Combined Accommodation Assessment System: the new accommodation charging system explained

Street of SFA

The policy change being implemented will bring CAAS charging in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in line with England by introducing a location assessment based on access to local services. Calculation using this method has been used in England since 2016, but data on access to key amenities was not available at the time in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, so was only applied across Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in England. This change will mean that CAAS is measured in the same way for all SFA across the UK.

The change is being brought in for SFA located in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as accessibility to key services is already included for England. Any service personnel residing in SFA in these locations will have this added to their overall assessment but not all will see a change in their charging. While some properties will go up in location, the majority will see a drop.

The new policy will be implemented from the 1 October 2020.

Background information on the change

When CAAS was initially rolled out in 2016 the relevant location data was only available in England. The People Current Accommodation Policy Team has been working with a team from DIO’s Data, Analytics & Insight (DA&I) to address this inconsistency which means that the data is now available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The location factor element of CAAS is normally reassessed every 4 years , but a full refresh of all factors included in the location classification has been undertaken at the same time as the accessibility step has been introduced. The standard CAAS reassessment would usually be implemented on the 1 April 2020 however, a decision was made to bring the change in later in the year to coincide with other annual changes to CAAS charging (such as; transition pathway and CAAS charge uplift). As there is typically a summer surge on service person moves and re assignments delivering the implementation in October enables families to settle before the change.

The lead organisation in the development of this policy has been Defence People Accommodation Policy in terms of data production and analysis alongside Defence Analytics and Insight and Defence Infrastructure organisation. Key stakeholders from TLBs and Families Federations have been critical to the success of this change, and Amey have provided assurance and accountability of change and data produced.

What this means in practice

The majority of occupants will see no change to their charges or a decrease. A minority will see a Band increase. All affected service personnel will receive a letter directly notifying them of the change and what this means for their property. This letter will include all the details relevant for each SFA.

The payment change is being introduced on the 1 October 2020 so the charge will be taken out of that month’s pay on the last working day of the month. This change will not be backdated so no historical payments will be due.

The accommodation payments

Accommodation charges are determined by 3 factors: condition, scale and location. This change refers only to the Location factor of the charging. Location Assessment is based on accessibility to services using individual property postcodes.

Each property’s CAAS charge is decided using 4 location factors:

The property is classified as either:

  • urban (less than 20 minutes travel to key services)
  • intermediate (between 20 and 40 minutes)
  • remote (more than 40 minutes).
  • accessibility to 8 services (see below)*
  • broadband accessibility
  • deprivation

*These are: (1) Food store (2) General Practitioners (3) Employment Centre (4) Primary School (5) Secondary School (6) Further Education Institution (7) Hospital (8) Town centre.

This change will mean that CAAS is measured in the same way for all Service Family Accommodation across the UK. At the same time a refresh of all other factors was completed in line with the 4-year frequency stated in policy. If you are deployed or posted abroad the charges you pay relate to the type of accommodation you or your family reside in. Should you be deployed your SFA charges remain the same, but you will be in receipt of operational allowances in line with JSP 752 and 464.

Should you be assigned / posted overseas or to another location in the UK, your SFA charge will be amended to reflect the new accommodation type you move into.

How to challenge CAAS band and payments

Every service person who has had a change to their charge has the opportunity to challenge their new CAAS Band within 28 working days of the policy being introduced on 1 October 2020. The letter sent to every affected SFA gives details and a template for challenges. Defence People Accommodation are also developing a landing page which enables service personnel to interrogate the data relating to their postcode. This will be live from the 1 October 2020.

If you are unable to meet your payments for the new charges you should speak to your chain of command and welfare for support. There will be no backdated charges to pay. Payments will only commence from the point of implementation on the 1 October 2020.

The future of CAAS

The next England refresh of location factor will take place on the 1 April 2021. A decision has been taken that means the 4-year frequency for reassessment will not take place until 2025 for the whole UK.

More information

For more detailed information affected service personnel should refer to the individual letters being sent to their SFA. Further information will also be shared through intranet announcements; updates to the Gov.uk page, and through Single Service accommodation policy leads and Families Federations.

More on CAAS

From: Ministry of Defence Updated 2 July 2020

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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