Military wives force Shapps to axe plans to give families homes based on family size over rank

Military wives force Shapps to axe plans to give families homes based on family size over rank

The move comes as the UK faces a growing military recruitment crisis

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 27/02/2024

- 07:50

Updated: 27/02/2024

- 10:46

Army wives said the U-turn was ‘exactly what we have been hoping for’

A Ministry of Defence plan to change how military housing is allocated has been paused after significant backlash from the families of active servicemen.

The controversial scheme would have seen subsidised accommodation handed to personnel on a “needs-based allocation”, which would have prioritised family size over rank.

It would have seen junior officers with children handed larger homes than childless senior-ranked officers.

But the plan – the ‘New Accommodation Offer’ (NAO) – received significant criticism from armed forces members – particularly partnered officers without children, who would have lost out on the chance to move into larger homes.

Grant Shapps and military housing

Grant Shapps was forced into the u-turn after significant pressure from forces families

PA/UK Government

The NAO was so divisive that some officers threatened to quit – 78 per cent of 300 surveyed said they would be prepared to leave the forces altogether had their accommodation entitlement been reduced.

Despite the furore, including a near-20,000-strong petition pushing for a review of the policy, military families – those with the most to gain from the NAO – expressed support for the scheme.

But families’ support was not enough to save the plan; Defence Secretary Grant Shapps shelved the NAO, just weeks before its intended rollout in March.

One of the most vocal groups in opposition to the offer was an army wives’ campaign, whose members expressed support for the MoD backpedal.

The British Army is in the midst of a recruitment crisis

The plan has been shelved just weeks before its slated March rollout


Rosie Bucknall, one of the campaign’s founders, said the development was “exactly what we have been hoping for”.

Bucknall, who is married to an army captain, said: “We are thrilled the Defence Secretary has stepped in to apply common sense to such a drastic change and represent the interests of the people for whom he is responsible.”

But she counselled caution moving forward and said: “The proof lies in what happens next, and how serving families are engaged.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “We are committed to widening entitlement to those in established long-term relationships and parents with non-resident children.

“But we have listened to feedback and are therefore pausing the rollout of the elements of the policy related to service families’ accommodation, including the move to needs-based allocation and, in the short term, the widening of entitlement.”

The step back comes as the UK armed forces face a record recruitment slump – the MoD will be keen to retain as many serving members as possible, and pulling back the NAO will alleviate pressure from families for the time being.

Personnel are typically rewarded with larger homes for rising through the ranks – changing this, the army wives said, would be devastating to military staff retention rates.

Officers and their families saw the property rewards as an incentive to remain in the forces and a perk to make up for being posted in a new location every few years – but a drastic change would have seen them quit altogether, a BBC report revealed.

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