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Armed Forces Recruitment

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 1 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the Department's recruitment campaign for the armed services; and what the shortfall in manpower was in each year since 1997. [110029]

Overall armed forces recruitment is holding up well. After 11 months of the current Financial Year, the number of new recruits had reached 24,290 representing 96 per cent. of the overall recruiting target. This compares with 95 per cent. in FY 2001–02 and 90 per cent. in FY 2000–01. However, we are not complacent; we recognise that the overall achievement masks recruiting shortfalls in some critical employment groups.The following table provides details of shortfalls in trained strength by individual Service as at 1 April for years 1997 to 2002 along with the current shortfall (as at 1 March 2003).DWP Newcastle office which has a help line; and the availability of the help line is published to Service families. There are also advice leaflets available through British Forces Post Offices overseas. Service welfare organisations will also provide advice to families.The procedures for claiming benefits are set by the Department of Work and Pensions, and will depend upon the benefit being claimed and the circumstances of the individual. The ability to claim benefits overseas will also depend upon the country being visited. There are specific rules for European Economic Area (EEA) countries and there are also a number of two way social security agreements with other countries.

In the case of maternity allowance, if the individual is going to an EEA country and is a United Kingdom or EEA national and is already in receipt of maternity allowance, they can continue to receive it while abroad. If going to a non-EEA country, they may be able to get maternity allowance if a two-way social security agreement exists covering maternity benefit. In other cases, the Ministry of Defence will make an ex-gratia payment equivalent to maternity allowance for accompanying Servicemen's wives when all the relevant qualifying criteria are met.

Jobseeker's allowance can be claimed when moving to an EEA country if all the criteria are met. However, it is not payable in countries outside the EEA. In some cases, it is possible to use UK national insurance contributions to claim an unemployment benefit in countries that have two-way social security agreements with the UK.

Disability living allowance is normally payable for as long as the applicant can be treated as 'ordinarily resident" in Great Britain. It is not payable where the family has severed links with Great Britain and has no plans to return, or where a severely disabled child born abroad has not established ordinary residence in Great Britain. In practice, members of most Service families stationed overseas would be treated as ordinarily resident in Great Britain.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what standards have been set for the rapid resolution of benefit claims by Service families; and whether there are complaints procedures available for cases that have resulted in the undue delay of such benefits. [110391]

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has a target to process claims for jobseeker's allowance within 12 days. This applies to all claims, including those made by Service families. If there are delays, DWP will consider complaints and claims for compensation which should, in the first instance, be made to the local DWP office. Complaints can also be made by e-mailing Jobcentre Plus via the website at: or using the "How Do I Complain?" leaflet available at any Jobcentre Plus Office. Service authorities will provide assistance to Service families as necessary in cases where there is dispute over entitlement to a benefit.