVID-19 mitigation measures, we know that many private schools in the areas where we have personnel are no longer offering places for the 20/21 academic year.

Further advice for both Service Personnel and UKBC can be sought in the first instance from CEAS at DCYP-CEAS-Enquiries@mod.gov.uk (CEAS helpline: 01980 618244 or 94344 8244)

Or

BDSUS Educational Team: BDSUS-SpGp-HEALTHED-GROUP@mod.gov.uk

Date:  5 Aug 20

 

In 2019, the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, commissioned The Rt. Hon. Mark Francois MP and his research team, to produce an independent report on improving Retention within the Armed Forces.

 

The review team gathered evidence to inform the study in a number of ways, including email consultations and visits to military bases. The NFF was delighted to host the team at HMS EXCELLENT to meet with Service personnel and spouses/partners at a forum during the consultation period.

 

The report, ‘Stick or Twist?’, which has been seen by the Prime Minister, is now available. 

 

It produces 14 specific recommendations to help improve Retention in HM Armed
Forces. These include reviewing the degree of operational tempo, pay and allowances, childcare and
the maintenance of Service Family Accommodation. Examples below:

 

  • It must be clearly acknowledged that the pressures on family/personal life remain the
    single biggest driver for people to leave HM Armed Forces and it is realistically unlikely
    that the problems of Retention can be ameliorated unless this challenge is faced head
    on. This means the Department must look again at both its alert states and its high tempo
    of recycling personnel in order to seek to achieve a more realistic work/life balance –
    without compromising key operations. (recommendation 2)

 

  • The cost and availability of childcare is now a material reason why Service personnel are
    leaving the Armed Forces and Defence needs to think innovatively in order to provide
    increased capacity in childcare, including “out of hours”, and also needs to ensure that this
    is a cost which even junior ranks can realistically afford. (recommendation 5)

 

Commenting on the findings of the “Stick or Twist?” report, Mark Francois MP said:

“My team and I have worked for over a year to provide proposals to improve Retention. Some of these, such as extending the Forces Help to Buy Scheme and expanding Childcare for service personnel are thankfully already being actioned. We have made further proposals, including taking Service Family Accommodation (SFA) away from the failing Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and vesting it in a dedicated Forces Housing Association (FHA) instead. This new entity would be optimised to provide decent, affordable accommodation for service personnel and their families and would be run in their interests, not that of the MoD bureaucracy. However, there is always more to do, in order to persuade personnel to “Stick” rather than to “Twist” and dare I say it, Remain in HM Armed Forces”.

 

Click here to listen to an interview with our CEO’s reaction to the report from an episode of Sitrep via BFBS Radio (23rd July, 12:12 onwards). The Naval Families Federation (NFF) welcome your thoughts on the report, please do contact us.

 

Posted on: 22nd July, 2020
Last updated on: 14th August, 2020

 

 

 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce £200-million new government funding for the UK Armed Forces’ housing and accommodation.

 

Thousands of UK Armed Forces families across the UK will have their housing and accommodation improved and renovated thanks to nearly £200-million of new Government funding, announced last Friday (17th July) by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

On a joint visit to Catterick Garrison, the Ministers chatted to soldiers about the ways the improvements will help them. Over 5,000 personnel, plus their families will have homes modernised with new kitchens, bathrooms and furnishings including re-roofing to reduce the risk of mould and damp.

As part of the funding injection 3,500 service homes will be upgraded as well as single living quarters. This will improve life for UK Armed Forces personnel deployed at home and abroad to keep the nation safe, including in the fight to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The work will also make UK Armed Forces estates more environmentally friendly. New windows and doors will provide better insulation, energy efficient boilers will drive down bills, and solar panels and electric vehicle charging points will reduce the carbon footprint.

Families with young children will benefit from new play areas, roads will be resurfaced and energy efficient street lighting will help modernise sites as part of the funding.

The Defence Secretary invited the Chancellor to Catterick Garrison last week, which will benefit from investment in Service Family Accommodation, to announce the news.

 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“Our Armed Forces work incredibly hard to keep our nation safe, and so it is only right that they have a place they feel proud to call home.

“From introducing a generous Forces Help to Buy scheme to piloting a new rented accommodation model, we have made enormous steps in recent years to offer flexible housing for a modern workforce.

“This latest investment will benefit thousands of our personnel and their families, providing the standard of living they deserve.”

 

Improving accommodation and facilities across military estates will also be part of bold new plans, including replacing 30 WW2 accommodation blocks in Longmoor, Pirbright, Westdown, Knook, Nesscliffe, Castlemartin Camps and providing new accommodation for on-call personnel in Northern Ireland.

 

The investment is expected to sustain around 2,000 jobs through the work on housing improvements including plumbers, electricians, painters and decorators. This will be delivered through the existing National Housing Prime contract. Upgrades will begin in late summer and will be delivered over a period of two years.

 

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

“Day in, day out, our Armed Forces make huge personal sacrifices for our country, and it is our duty to ensure they have the best conditions possible.

“This news doesn’t just mean service homes across the country will be upgraded, but will see 2,000 jobs in sectors where they are needed the most, like plumbing and decorating – delivering our Plan for Jobs.”

 

CEO Naval Families Federation, Anna Wright said:

“Having a decent standard of accommodation is fundamental to serving personnel and their families feeling valued by the nation for their work and the sacrifices they make and this is something we have campaigned for, for some time. That funding of £200M has been secured is hugely welcome.”

 

Over the last four years £530-million has been invested in improvements to Service Family Accommodation. The additional £200-million funding package will continue to improve the standard of both homes for Service families and single living accommodation on military bases.

Improvements to accommodation sit alongside a suite of recent changes to military accommodation to make it more accessible and flexible for personnel and their families.

The MOD recently introduced new flexible working arrangements, expanded offerings to cohabiting couples and extended the Forces Help to Buy scheme until the end of 2022, giving our UK Armed Forces the chance to get a foot on the housing ladder. This has allowed military personnel to borrow a deposit of up to half of their annual salary, interest free, to contribute towards buying a home, moving house, or building an extension.

This follows the announcement last week that military children will be entitled to free breakfast and after-school childcare as part of ongoing measures to further support the UK Armed Forces and their loved ones.

 

Funding details - infographic

 

 

Posted on: 20th July, 2020
Updated on: 1st October, 2020

 

The government has announced a 12-week consultation seeking views on how to remove the discrimination caused by the transitional rules which meant older Service Personnel (SP) remained in their legacy schemes when other, younger, SP were transferred to the reformed scheme in 2015. 

 

In 2015 the government implemented reforms to all the main public service pension schemes, including the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. The reforms included a policy of transitional protection that meant members closest to retirement stayed in their old schemes. The Court of Appeal later found the policy to be discriminatory, primarily against younger members, and so since then the government has been working to address the discrimination. Whilst the simplest option would be to put public service pension members back in their legacy schemes, the Government has been clear that it will not do this as a significant number of personnel will be better off in the reformed (2015) schemes. Therefore, the final policy design needs to allow members a choice of which scheme is better for them.

 

The public service pensions consultation is the next stage in the process to remove the discrimination identified by the courts in the 2015 pension reforms. The changes proposed in the consultation to remove the discrimination will apply across all of the main public service pension schemes and provide members with a choice of which scheme benefits they would like to receive for the remedy period.

 

Scheme members who will be in scope are those who had service on or before 31 March 2012 and on or after 1 April 2015. This includes any pre-31 March 2012 re-joiners with a qualifying break in Service of less than 5 years. This includes those members who are currently serving and in-scope personnel who have left the service since 1 April 2015.  Members who were originally covered by the transitional protection will also be provided with a choice of which scheme benefits they would prefer to receive for the remedy period.

 

The remedy period is the time period for which members will be able to retrospectively choose which scheme benefits they will receive. It will run from 1 April 2015 which is when the reforms were introduced, until 31 March 2022 which is the point when treatment will be equalised going forward. This is because the government also proposes that, with effect from 1 April 2022, all those who continue in service will do so as members of the AFPS 15 irrespective of whether they previously had transitional protection or not.

 

The Government and the Ministry of Defence have issued communications on the consultation, the options and impacts on pension schemes. Service Personnel and families are recommended to read these communications which can be accessed through MODNET or directly on the Government’s website.

 

Posted on: 17th July, 2020

The Naval Families Federation has been at the forefront of raising awareness of the childcare challenges for serving families since it carried out its first childcare survey in 2016, and its follow-up survey earlier this year (which will be published shortly). We are very grateful to everyone who responded so generously with their time and thoughts. You have allowed us to represent your experiences with authority and in detail to the Government, the Royal Navy and other stakeholders.

 

We are delighted that the announcement has been made of a new offer of free ‘wraparound’ childcare, to be piloted from September.

 

RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire will be the first bases to offer the scheme, with service personnel based in Catterick and Plymouth able to access the pilot scheme from January 2021. We will update you with further details of the Plymouth pilot as soon as these become available.

 

While we very warmly welcome this news, we are aware that wraparound care is only one aspect of this complex issue. We will continue to work hard to represent your experiences and challenges in all areas of childcare.

 

  • Read more about the announcement here.
  • Find out more about childcare for Service children here.
  • Click here to listen to an interview with our CEO’s reaction to the announcement from an episode of Sitrep via BFBS Radio (23rd July, 12:12 onwards).
Updates
November 2020

Royal Navy Wraparound Childcare (WAC) pilot for eligible Service Personnel assigned to the Plymouth area

 

The Wraparound Childcare (WAC) pilot provides funding to eligible parent(s) with children between the ages of 4 to 11 years old with up to 20 hours per week of free before and after school childcare during term time.

 

Parent(s) can choose their own OFSTED, (or equivalent), registered childcare provider. The first pilot started in the autumn term 2020 and included Service personnel assigned to RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton. In January 2021, the pilot will be extended to include Service personnel assigned to the Plymouth area.

 

The second pilot is for Service Personnel (Tri-Service, Regular and Full Time Reserve Service (Full Commitment)) who are assigned to the Plymouth area, and have child /children aged 4 to 11 years old who are in school and/or being home schooled at the start of the spring term. Those whose Assignment Orders have a report for duty date between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021 may also apply.

 

At the start of the pilot, the Service person and their partner, or a sole parent in a lone parent family, must be:

  • In paid employment, or re-starting work within the next 31 days.
  • Working at least 16 hours each per week.
  • Earning a weekly income equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage.
  • Financially responsible for a child who usually lives with them, unless separated due to Service commitments or are on unaccompanied assignments.
  • Each earning less than £100K per year.

 

You can only claim for WAC if you are using registered, regulated and inspected providers who are eligible to use Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) or Childcare Vouchers.

 

Further guidance will be published shortly.

Posted on: 7th July, 2020
Updated on: 18th November, 2020

In January 2019, Andrew Selous MP was asked by the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to produce an independent report to capture the needs of Service families.

 

The review team gathered evidence to inform the study in a number of ways, including email consultations, visits to military bases, schools with large numbers of Service children, and meetings with key military personnel and stakeholders. The NFF was delighted to host the team at our offices to meet with Service personnel and spouses/partners at a forum during the consultation period.

 

The report, ‘Living in our Shoes’, which features our parental absence guide, is now available.

 

Key themes emerged during the review about the challenges experienced by Armed Forces families today which are regarded as detrimental to modern family life and relationships. These refer to: Service Family Accommodation (SFA); mobility; deployment; the impact of Service life on military children and young people; the employment and careers of spouses/partners; the health and well-being of Serving personnel and family members; and the impact of Service life on personal relationships.

 

Members of the Armed Forces have a great sense of pride in the work they do and the sacrifices they and their families make.

 

The report outlined over 100 recommendations in different areas to support Service personnel and their families. The recommendations are targeted primarily at actions for the MOD and the three single Services, but some have implications for other government departments and local authorities in England, the Devolved Governments of the UK, and a range of organisations in the statutory, private and charitable sectors.

 

  • You can download a copy of the summary here. The full report can be found here
  • Please click here to see the Government’s response to the recommendations made in the report.

 

Posted on: 30th June, 2020
Updated on: 16th April, 2021