“Armed Forces Housing is absolutely despicable.”
Dozens of Armed Forces personnel and their families say they’re having to live in damp, mould-infested housing without heating.
Some members of the Armed Forces they’ve been waiting days or sometimes weeks for repairs.
One mother who has a nine-month-old baby told the BBC there was “black mould everywhere”.
The Ministry of Defence said it was unacceptable that some military families were not receiving the level of service they deserved.
It said it was working with its contractors to improve the service.
While temperatures plunged, some of the military members have taken to social media to highlight the problem — a rare step for those in the armed forces.
It comes at a time that some military personnel are being asked to step in to cover striking workers, including ambulance staff.
Sandhurst families are living in freezing conditions, as heating breaks down across military bases. Despite the coldest week of the year, many families who live on army bases have been living without heating for at least a week.
In a joint statement, they said: “We’re at breaking point and something has to change. The system is broken.
“Calls go unanswered, and even if they are picked up, you’re told there are no appointments for days.”
They added that they were “scared for our children living in unsafe homes with black mould that has not been dealt with for months.”
One family shared photos of their utility room with the BBC.
The mother of the nine-month-old baby said that “basic living requirements are not being met, and families are suffering in freezing, damp and sometimes dangerous living conditions”.
“I say dangerous, because we had a black mould everywhere, and it comes with an awful toxic smell,” she said.
“We couldn’t use our downstairs loo for months and we were so worried about our baby’s lungs,” she added.
Yasmine, who is currently living in an army barracks with her three children, expressed her disappointment at the state of her accommodation to the BBC. “It’s very disappointing and makes you feel sad,” she said, “There’s a lot of mould.”
Serving soldiers have spoken out in a rare show of public frustration.
Captain Will Matthews tweeted: “Tired of living like this. Cupboards unusable due to never ending damp/mould. Drafty windows. No loft insulation, cold house all the time.”
He filmed what his family, including young children, have to live with.
Tired of living like this. Cupboards unusable due to never ending damp / mould. Drafty windows. No loft insulation, cold house all the time. Damp everywhere. At least it’s not where our baby sleeps either…. Oh, wait. Hang on #Snapped pic.twitter.com/I0oFLsnb2a
The garrison commander at Aldershot, a major garrison in south-east England, also criticised the system. In a now deleted tweet, Lt Col Nick Burley said he recently had a meeting with contractors to discuss repairs and “a litany of failures”.
The original tweet ended with “…our people deserve better than this”.
Another military wife complained that a fellow service family had been without hot water since October.
Military accommodation is overseen by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. Several contracts have been awarded to manage the defence estate – with no one company having overall responsibility for the service delivered.
Between April 2021 and May 2022, service families made 6,729 complaints about their accommodation. Some believe the system is getting worse.
In April this year, the Ministry of Defence awarded a national contract worth £144m to a property management provider – Pinnacle Group. It has also awarded four regional contracts.
Pinnacle is the main contact point for families living in 49,000 military properties across the country.
The company says it is not responsible for repairs but fields the calls and schedules the work. Urgent repairs are meant to be dealt with within 48 hours.
It said the Ministry of Defence is responsible for decisions around upgrade works to improve the conditions of the buildings.
“At present there is a high demand for urgent appointments, which the repairs providers are struggling to meet, and our call handlers are unable to appoint a significant minority within the target timeframe of 48 hours as appointments are just not available,” Pinnacle said in a statement.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience this is undoubtedly causing to military families,” it said.
Labour has accused the government of failing the armed forces at a time when some are being asked to sacrifice their Christmas.
Shadow armed forces minister, Luke Pollard, said that “basic failings with repairs and heating are far too common and aren’t getting fixed”.