Written evidence submitted by the Army Families Federation (DIS0016)
Pete Wishart MP
Chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide evidence on to your committee this on behalf of Army families. I was grateful for the thoughtful and informed questioning, and appreciate the Committee's time. As requested, I am writing with additional information on some of the questions raised during the recent oral evidence session on Defence in Scotland – Military Personnel and Estates held on 31 January 2022.
1. We do not have any evidence from families regarding the changes in bases, whether base closures or consolidations, and the effects they have on Service personnel and their families. This is likely because the Army – as both individuals and units – is highly mobile. There is a culture of units and sub-units moving locations and Service personnel are posted on regular postings to different locations. Therefore, the closure of a specific base may not be a significant concern to a family as they are likely to move away from the area at some point.
2. Families may have a few concerns about services being run down as bases close, but our experience is that units are generally good at identifying which families need to be ‘early movers’ – generally to support new school entry or special housing requirements. There can be some concern from individual families who have decided to permanently settle in a particular location, on the basis that there are a number of possible work locations for their soldier within a certain radius – and now find those odds reduced. However, these concerns are few, and the lead time on base closures is generally several years, which almost always gives sufficient time to adjust after any initial shock.
3. Between January 2019 and December 2021, AFF received around 900 enquiries where the family identified themselves as living in Scotland. Please note that we do not explicitly ask families where they currently living unless we need the information to resolve their query. Many of the enquiries relate more broadly to either generic issues arising during postings in Scotland or issues unspecific to being in Scotland (e.g. queries about entitlement to housing any family in the UK may ask).
4. In 2021, we received around 64 enquiries relating to the issues face specifically related to Army families moving between England and Scotland bases. The key themes were:
5. AFF’s long held view – drawing on our evidence of families concerns when moving around the UK, and to and from overseas locations – is that accessible and accurate information should be made available to families to ensure that they can make informed decisions and prepare for a successful posting. Given the high levels of mobility demanded by the Army, signposting to location specific information is a Defence responsibility.
6. In addition, we would also welcome the MOD liaising with the Scottish Government regarding the wider issues regarding differing qualifications and the inability to move further education funding streams between nations.
Collette Musgrave, AFF Chief Executive