As I look back over the last 30 months, I’m struck by the progress we have made in Accommodation, responding to a number of changes and maintaining the delivery of a safe, compliant quality housing service for Service families, including throughout the pandemic.
There’s a direct link between provision of quality accommodation and operational capability – it’s the “golden thread” running through everything we do. Quality housing is a key part of the Defence employment offer: knowing their families are well supported helps our servicemen and women to focus on carrying out their crucial military roles.
Our accommodation vision and mission
When I joined DIO in April 2018 it was clear to me that there was a lot of good work happening across the business but that perceptions about accommodation needed to improve. To respond to this challenge, we developed a vision: “to be recognised for responding effectively to Defence housing requirements” and mission: “to deliver a safe and affordable housing service to meet the needs of Service personnel and support operational capability.”
Between April 2018 and April 2019, £116m was invested in improvement works in more than 3,800 properties, and a further £57.5m was committed to capital projects and the purchase of new properties. Last year we invested £123m in supporting 185 major improvement and modernisation projects, providing energy efficient homes, upgraded heating systems, new kitchens and bathrooms and improvements to the estate such as dedicated parking areas and modernised play parks.
A further £123m is being invested this year to deliver similar improvements and, in July 2020, the Chancellor announced a very welcome £122m in fiscal stimulus funding to be invested in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) over the next two years, providing a unique opportunity to improve the lived experience and environment for Service families.
We made a firm commitment in 2018 to work collaboratively with our industry partners to enhance the benefit of our customers; this resulted in DIO and Amey winning the Public/Private Sector Collaboration Award at the Institute for Collaborative Working Awards in 2019.
We have made significant strides in sustainability, with insulation upgrades contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions of around a 750 tonnes per year. We’re committed to achieving a Net Zero Carbon goal by 2040, with two pilot projects underway at RAF Marham and RAF Brize Norton to upgrade them to an Energiesprong standard – the European industry standard for energy efficiency.
In 2019, we moved more than 700 families from Germany, many into new build homes on Salisbury Plain. More than 1,000 homes are being provided through the Army Basing Programme while a further 112 properties were purchased in areas of high demand to reduce the dependency on substitute accommodation and provide more stability for our families.
During the past year we have worked with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Department of Work and Pensions to strengthen local authority guidance on improving access to social housing access for Armed Forces families. The revised guidance encourages local authorities to engage with DIO at an early stage to ensure the best outcomes for Service families.
We have also delivered against the new MOD policy to widen access to SFA for Service personnel in long term relationships, and successfully housed 1,583 families under the new terms, with a further 172 allocated and awaiting move-in.
This year has seen unprecedented challenges arising from COVID-19, and the team has worked hard in partnership with our Industry Partners, other parts of the MOD and Families Federations to respond effectively. 132 families were repatriated from Nepal, Kenya and Belize to be rehomed in the UK; we sustained a full response maintenance service, and in addition supported more than 4,500 moves following the freeze of assignments in March.
There is still much to be done to fulfil the mission and vision but it is reassuring to know that DIO Accommodation is moving in the right direction. As I hand over the Head of Accommodation task to Air Commodore James Savage and prepare to move into a new role as Head of Strategic Communications within the MOD, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with Defence Accommodation for their hard work, support and friendship throughout my tenure.