Tuesday 30th March 2021
Summary of enhanced support to Service personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Directed Letters reviewed for the Spring Update 2021.
The Armed Forces (Remuneration) Allowances (REM Allces) team had been working hard following the outbreak of COVID-19 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on Service personnel and their families. And continues to work with the single Services, UK STRATCOM and MOD COVID-19 Recovery and Response team to ensure the right level of support is delivered, whether abroad or in the UK.
In the Spring Update 2021, dated 25 March 2021, the policy changes are highlighted and the relevant Directed Letters signposted.
Flexibility in allowances policy
Of note, the team has provided enhanced flexibility in allowances policy in order to:
- Support Service personnel and their families, particularly those serving abroad, by enhancing allowances that allow families to be reunited and by supporting children’s education;
- Reimburse costs that are directly related to testing and quarantine incurred when travelling on duty (including School Children’s Visits and Service personnel travelling on Personnel Resilience Exemptions) during the pandemic;
- Provide flexibility and enhancements in allowances that allow Service personnel that are required to relocate to use methods and time frames that are more flexible in an uncertain time;
- Enhance allowances attached to operational tours to ensure that Service personnel that are required to deploy to specified operational locations continue to receive the appropriate allowances during periods of quarantine.
Directed Letters included in the Spring Review
As we remain in a period of uncertainty, existing Directed Letters have been reviewed and amended ahead of the Easter period. Links to these Directed Letters can be found on GOV.UK website and REM Allces DEFNET site.
This DL recognises that a number of allowances and expenses had been affected by the unique circumstances that SP faced throughout the pandemic. This may be particularly noticeable when they are sick, facing a period of self-isolation, are required to move between accommodation or have travel restrictions placed on them. The REM Allces team have clarified elements of policy as well as issuing exceptional authority in order to allow eligible SP to receive the appropriate allowances. For example, Special Messing Allowance, Duty Travel and Disturbance Expense, where qualifying criteria would not otherwise have been met. Entitlement to allowances during periods in mandatory quarantine can also be found in this letter.
In most cases COVID-19 testing arrangements for duty reasons should be coordinated by the Unit HR on behalf of the SP, in consultation with the MOD COVID-19 testing team ([email protected]). However, there have been occasions whereby SP and immediate families have been required to pay the costs of COVID-19 test. This DL clarifies entitlement to reimbursement and should be read in conjunction with Defence Advice Note 18. Current provision is in place for those travelling under Personnel Resilience Exemptions. Work is in progress to ensure Defence provides an appropriate contribution to travel costs as and when international travel restrictions are reduced.
Operational Allowance (OA), Campaign Continuity Allowance (CCA) and Concessionary Travel for Families (CTF) Interim Arrangements in Response to COVID-19 updated 17 March 2021.
This DL, which was drafted in consultation with operational commanders, gives exceptional authority for SP to receive operational allowances when they are required to spend a period of time away from the specified operational location due to COVID-19. The latest version clarifies the contribution of qualifying days for CTF to ensure that families receive the appropriate support when the amount of time a SP is away is extended due to quarantine requirements.
This DL introduces flexibility into existing CEA policy to reassure claimants that any deviation from policy caused directly by COVID-19 (including guidance on Accompanied Status) would not adversely affect eligibility.
This DL recognises that it was going to be difficult for SP that are serving overseas to arrange to see their children during school holidays due to issues such as quarantine or COVID-19 testing requirements. This DL offers significantly enhanced flexibility in policy to allow parents to be reunited with their children. This includes T&S and accommodation costs for those that need it.
This DL recognises the impact of COVID-19 on travel restrictions between the UK and overseas locations and potential imposition of mandatory periods of quarantine or self-isolation. It gives eligible SP the choice to serve Involuntary Separated (INVOLSEP) and claim the appropriate allowances that this attracts.
Extension of the Evacuation Package to “Non-Evacuated” Families dated 3 November 2020.
This DL recognises the unique and challenging circumstances SP and their families may find themselves in if, having been serving overseas, they were required to temporarily return to the UK due to the pandemic. It explains eligibility to expenses and allowances such as subsistence, accommodation costs and LOA, providing exceptional enhancements in a number of areas.
Allowances are designed for a specific purpose or aim and where eligibility exists, it does so within carefully defined circumstances. The REM Allces team has put a significant amount of work into ensuring that many allowances can be enhanced to support the challenges faced by SP. However, the team also has the responsibility to make clear when SP were no longer eligible to receive certain allowances (eg, if a SP was no longer commuting to work then eligibility to commuting allowances would cease). This DL gives further detail, as well as giving advice on what should happen when SP are required to return to their place of duty.