Why have Service personnel continued to pay accommodation fees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic?
The government’s direction was clear from the start – stay at home. Almost immediately the chain of command took the sensible approach to protect the force and directed the majority of us to work from home where it was possible and practical.
Simultaneously, get you home allowance mileage payments were brought to a halt. That was completely understandable as journeys were not to be made to and from soldiers’ residences.
What is difficult to fathom, though, is why Service accommodation payments were not stopped at that time as well.
Many are feeling frustrated that there was an immediate suspension of a relevant allowance but not this charge.
Can you help me understand this apparent inconsistency so I can accurately inform those who are equally miffed? – Capt Jerome Davis, RA.
Lt Col Bill Bowen, Head of Accommodation, Personnel Policy, responds:
Thank you for raising a very pertinent issue and I am pleased to offer some good news. A waiver of accommodation charges due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has been agreed.
It is a complex topic that sits outside of the current accommodation policy.
The refund will apply only to those ordered to work from home in accordance with Service business continuity plans and were required to vacate single living accommodation or substitute Service single accommodation, but who continued to pay a housing charge throughout the lockdown period.
They will need to have had JPA updated in order to correctly record their location and status and should seek the refund via their unit human resources staff.
Units have been recently informed of the waiver by the MoD’s head of people accommodation policy.
The repayment of these charges to eligible personnel will take place through JPA in accordance with the existing process for doing so.
They will be made for the period of 23 March 2020 through to 31 August 2020. Not all soldiers will qualify so it is important individuals contact their relevant unit staff to determine their eligibility.
If units are affected by local lockdowns beyond 31 August 2020, and there is a similar requirement for personnel with Service housing to work from home, an updated instruction will be issued.
Soldier. (2020) Hitting the Roof over Housing Charge. Soldier: The Magazine of the British Army. September 2020, pp.57.