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Boarding School Allowance

Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the minimum distance is which an officer has to move in order to be able to claim boarding school allowance; and what steps he takes to monitor potential abuse of the allowance; (115781)

(2) how many officers of each of the armed services have (a) declared themselves mobile for the purpose of claiming boarding school allowance and (b) claimed boarding school allowance in each of the last five years.

All officers in the armed services are deemed to have a mobile commitment. However, continuity of education allowance (CEA) is only paid to a service person who is accompanied by their family at each location. Any service person claiming CEA must ensure that their family is, and continues to be, mobile and this is declared by the service person on each claim. In addition, the service person must be in possession of a valid ‘mobility certificate’, which is completed prior to an initial claim for the education allowance, when the child(ren) change school, at the beginning of each new posting, or if the certificate is more than three years old. This certificate states the service claimant is committed to their family moving with them when they are posted. If the family for any reason does not move with the service person, then their entitlement to claim CEA will be reviewed.

There are a few exceptions to the accompanied service eligibility criteria. On some postings it is inappropriate for the service person to be accompanied by their family and these postings are classified as ‘involuntarily separated’, i.e. they are separated from their family and cannot serve accompanied. Examples of this are when the service parent is serving on an operational deployment, or on a designated unaccompanied assignment or when exceptional authority has been granted for the service claimant to serve unaccompanied but retain eligibility to CEA. Examples of the circumstances under which such authority may be given are whilst the service claimant is awaiting allocation of service families accommodation at their new duty station, or when they are waiting, for up to six months, for the completion of a house sale/purchase. In these circumstances, the service person would be eligible to continue to claim CEA.

Given the ongoing transition to joint personnel administration, figures are not yet available of the number of officer claimants from each service for the past five years. However, the total number of officer claimants for spring term 2005 was 3,587 and for spring term 2006 3,074, as reported in the HCDC report ‘Educating Service Children’ of 11 July 2006. Detailed figures explaining the number of officer claimants from each service for the past five years are being determined.