Good morning All,
I hope this email finds you all well? I acknowledge that communications from my desk have been quiet since taking post, but moving forwards this will change and my intention is to create a monthly “newsletter”. This will not only come direct to Mil AFC Champions from this office, but will also be hung on the main web-site.
Below is a series of updates the team and I believe are worth time reading and understanding. If there are particular issues that you are sensing are causing a volume of distress, or frustration, that don’t appear to be answered to in any forum please don’t hesitate to raise it into me.
- AFC Team. What have we been doing and how has the “Covenant” work been advancing? This is all captured at tile one. In addition:
- We are working on updated and re-profiling the AFC Website. Please bear with me, but in the meantime if you see any content that requires update please don’t hesitate to raise it for my attention.
- AFC Champion conferences. I intend to schedule a virtual conference before Christmas. If there are any particular topics you believe should be talked about please let me know.
- Update on Legislation: in addition to the attached see supporting information:
· The Government is currently working to strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant in law. The Armed Forces Bill introduces a new Duty on relevant public bodies in the functions of housing, healthcare and education. Those in scope will be legally obligated to pay due regard to the three principles of the Covenant, meaning they must consider:
- The unique obligations of, and sacrifices made by, the Armed Forces.
- That it is desirable to remove disadvantages arising for service people due to their membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces.
- That special provision for service people may be justified by the effect on such people of membership, or former membership, of the Armed Forces.
· The new Duty will therefore require those who are subject to it to consciously consider the Armed Forces community and the principles of the Covenant when developing policy and making decisions in the areas of housing, healthcare and education. By embedding Covenant awareness at the local level, this Duty aims to improve delivery of and access to key public services in order to address common disadvantages faced by serving personnel, veterans and their families.
· Alongside the legislation, we will release freely available statutory guidance, which will provide public bodies with useful tools that will help them to understand the Armed Forces community and the Covenant. We are also working to produce other training materials that will support the implementation process of the new duty in Local Authorities and bodies in scope.
· The legislation has passed the Commons and is now at the committee stage in the House of Lords. We expect it to reach royal assent by the end of the year and become law in 2022.
- Healthcare and Dentistry updates.
- Please find attached (tiles 2 and 3) the latest NHS Armed Forces Briefing. You may receive this via other channels so my apologies for any double tap. [updated email at tile 5]
- Dentistry. An on-going problem creating no end of issues for our families, especially those with a high mobility rate, and in particular parts of the country where dentist shortages are particularly acute. Though at this time it does not present a “Covenant” issue due to the fact the effects are felt by all citizens. We in the AFC team will continue to raise this as a significant issue heavily impacting Service family’s quality of life and work directly with Local Authorities to champion improved accessibility. In the meantime please see attached a useful “user-guide” and top tips for accessing care (tile 3).
- Op COURAGE. Just a reminder that the NHS and MOD have partnered to deliver multiple mental health support services; Tile is an infographic for your use.
- Financial Services Steering Group. I had the privilege of chairing this FSSG very recently, which highlighted the incredible support and positive activity being shown across the financial sectors working to remove disadvantage and address concerns raised, for example:
- Credit rating. The continue to be a small number of issues when a serving person has been based, or is based, overseas with a BFPO/embassy address. The recommendation from Credit Rating agencies is that every Serving Person should maintain an on-going understanding of their credit rating, to allow errors to be fixed asap. Useful support tools are below:
– It is free to check your credit score and to point out any errors, here’s the link – https://www.experian.co.uk/experian-account/01_free_score.html?ds_rl=1126318&ds_rl=1169936&ds_rl=1001741&ds_rl=1279506&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIt-fo9_jn8wIVhaZ3Ch3qAgV7EAAYASAAEgIK9_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
– New and innovative product “Experian Boost” to help people improve credit ratings, here’s the link – https://www.experian.co.uk/experian-account/boost.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0LXOwvnn8wIVieR3Ch2dFQ1YEAAYASAAEgLI9vD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
- If you are taking our loans or insurance, it is strongly recommended you check if a company has signed to the AF Covenant and committed pledges. To check, see here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/armed-force-corporate-covenant-signed-pledges
- Finally, this link remains useful and relevant: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/499120/FOI201600147_Annex_C_Guidance_Notes_for_Service_Personnel_Applying_for_unsecured_credit.pdf
- Customs/import tax of mail deliveries to overseas addresses. This issue has been raised through a number of forums, with Cyprus in particularly facing issues in delays and high charges. Your welfare cols have the latest information on this; please go through them if you need to raise concerns/issues so they can capture the volume of complaints. The BFPO website provides as much information as is needed and please note that these new charges are not the responsibility of BFPO but a mixture of: changes to international mailing regulations, host nation taxation, and tariffs as a result of EU Exit. Though not a “Covenant” issue, as it affects all citizens employed overseas equally and not exclusively the Armed Forces, it is a concern that this office acknowledges and champions on families’ behalf’s.
- Spousal employment overseas – tax. There is much work on-going with regards to spousal employment, being led by other parts of Def People and supported by the Charities. Alongside this we’ve seen a lot of misinterpretation of both the SOFA and terms of “residency”/tax reqts. The attached (Tile 4 – extracted from an email trail with AFF/MOD) is a catch-all of information and narrative that was staffed between MOD LEGAD and the families team with additional attachments provided by StratCom (OB Dir/GSO). This may be useful reference material for you.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to discuss any of the above content further. Please expect another update prior to Christmas, where hopefully we can confirm progress of the Covenant Annual Report and provide some additional information on Local Authority support.
Wg Cdr Vicky Green RAF | Armed Forces Covenant Team | Covenant Engagement | AFP Support
Tel: 020 7218 4527 | 9621 84527 | Mobile: 07890 627 601 | Skype: 0300 1579007