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Service Personnel Families

Volume 559: debated on Monday 25 February 2013

We recognise that the mobile lifestyles of service personnel can create a particular difficulty for working partners who may have to give up their own jobs. The Government are committed to addressing such disadvantages, including through Jobcentre Plus armed forces champions to assist service families in finding employment, and through easier access to several Jobcentre Plus benefits and services, such as early access to the Work programme of the Department for Work and Pensions. However, we would like to do more. The new employment model that we are currently developing is intended to create a more stable family life, which in turn should help family members find work.

I spoke to a service wife this morning who told me that she and other wives at their base believe that they are at a real disadvantage when looking for work. They worry about saying what their husbands do, and even about giving their address. These are special people to whom we owe a debt of care. What more can we do to help them?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and the armed forces covenant report 2012 points out that for spouses and partners

“despite the generally difficult economic situation, we have seen increased levels of full time employment—from 34% in 2011 to 38% in 2012—and the number of partners reporting difficulty finding a job because of employment history has decreased from 25% in 2010 to 16% in 2012.”

In addition, the Government plan to make an announcement shortly on regular Army basing, which should help to provide greater stability in future for service families.

Has the Minister considered having a Jobcentre Plus at each service accommodation site to ensure that service families are not disconnected from the services they require to help them get back into work?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s question, but we already have a network of armed forces champions in DWP districts and a number of jobcentres. We attempt to meet the requirement by doing things that way round, and we believe that it works.