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Armed Forces Benefits Calculator

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 23 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of the armed forces benefits calculator; what the operating costs of the scheme are estimated to be; and if he will make a statement. (200231)

The contract for the armed forces benefits calculator was awarded to Methods Consulting (a registered company on the Defence Communication Services Agency's Information and Communication Services catalogue) on 10 January 2007. Throughout 2007, the calculator underwent extensive development work in close consultation with subject matter experts and the single services; this included the successful completion of a field trial involving a cross-section of ranks from each of the three services.

Methods Consulting have sub-contracted the day-to-day development and hosting of the armed forces benefits calculator to Thomsons Online Benefits, a company which specialises in the creation of employee ‘reward’ solutions. The total cost of the MOD’s contract with Methods Consulting is estimated at £109,680, excluding VAT, which includes £20,160, less VAT, per annum for Thomsons Online Solutions to host the calculator for a two year period from 1 April 2008. Arrangements for the further development and hosting beyond April 2010 have yet to be decided.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library the (a) objectives, (b) evaluation and (c) criteria for assessment used in the preparation of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator; what benchmarking he plans to undertake to ensure that the performance of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator compares accurately with assessments for non-armed forces individuals; and if he will make a statement. (200232)

Prior to the launch of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator, there was no mechanism in place to permit Service personnel easily to identify their total worth. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body has previously commented that Service personnel lack awareness of the total value of their armed forces remuneration package, and that more should be done to assess and communicate the value of the package. In addition, the introduction of Joint Personnel Administration has inevitably placed a greater emphasis on the need for clear and easily accessible internal communication on pay and allowances matters. Her Majesty’s Treasury has also, over the years, challenged the MOD about not communicating effectively to staff the value and merits of the armed forces total reward package.

Although some progress had been made in this area (a fact sheet is available on the Defence intranet) the information is very generic, non-interactive and not particularly accessible. The vast majority of personnel, while aware of their annual salary and allowances packages, continue to view each of these elements in isolation, and many other financial benefits remain ‘invisible’ (such as medical/dental care, and physical education opportunities). Building on the success of the existing Armed Forces Pension Calculator, the new Benefits Calculator was thus created to provide greater clarity of the ‘total reward’ package incorporating basic pay, specialist pay, individual allowances, pension, and other benefits where a realistic financial value can be attributed.

The range of remuneration and allowance-based benefits included in the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they remain relevant to comparable rates in civilian life and continue to be retention and recruitment positive. In addition, the calculator includes other benefits (such as dental care and health and fitness facilities) which are not strictly remuneration or allowance-related but are included to convey the extent of the total benefits package available to Service personnel in return for military service, and to provide an indication of what replicating these benefits might cost in civilian life. The terms and conditions governing the use of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator state that the Calculator is for guidance purposes only, and that it is not intended to provide formal financial advice.

Initial feedback on the operation and utility of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator has been very positive, and at the time of writing over 14,000 calculations had been completed. The effectiveness of the Calculator will be reviewed over the coming months, including an assessment of the relative benefits of including links to other sites/pages providing information on a variety of related matters, currently including:

a. Discounts—principally through the Forces Discount Brochure.

b. News/information on pay and allowances matters.

c. Financial information, particularly in support of MOD’s ongoing work with the single Services to deliver the Government’s National Strategy on Financial Capability, including links to the established Financial Service Authorities’ “Money Made Clear” website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what methodology was used to prepare the figures underpinning the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator; and if he will make a statement. (200233)

The Armed Forces Benefits Calculator was developed to provide Service personnel with a quick and convenient way of working out the indicative value of their total remuneration and benefits package. The introduction of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator has, therefore, made it easier for personnel to make a direct comparison between their current remuneration and that being offered by civilian employers—and by doing so to demonstrate the value of their benefits package as a whole. The Armed Forces Benefits Calculator has been developed also to provide potential recruits with a means of investigating the type of remuneration and benefits that might be available should they choose to join the armed forces. The Calculator uses a combination of existing pay rates and allowances details of which can be found at: http://www.mod.uk and some new values, which have been agreed with subject matter experts and the single Services. These new values are included to provide a broad indication of what some of the other benefits personnel receive in return for military service (such as dental care, and health and fitness facilities) might cost to replicate in civilian life.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what courses are available as (a) standard learning credit and (b) advanced learning credit as part of the Armed Forces Benefits Calculator; and if he will make a statement. (200234)

The MOD promotes lifelong learning among members of the armed forces, and this is encouraged through the Learning Credits schemes. The Standard Learning Credit (SLC) scheme supplies financial support, throughout the Service person’s career, for multiple, small-scale learning activities. The Enhanced Learning Credit (ELC) scheme is designed to complement the SLC scheme by providing larger scale help to personnel who qualify to pay for higher level learning at Level 3 (GCE A level and equivalent) and above. For both schemes a wide variety of vocational and academic courses may be undertaken which lead to or facilitate the award of a nationally recognised qualification as defined by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (England and Wales to be superseded by the Qualifications Credits Framework (QCF)), or the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The SLC and ELC schemes aim to motivate full time members of the armed forces to pursue their personal development during their service career to the benefit of both the Service and the individual. Any unused ELC benefit, however, may be used for up to 10 years afterwards, subject to the qualifying criteria being met.