The Unpensionables: army wives rail at timing of redundancies

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Laura Richards, an Army officer’s wife, feels betrayed. Her husband was made redundant over the summer, less than a year away from being able to claim an immediate pension — a sum of money that the family had planned their lives around. They now face a very uncertain future.
“When I found out how much my husband would lose financially, I felt ashamed of how he had been treated by a government who would expect him to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary,” Mrs Richards, 31, said. “I feel he has been betrayed.
Like many Army wives, she put her career on hold to accompany her husband when he was posted abroad — a move that gravely affected her ability to accumulate a pension.
“I was extremely apprehensive about our financial future as a family, particularly as I had left my job to accompany him on a posting to Cyprus and we had a six-month-old daughter,” she said. “We were under the impression that my husband’s pension would compensate for my massively reduced pension and greatly reduced earning power.
The couple are now considering a permanent move abroad. “The sense of betrayal we both feel is a large deciding factor in this,” Mrs Richards said.“If we stay in the UK, we will probably have to sell our family home in order to move to an area where we can both find work.”
 Asked how the Ministry of Defence could rectify matters, she said: “I would like my husband to be able to serve on in the Army until he qualifies for his pension. Alternatively I would like my husband to receive the proportion of his pension to which he is entitled from the date he is made redundant.
She is not alone in her disappointment. The Times has received testimonies from four wives, two sisters and four parents of different Army officers who have been made redundant a short time before reaching the 16-year immediate pension point. They have called themselves “The Unpensionables” and are urging the Government to review a redundancy decision that, if left unchanged, will cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds.
A wife of a major who asked to remain anonymous said that she was “disgusted and angry” at the way in which her husband had been treated. “\ will be just a few weeks from reaching his immediate pension point and we are being cheated out of a significant sum of money. Yes, we will receive a lump sum, but this is nowhere near what my husband would have received if he were allowed to work those few extra weeks
“I have given up years of my life supporting my husband through his postings, moving to two different countries and various locations in England. I have not been able to sustain my professional career . . . and so my wage earnings and my pension contributions have had to suffer.
“The needs of the Army always come first, the family second. The expectation from us has been that the significant financial disadvantages of being a military family would be recompensed by the pension my husband would receive when he left . . . This is what my husband was promised when he signed up all those years ago and he was not told anything different until the redundancies started recently.”
There is a suspicion — strongly denied by the MoD — among the families that their loved ones have been deliberately targeted because it would save more money to get rid of people close to their pension age.

Mary Bullock, 73, said that she was devastated when her son, another major, with a wife and three children, was told that he would lose his job. “Considering that he has done so many different tours to Afghanistan, I would have thought they would look after those people a bit better.”

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