2020 was a very challenging year for all families. From Army families, AFF dealt with more than 11,000 enquiries covering a huge range of issues, from accessing financial products and services whilst overseas, to understanding the Service Pupil Premium; from difficulties with visas overseas to accessing student finance. Housing, school admissions, access to additional needs support, employment issues – we’ve heard about every aspect of family life in the Army.
For Army families, COVID-19 has brought unique impacts and issues. Topics families contacted us about included the impact of the assignment freeze on the allocation of SFA, children about to move schools and partners about to start new jobs, as well as the particular challenges of moving to and from overseas assignments.
Foreign & Commonwealth largest area of enquiry in 2020
Foreign & Commonwealth was the biggest area of enquiry in 2020, making up nearly 25% of the total. These enquiries have increased by more than 9% since 2019. Non-UK Army families have contacted us about difficulties applying for and renewing visas when based overseas and we continue to receive a significant number of enquiries regarding the Minimum Income Requirement rules.
Spike in housing enquiries
Housing continues to be a significant source of enquiry at 20% of the total. We saw a spike in enquiries during the first lockdown, with families seeking information on whether their move-in would go ahead, as well as needing support with the delay to moving out, which affected their finances and house purchases.
We have seen a 14% rise in money and allowances enquiries since 2019, including issues with accessing financial products and services whilst overseas, to enquiries relating to the impact of COVID-19 on families with children at boarding school and boarding-related allowances.
Deployment enquiries rising
Enquiries about training and deployment increased by 29%. Families contacted us with queries about the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions with their serving partner deployed, including queries about whether deployments would go ahead and whether R&R was permitted.
To find out more about AFF and to read the latest Families’ Concerns, visit www.aff.org.uk