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Armed Forces

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what specific provisions are provided by his Department for (a) the families of service personnel and (b) the families of service personnel on operations. (222071)

The Service Personnel Command Paper The Nation’s Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans (Cm 7424), published on 17 July, sets out the first ever cross-Government strategy for support to our service personnel, their families and veterans. The strategy will ensure that service personnel and their families are not disadvantaged when seeking access to state benefits and gives improved access to employment programmes, such as new deal.

The families of service personnel already have access to the full range of benefits and services in the same way as those of non-service personnel. There are also provisions targeted specifically at family members who are accompanying service personnel overseas on operations.

For example, family members who are temporarily absent from Great Britain because they live with a serving member of the forces as part of a family are not disqualified from receiving incapacity benefit, disability living allowance, attendance allowance or carer’s allowance. This will also apply to the employment and support allowance from October 2008. Partners of current or former armed forces personnel can also have fast-track access to the Gateway stage of the new deal for young people and new deal 25+ and, from April 2009, to Stage 3 of the revised jobseeker’s allowance programme.

Some spouses and civil partners who accompany their family overseas occasionally find it hard to get paid employment while there. This may adversely affect their national insurance contribution record for entitlement to a State Pension as well as access to contribution based working age benefits. A Ministerial commitment was included in the Command Paper to consider the award of National Insurance credits in these circumstances.