Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Continuity of Education Allowance update

Our viral campaign regarding the DASA CEA survey culminated in a stunning array of media time.

We’ve had a huge response concerning the allowance changes and the DASA survey which led to  AFF issuing a press release to highlight your concerns. You could see the results every time you opened a newspaper or turned on the TV. Last week the  Forces Pension Society (FPS),  highlighted the huge financial impact of changes to public sector pensions, especially to War widows  as well as  the Government’s commitment to the Military Covenant. Our reporting on the state of your morale was seized upon by the networks and every major newspaper, TV channel and radio station. Forces issues even made it into Prime Minister’s questions!

The media will always pick on sensational aspects of any story.  So it is no surprise they majored on the headline statistic that 78% of you have reconsidered your future as a result of the allowance changes and that the ongoing closed review of CEA continues to cause anxiety in all areas of army life. The coincidental release of stories highlighting fraudulent CEA claims is also no surprise. The review of all claimants has been ongoing for many months and it is fortunate that the absolutely clear and fair requirement for this particular allowance have been given media space alongside these stories of abuse.  AFF welcomes every review into those claiming the allowance, and where fraud has or is occurring we absolutely believe the individuals should face the full brunt of both the Armed Forces and the law. But, it is equally vital to continue to stress that cases of fraud do not undermine the basic requirement for continuity of the education of your children.

On Thursday morning General Dannatt wrote strongly in favour of our position in the Daily Telegraph, giving the government notice as to the ‘amber warning lights’ our message, alongside that of the FPS and the concern over the status of the Military Covenant. We are delighted that this internationally respected former Chief of the  General Staff (CGS) continues to understand and support the unique difficulties of service life, especially during this prolonged period of fighting.  He, better than most will remember the huge recruiting and retention difficulties the army faced right until the economic collapse which is causing us such hardship today.  Whilst soldiers appear to be staying in the army due to the current economic climate, all military thinking understands that this will not last.  The fear must be, that as soon as the green shoots of recovery are seen in civi street soldiers will once again vote with their feet. Even promising increases to military spending for the next parliament  is unlikely to be enough; the maintenance of the status quo, let alone the very real shadow of even deeper cuts in the coming years are likely to mean that the promise of ’jam tomorrow’ will be at least a day too late.

So where do we go from here? Julie McCarthy has been in constant dialogue with senior command throughout this period of intense media activity, and whilst we have undoubtedly ‘ruffled a few feathers’, the working relationship remains excellent and they  understand that we would not be doing our job if we had played down your concerns. Whilst clearly protecting your confidentiality at all times we have undertaken to share the results of our survey with the Chief of the General Staff (CGS),  as well as passing on your written comments. This will provide evidence of the depth of feeling and concern currently being felt. We’ll keep you posted on how we get on, so keep emailing us your thoughts.

On a separate, brighter note the latest Continuous Attitude Survey will be hitting your doorsteps in the coming weeks. These are a vital tool in the trend analysis of forces life, so AFF encourages you all to fill this survey in with as much enthusiasm as you have been giving to the debate on allowances and morale. It is equally important and will give command a real sense of whether life is getting better or worse for our army community.

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