Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Most troops 'would leave over cuts'

David Cameron with British soldiers at the Kabul Military Training Centre in Afghanistan

Nearly 80% of soldiers would consider leaving the services because of cuts, a leader of an Army support group has said.

Julie McCarthy, chief executive of the Army Families Federation, spoke out as the Government was accused of backtracking on enshrining the military covenant into law.

Mrs McCarthy, whose husband is a serving soldier, told BBC Breakfast that a poll her group carried out among between 1,200 and 1,500 personnel and their families showed 78% felt like leaving because of financial difficulties.

She told the programme: "According to the survey we did, about 78% said that they would seriously consider leaving the services."

She added: "If that's representative across the Army... and talking to my colleagues in other services I think they've had similar results from surveys they've done."

Saying soldiers were feeling the pinch, Mrs McCarthy said: "You recruit a soldier and retain a family.

"If a spouse is saying to her soldier 'I've had enough now, this is not worth us staying in,' then they will go."

Mrs McCarthy said soldiers felt pressure "from all sides, which, at a time when we are still fighting very hard in Afghanistan and the Government are trying to stand by the covenant, perhaps the Government aren't honouring their side of the covenant in terms of the terms and conditions of service".

She acknowledged that an operational allowance had been raised and the Government had increased support for soldiers suffering from mental illness. But she said a boarding school allowance was being scrapped and the operational allowance, of about £4,000 for a six-month tour of duty, did not cover it.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who has supported the need to rebuild the military covenant, said: "We are introducing greater accountability and scrutiny through an annual report to Parliament. This will set out how we are supporting our Armed Forces, their families and veterans in key areas such as healthcare housing and education."

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