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Author: NFF

Service children in state schools (SCISS) was formed as a working group to look into the issues relating to English state schools providing for children whose parents serve in the Armed Forces. It was convened by CEAS (Children’s Education Advisory Service) in the latter part of 2003. CEAS is a UK wide Ministry of Defence (MOD) service which provides information, guidance and support to service families, schools and local authorities and has been part of the MOD’s Directorate for Children and Young People (DCYP) since 2010.

 

SCISS is now an affiliation of more than 1500 state-maintained schools in England which have children of service personnel on roll, led by a National Executive Advisory Committee made up of headteachers, local authority representatives, and representatives of the three Families Federations. The group is supported by representatives from the Department for Education (DfE), and DCYP.

 

You can find out more about SCISS on its webpage here.

 

The Voice of Schools Survey Report

SCISS have published the results of their survey of schools supporting Service children. 461 schools responded, including schools with small numbers of Service children. The survey questionnaire listed seven previously documented challenges experienced by some Service children, their families, and/or the schools they attend. It asked respondents to indicate how much of a challenge these presented to their school.

 

The full report and a summary can be accessed here.

 

The Naval Families Federation welcomes this important contribution from schools that helps to evidence the needs of Service children and those supporting them. We will be working with the SCISS and other partners to address the issues raised.

 

Posted on: 7th June, 2018
Updated on: 22nd March, 2021

 

Finding the right school for your child, and securing a place, can be challenging for any family, but Armed Forces families moving area can face additional hurdles if the school of their choice is oversubscribed. The Armed Forces Covenant will not automatically secure you a place at your school of choice, but it will help to make sure that you are not disadvantaged compared to civilian families.

If you have a particular problem with admissions to schools, please contact the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) by email dcyp-ceas-enquiries@mod.gov.uk to seek advice. If you would like to provide feedback to the NFF about your admissions issue, so that we can represent your experience to effect change, please email contactus@nff.org.uk.

 

Admissions in England and Wales

You must apply for a place at a school, even if it’s linked to your child’s current nursery or primary school.

The way you apply depends on whether you’re applying for:

You should apply in the same way if you have just moved to England or Wales or are applying from abroad. Contact the council if you’re applying for a school place after the start of the school year (eg changing schools).

Applications open on different days in each local council area – usually at the start of the autumn term of the year before your child is due to start school. Find out from your local council when applications open, and the deadlines for primary or secondary schools. If you are unable to apply for a school place by the deadline because of an assignment, let the council know as soon as you can, if necessary using your unit address.

 

Admissions in Scotland

Information on finding schools and the process can be found on the Parentzone Scotland website.  To make an application, contact the local council through the details here.

 

Admissions in Northern Ireland

Separate procedures exist for admission to pre-school (2-4 years), primary (4-11 years) and post-primary (11-18 years) education. You can find out how to enrol a child here.

 

Appeals

All schools have admission criteria to decide which children get places. The school or local council usually set these. If you have not been able to get your child into your school of choice, there will be an appeal process which you can follow.

The admissions code for England can be found here. The appeals code is here.

The admissions and appeals codes for Wales can be found here.

In Scotland, contact your local council to make an appeal. You can find out about the process here.

The appeals process for Northern Ireland is here.

 

Posted on: 2nd May 2018
Updated on: 16th April, 2020

We are sometimes contacted by families who need to obtain a copy of their NHS medical records.

 

England

There are two types of medical record you can ask to see:

  • medical records held by a healthcare provider that has treated you;
  • a summary care record (SCR) created by your GP.

Click here to find out more.

 

Scotland

You should contact your GP practice manager or hospital health records manager if you would like more information about how your records are stored. Click here to find out more. 

 

Wales

NHS Wales in partnership with the Informatics Service is bringing in a number of ways to view records electronically while still ensuring information is safe and secure. You can also find out more how patient details are handled. Find out more here.

 

Northern Ireland

Health and medical records will be held about you at your GP surgery, or in a hospital if you have had any appointments or treatment there. You should be able to request to see your records, though there may be a cost. Find out more here.

 

Did you know that you can also register on-line with your GP surgery, in England, which will allow you to view a lot of your GP records, book appointments and request prescriptions? More details can be found here

 

Posted on: 26th April, 2018

Moving schools packs for parents and schools

These from CEAS packs can be used by parents and schools to supplement the information that schools must transfer by law. You can personalise the pack by using the sheets you find most useful, or you can add others that you think will help the school to know more about your child. The activity pack is aimed at children aged 6 to 11 years old, but you may want to adapt some of the ideas for your own child.

Download a copy of the moving school pack and pupil passport.

 

Common Transfer File – transferring between and from schools in England

The Naval Families Federation has been asking for better information transfer for Service pupils moving between schools, in response to feedback from families. A form called a Pupil Information Profile had been developed to enable schools to pass on information, but in practice it is not always used. From September 2018, the Common Transfer File (CTF), which is used by schools and local authorities to send pupil data whenever a pupil moves from one school to another in England, is being updated. This will improve the information being transferred and help to identify children who may need support as a result of their Service connection. It is not an extra form for schools to complete, but a normal part of their practice, and therefore likely to be more consistently used.

It contains a ‘flag’ which is used to identify a child’s Service status.

It also asks for four data items for Service children:

  • “Does the school have any concerns about the child’s response to moving school?”
  • “Does the school have any concerns about the child’s response to parental deployment?”
  • “Does the school have any concerns about the child’s response to parental separation?” (This field should be used to record concerns that the school has about Service children being separated from their parents due to extended training periods or other forms of duty.)
  • “Details about concerns”: this is a free text box in which the school can include further details about their concerns. The school may wish to include, in this free text section, contact details to assist in the integration of the new pupils.

The CTF system will be configured so that when a CTF is received by a school with the Service Child flag set to ‘Yes’, an alert will be automatically raised asking that a) the head teacher or appropriate member of staff should be informed of the identity of the Service child joining the school; and b) where the “concerns” section (described above) has not been completed, that the appropriate member of staff be informed and advised to contact the CTF sending school for clarification.

We would be interested to hear from families about their experiences of information transfer between schools. We are very aware that there are differences between the English system, the Devolved Governments and overseas provision. Do contact us and let us know about the challenges you have experienced, and also about examples of really effective practice.

 

Pupil Information Profile

The Pupil information profile (PIP) form is a transfer document which is consistent for all pupils in any school setting (regardless of location) to support specific aspects of a pupil’s background and learning.

It contains information that supports a young person’s future learning and parents are encouraged to bring this to the attention of their child’s school about using it as a helpful tool, when the child is about to move to another school. It is intended to support continuous learning by identifying the pupil’s current and future learning needs.

It can be downloaded here.

 

 

Posted on: 4th April, 2018
Updated on: 10th February, 2020

The NFF is delighted that Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced his intention to counter the Scottish Government’s income tax rise that affects thousands of Naval Service personnel in Scotland.

 

This issue was raised with us by many Naval Service families located in Scotland and we advocated on their behalf to the MOD and Government. We are pleased that they have listened.

 

On 21 February 2018, the Scottish Parliament ratified their income tax rates and thresholds applying to Scottish taxpayers. As a result those Service personnel earning more than £26,000 would pay more tax in comparison to their counterparts in the rest of the UK. Scotland plays a key role in the defence of the UK and its contribution is set to increase. Some 1,400 submariners will move to HM Naval Base Clyde by 2020, creating the new single home of the entire UK Submarine Service.

 

Update

Since this article was published in March 2018, a new compensation scheme has been announced in Mid-July 2018 for those who are affected by the increase in Scottish tax rates. For further information on the scheme and our comment, visit here.

 

Posted on: 13th March, 2018
Updated on: 9th August, 2018

Service personnel will be able to apply for enhanced flexible working opportunities after the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill became law on 08 February 2018.

 

Surveys have found that Service personnel want more choice over the way they work when their personal circumstances change, such as having, or looking after children, needing to care for elderly relatives, or taking on further training or education.

 

We know that Naval Service personnel have consistently reported the impact of service on family and personal life as the most important factor that might influence them to leave. Importantly, this new policy will allow personnel to be able to restrict the amount of time they spend away from their home base and their families.

 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“This change will make it significantly easier for our dedicated Armed Forces to raise their children, care for elderly relatives, or look after an ill family member. This will ensure we are able to retain and recruit the brightest and the best from all backgrounds to keep Britain safe.”

 

The flexible working measures are designed so that they won’t impact the military’s ability to deliver its core tasks of defending the country. Applications for part-time service and restricted separation will be assessed against the need of the Armed Forces and personnel would be required to deploy on operations should the need arise, such as in cases of national emergency.

 

The plans will come into effect on 1st April 2019 for Naval Service personnel.

 

Here is a guide which explains in more detail what Flexible Working for the Armed Forces will look like, the different options available and how you can apply.

 

Here is a video produced by the MOD introducing this measure.

 

EDIT: Please click here for a digital booklet ‘Flexible Working and You’  produced by the MOD for further information.

 

Posted on: 15th February, 2018
Updated on: 28th January, 2021

Armed Forces spouses can now add development coaching to the list of opportunities available from Recruit for Spouses (RfS), alongside help with CV’s, job matching and preparing for an interview.

With more employers turning to RfS to fill their vacancies, they have partnered with BAE Systems Plc to provide a comprehensive coaching programme for registered spouses.

What is coaching?

Coaching is an effective development tool that is designed to uncover what motivates individuals, identify what barriers exist and help them set goals for the future. Military spouses can sometimes feel a loss of identity: you may be working in a job that is convenient but unfulfilling, or you may feel unable to get back into the workplace after a break. Coaching can help to overcome any obstacles that have been holding you back.

Could it work for you?

The BAE sessions are carried out over the phone or via Skype, at a time that suits you, in a confidential environment where you can share your thoughts without judgement. The coaches understand the value that military spouses bring to the workplace and of the 13 spouses who have entered the programme since May 2017, four have already found the confidence to apply for jobs and been successful, even before coaching has finished.

Here’s what some of them have to say:

“Coaching has been instrumental in building my confidence. My coach not only spent hours on the phone providing guidance and direction, she reviewed my CV, presentations and job offers too. She also provided examples for covering letters, HR tools and techniques to build my skill set.

“My coach created an environment in which I felt able to explore and discuss. My motivation for going on the coaching course was to help me re-enter the work place after a 2½ year career break: my coach made me think about things I may not have considered, stopped me procrastinating and helped to build the confidence I needed. I have since undertaken two interviews and had one job offer.”

In The Pipeline:

RfS will soon be developing a new coaching programme with another organisation. If you think coaching could be the missing link in helping you return to work or achieving the career you always wanted, why not join the next cohort? Getting in touch is easy, just email enquiries@recruitforspouses.co.uk

Posted on: 14th February, 2018

The Armed Forces Covenant aims to honour the sacrifices the Armed Forces Community make to keep us safe, including those of families.

 

The Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report details some of the successes the Covenant has had over the past year, including in the key areas of healthcare, education and accommodation.

 

Every year the Families Federations are invited to make their observations on the Armed Forces Covenant and below is an extract of part of the report written by the Naval Families Federation in conjunction with the Royal Air Force Families Federation and the Army Families Federation. Based on the feedback we receive from Service personnel and their families, our observations have highlighted areas which we believe are working well and other aspects that we believe need to be improved upon:

 

Whilst the high tempo of UK operations endures the impact of Service life on Armed Forces families remains challenging. The issues of mobility and long periods of separation from loved ones demand a level of commitment and resourcefulness from families, which sets them apart from the general population. Constant change and the prospect of new policies that will redefine the Armed Forces’ lifestyle mean that unease and uncertainty prevail. Whilst families are proud of their serving loved one, and willingly make compromises and sacrifices, it is vital that the Armed Forces Covenant plays its part to ensure that they are treated fairly.

 

The Families Federations recognise the Armed Forces Covenant as an important and valuable mechanism to effect necessary change and very much appreciate the way in which Government departments and other stakeholders continue to work with us to achieve it.

 

Much has been accomplished in the past 12 months but there remains considerable work to do. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on those aspects of the Report relevant to serving personnel and their families.

 

Healthcare

That Armed Forces and Veterans issues are now part of the national curriculum for GPs, and will be tested in their Royal College of General Practitioners membership exam, is an extremely positive development. We look forward to there being greater understanding of the unique challenges that Service personnel and their families face.

 

Following our observations about compensation for clinical negligence cases for those families living overseas, we were pleased to note that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has now issued a Defence Internal Notice on Health Service Provision for Entitled MOD Personnel in British Forces Germany.

 

Whilst we recognise that families are now able to transfer their place to new waiting lists when they move location due to an assignment, we are still hearing concerns from those who then face even longer waiting times for certain treatments. This is a particular issue for those trying to access a NHS dentist in a number of remote locations around the UK, which have a large military footprint, including North Wales, Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall. Whilst we are working with our unit Covenant Champions, local authorities and NHS England and health partners to try and find resolution locally, more could and should be done. We recognise that work is being undertaken to ensure that those families who are assigned to Northern Ireland are not disadvantaged with regard to the time they have already spent on a waiting list for treatment.

 

However, concern remains about cases involving family members who find that they do not meet the eligibility criteria in their new location, or that certain medical treatment is not provided in Northern Ireland. Additional waiting times and concern about whether they will be able to have these procedures is causing undue anxiety. We would like to recognise formally the activity, support and engagement offered by the Armed Forces Commissioning Managers within NHS England, which has been outstanding; they continue to assist many families in need of advice and help. We also welcome the Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and we are pleased to note that Mental Health is at the forefront of the Health Agenda. We look forward to seeing the new services implemented over the coming months.

Education

As key stakeholders in the Service Children’s Progression Alliance (SCiP), we are delighted to be working alongside our partners in helping to improve educational outcomes for Service children. The development of the SCiP website is providing a hub of information and resources for professionals involved in Service children’s education. The organisation Service Children in State Schools (SCISS) continues to provide proactive guidance to schools on how best to support Service children, especially through the challenges of mobility and separation.

 

We welcome the introduction of a Service child flag on the Common Transfer File from September 2017, which means that Service children will now be identified when moving schools. We would welcome the addition of key information detailing each child’s support needs. We also look forward to learning about the impact of the Service Children’s Local Authority Working Group which will work collectively to improve education for Service children in the 13 key areas around the country.

 

The overseas education suitability reviews, recently conducted by the MOD, are a welcome asset for families who are considering an overseas assignment. This will enable them to make an informed decision, based on the facts, about the provision of educational facilities outside of the UK.

 

The Families Federations are reassured to learn that the Service Pupil Premium (SPP) will not be affected by the wider reform of school funding. The SPP provides schools and academies in England with a much needed additional resource, allowing them to support Service children in a number of ways, and we believe that it should be protected. It has stood at £300 per pupil, per year, for some time now and an increase would be well received. We would also welcome the extension of SPP to include early years (under 5s), to support transitional childcare arrangements, and for all children in compulsory education, including those aged 16-18 years.

 

There is still more work to be done, however, on educating schools on how best to spend their SPP, especially those that have lower numbers of Service children. While they receive less funding, they still need to use it as effectively as possible to support their Service pupils, and not combine it with their main Pupil Premium funding.

 

The issues surrounding Service children being moved to a new school during the academic year are well documented. We recognise the work that the Directorate of Children and Young People, via the Children’s Education Advisory Service, are doing to try to resolve some of the difficulties that occur, particularly as a result of these mid-term moves. We would, however, welcome information about what work, if any, is being undertaken by the single Services to help overcome some of these issues, through careful timing of assignment order dates. We recognise that the needs of the Service will always prevail, but believe that more well-timed moves in some cases would go a long way to support parents and to aid retention.

 

In our Observations on the Annual Covenant Report 2016, we requested further support for school admissions by way of changes to the Schools Admission Code. Whilst we have continued to pursue this with the Department for Education, as it stands the Code will not be changed. We believe that this decision needs to be revisited.

 

We understand that the MOD Education Support Fund (ESF) is scheduled to close. We would like to highlight our support of the ESF as a vital resource for schools, especially for those wishing to provide targeted support for Service children which cannot be funded through Service Pupil Premium. The key reasons for its introduction, i.e. deployment and mobility, remain extant, and we would like to see the fund retained.

 

We continue to receive evidence from families who are affected by the huge variations in the provision of Special Educational Needs support around the country, particularly those who are assigned to work and live in more remote locations. We would like this issue to be reviewed in the coming year to determine what extra support can, and should, be provided to those families who have to move location due to their Service commitments.

Accommodation

The issues surrounding accommodation continue to generate the highest number of concerns reported to the Families Federations. Nevertheless, we are pleased to see progress with the performance of CarillionAmey, although there is still room for improvement in some areas, such as follow-on works and communications. Their decision to 14 introduce Customer Engagement meetings is to be commended, as families have long voiced their frustrations about not having face to face contact with the team responsible for Service Family Accommodation. We also welcome the recent engagement by the MOD and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation with regards to the new housing contract, and we look forward to representing the views of families as this important consultation is taken forward.

 

The Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey 2017 report highlights that the number of Service personnel who feel that they get value for money for their Service accommodation is at its lowest for 8 years. We believe that there is a direct correlation between this decline, the previously poor performance of CarillionAmey (which only recently has started to perform to the contract targets), and the introduction of the Combined Accommodation Assessment System (CAAS) (which is deeply unpopular with many who feel that often significant rises in charges are not adequately explained or justified). This sense of frustration is compounded by poor communication and a complex challenge/ appeal process. We note the CAAS Working Group’s intent to simplify the system, but remain concerned by the negative effect of CAAS.

 

We note the MOD’s intent to establish a Single Living Accommodation Management Information System, but are concerned that this has now been in the pipeline for years, and that there is still no sign of a working solution. We continue to hear about the poor state of infrastructure in units, including Single Living Accommodation (SLA), and the concomitant adverse effect on morale and feeling valued. The MOD now needs to address this urgently as the condition of SLA is an area of real concern for those personnel still living in poor quality and badly maintained accommodation.

 

There remains much confusion, and some anxiety, about the long-term plans for Service accommodation under the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) programme. The Families Federations will continue to work with the FAM team to represent the views of families across all three Services and to ensure that those who are working on the new policy are aware of their concerns. We will also provide information and feedback on the proposals, as we believe it is essential for families to be involved in this process, especially in those locations selected to be part of the pilot in 2018. We would like reassurances that our feedback is given sufficient consideration by the FAM team, and that decisions are not solely based upon financial constraints. In addition, we would like the FAM team to recognise the unique nature of the three Services and the potentially differing requirements of those families.

 

We are delighted that, following much work by the Army Families Federation and the Royal British Legion, there is movement on the issue of divorced/ separated spouses having a local connection when applying for social housing. Once The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government) and the Local Government Association have completed their consultation, we look forward to seeing new statutory guidance being issued to ensure that military family members are not disadvantaged because they too have been mobile, in support of the Armed Forces.

Covenant in Business

The growing engagement of businesses is celebrated but we think there is still much more that could be done, especially by regional Small and Mediumsized Enterprises (SME) and not just the national or multinational corporate giants. Much attention is given, quite rightly, to supporting Reservists and Veterans in the workplace but spouse or partner employment is an issue that affects a great many Service families too. We will therefore be interested to note the findings of the review being commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust to look at the pledges made by businesses to support Service family members.

Family Life

The introduction of a new MOD Domestic Abuse Strategy is to be commended. We hope that this will reassure family members that the MOD and the single Services take this issue very seriously, and that there is a clear focus on prevention through education and awareness. As a result of a successful bid for Covenant Funding, the Army Families Federation Foreign and Commonwealth Specialist, on behalf of all three Federations, has already been able to assist 20 spouses who have been victims of domestic abuse and has had a 100% success rate with their immigration applications. It is hoped that their work will complement the policies and procedures put in place by the new strategy.

 

Whilst we welcome the news that the MOD has held initial meetings with the Home Office to discuss the challenges faced by some Foreign and Commonwealth families when applying for visas, we would like to see this issue given a higher priority. These cases frequently take months to resolve and can involve substantial amounts of money, which is having a significant impact on the families involved.

 

Service families moving to and from the devolved administration areas have raised concerns regarding the nuances of living in different countries. Whilst it is acknowledged that there are some clear benefits to living and working in Scotland or Wales, there has been a particular focus on the issue of the Scottish Rate of Income Tax and the challenges faced by some family members when applying for funding for further or higher education courses.

Childcare

We were delighted that Directorate of Children and Young People was tasked to produce a draft childcare policy but are disappointed that it has been buried in the MOD for nearly a year with no news about its adoption. We recognise the potential costs, and that this is an issue that can affect all families, whether Service or civilian. Nevertheless, there are some issues that are unique to Service families, and are compounded for dual-Serving and lone parents. Childcare remains a significant challenge for our people, not just in terms of cost but in terms of availability, governance, quality, opening hours and variability of delivery. We would welcome a decision in the near future.

Transition from Service to Civilian Life

The research currently being undertaken by our Transition Liaison staff will help to identify the actual needs and concerns of families as they go through the process of leaving the Armed Forces. We expect that this evidence will prove invaluable to informing Tri-Service policy on transition.

 

The Families Federations would welcome a commitment that policy makers will continue to work with us to review the current approach to transition policy, and the current Resettlement provision, to identify where it can be explicitly extended to families or where new provision needs to be designed. This could include provision for supporting families to understand better what life after the Service could look like, and to help them to identify skills, characteristics and experiences that are of value to themselves and future employers, as well as to help families to become active citizens.

Communicating the Covenant

We recognise the Armed Forces Covenant Cross Government Communications Working Group as an effective and positive development, but suggest that more is needed in the way of tailored messaging that will resonate with every rank, trade, age group and family situation. We also believe that there is more that can be done to support Unit Covenant Champions. We still hear about organisations that have signed up to the Covenant and yet failed to tell their employees, leading to confusion, stress and unnecessary bureaucracy when approached by Service families. Finally, despite the excellent work of Forces in Mind Trust and the MOD to identify and share good practice, we would like to see more work done to ensure that the Covenant is effectively communicated to local authorities, ensuring a focus on the removal of patchy delivery of the Covenant across different authorities.

Conclusion

On behalf of the serving Armed Forces community we would like to offer our sincere thanks to everyone who has played a part in delivering the Armed Forces Covenant during the past 12 months and are particularly grateful to those who have worked to address areas of disadvantage for our families. Whilst we celebrate the encouraging progress that has been made, we look forward to seeing the recently renewed commitment made by the Government to support Armed Forces families yielding positive outcomes.

 

Further information

To read the full Armed Forces Covenant Report, click here.

To read a summary of the Armed Forces Covenant Report, click here.

Contact us

Without your feedback we cannot gather the evidence that we need to bring about change, where required, and make life better for Naval Service families.

Call us: 023 9265 4374

Email: contactus@nff.org.uk

You can also contact us on social media:

Follow us on Facebook here.

Follow us on Twitter here.

 

Posted on: 14th February, 2018

Stalking is defined as repeated and unwanted behaviour that causes the victim alarm and distress. It is often thought of as a crime only against women, but 1 in 6 women and 1 in 12 men will be subject to stalking at some point in their lives.

Perhaps surprisingly though, 77% of stalking victims experience 100 incidents before they make a report to the police. It may take a while before a victim realises that the behaviour they are experiencing is stalking. It may seem just annoying at first and then gradually become creepier and more frightening. Some stalking may escalate fast.

Most stalking now includes a digital or technology-based aspect. In ‘cyberstalking’, the perpetrator will use technology, but not stalk the person in the offline world. In ‘digitally assisted stalking’, the perpetrator will use technology (such as mobile phones, geolocation tracking, social media and spyware) to find information and to assist them with ‘in person’ activities. All forms of stalking may cause psychological damage, as well as other harm.

We have no reason to believe that stalking of any kind is more common in the Armed Forces community than in the rest of the population. The purpose of this article is not to cause alarm or worry, but to raise awareness of ways we can protect ourselves and look out for friends and neighbours.

Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your digital safety:

• Use secure passwords and update them. Yes – we’ve heard that many times before. With all the websites that you probably have accounts for, there’s no way to easily remember lots of different passwords. This is where a password manager can help – as long as you create a strong master password that you can remember. These are available free online and as mobile apps – for example Dashlane and Keepass;

• Regularly Google yourself. Know what your ‘digital footprint’ looks like and what information about you is in the public domain;

• Review your social media privacy settings;

• Think before you ‘check in’ somewhere on social media;

• Check your mobile phone settings. Reduce the time before your screen locks and needs a PIN. Use a PIN that is not a birthday or other known number. Review and considering turning off location services, GPS or geotagging. Ensure that apps such as Google Maps are not sharing your location with anyone you don’t trust;

• Be careful about sharing personal information online. Think before updating: your relationship status; your place of work; where you are going, etc. Visit the Royal Navy website for advice on staying safe in social media here;

• Use caution when using dating apps like Tinder. Check out the dating safety section of the website before you meet. Don’t give out your e-mail address or mobile number – set up an e-mail for first contact or get an extra mobile number and keep your main number private. Meet in a public place and make sure you let a friend know where you are and timings so that they can check in with you.

If you have reason to think that you are being stalked:

• Report it and reach out to others – report to the police and make sure that other people know what you are experiencing (workplace, children’s school, trusted friends and family). Naval Service Family & People Support (NS FPS) (023 9272 8777) can provide support.

Remember you are not alone:

Get good practical advice – contact the National Stalking Helpline and/or Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service (details below). These organisations can give you specific information about what to do next and steps you can take to stay safe.

Keep evidence – keep all e-mails, messages, gifts and contacts. If you are followed by car, go to an area with CCTV and call 999 if you are in immediate danger.

Keep a diary – log everything – dates, times and details.

• Trust your instincts and never make contact with the stalker. Anyone who is a victim of stalking, or is worried about someone’s behaviour towards them, can get free, confidential, expert advice and support from.

Useful contacts

• The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300

The Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service on 0207 840ite: www.paladinservice.co.uk.

• The Armed Forces Domestic Abuse Aurora New Dawn Advocate – 023 9247 9254armedforces@aurorand.org.uk

Posted on: 23rd January, 2018
Updated on: 2nd December, 2019

With the unpredictable nature of Naval life, lots of pressure is put on families and a feeling of isolation can be common. There is a lot of research which says that singing in groups helps to alleviate stress and improve mental health, as well as bringing people together, and that’s why the Military Wives Choirs are so important.

With an aim to bring women in the military community closer together through singing, there are now over 70 Military Wives Choirs in British Military bases across the UK, and overseas, helping to combat this isolation.

Here, two ladies from different ends of the UK tell their stories and talk about what choir means to them:

Michelle, 33, West of Scotland Military Wives Choirs:

“I’ve lived on the patch for 18 months but only joined the West of Scotland Military Wives Choir five months ago. It took me a while to take the plunge and step into the rehearsal room as I wasn’t sure I aligned myself with the military wives identity. I also really didn’t want to spend my Monday evenings singing sad songs and crying into my handkerchief! A friend, who lives nearby, eventually convinced me to give it a go and now I realise that my perception was wrong. We perform such a range of songs– some emotional and some that are upbeat and fun – it makes it so enjoyable.

“Before joining the choir, I hadn’t sung since school but I now remember that feeling you get after singing. Even if I’m having a bad day and don’t really feel like going, I force myself to go along and always leave rehearsal feeling so much better than when I came in. It’s a real post singing buzz that’s incredibly uplifting.

“Not only does choir boost my mood, it’s a stable place I can depend on when my life feels chaotic. My husband is a submarine engineer and because of his job, he’s regularly back and forth, often unexpectedly. It means that we’re constantly living in uncertainty. When he’s away, it’s particularly hard as it’s difficult to communicate with him.

“The ladies in choir understand. Being in a room full of women going through similar things means I don’t need to be worried about being judged in any way or explaining myself if I’m feeling a bit down. They’re a supportive bunch who help with so many aspects of daily life; for example, one of the ladies recently brought her six-month-old to a rehearsal as her husband was away and her baby had never been in a crèche before. Nobody minded at all, in fact  everyone was taking turns to hold her to give mum a little break, so she got some time to be herself and let go.

“I’ve already encouraged one of my friends in the military community to come along to choir and I would do the same for anyone. Even if you don’t think it’s for you, like I originally did, give it a chance and you may be pleasantly surprised!”

Yvonne, 41, Yeovilton Military Wives Choirs:

I joined Yeovilton Military Wives Choir two weeks after they started back in 2012. A leaflet came with the military welcome pack we’d received shortly after moving in and I jumped on the opportunity. As a married woman without children, I felt like it was the only activity out there to help me meet new people, something I was desperate to do since I didn’t know anyone.

“I hadn’t sung since school so I was nervous to begin with, but my confidence has really grown and I can honestly say that being in the choir has given me lots of amazing opportunities which I never expected. We’ve performed with the likes of Lulu, Russell Watson and even appeared on Flog It! However the best thing for me is that I experience lots of fun, love and support. I know that choir is an integral part of all our ladies’ lives. After a long, stressful day, there is nothing better than joining a room full of fabulous women and singing your heart out.

“My husband is about to become a Naval Officer  and he is getting transferred to Scotland this summer. I’m not going with him due to my job/other commitments. If I was, I know that thanks to the Military Wives Choirs network, I could step right in and join another lovely bunch of ladies and feel instantly more comfortable in a new place. However, whilst it’s still going to be incredibly hard staying behind, I know that my Yeovilton choir ladies, who are all so understanding, will be there to help me out whilst he is away and I’m very grateful that I have that support network around me.

“I would definitely recommend joining a Military Wives Choir, particularly if you are new to the military. It’s a brilliant way to get to know ladies who understand the unpredictable nature of military life and can support you when your family member is worlds away. They can cheer you up, feed you cake or if you just need some time for yourself to sing, that’s ok too.”

For more information and to find a Military Wives Choirs near you, click here, or call 020 7463 9407.

 

 

 

Posted on: 18th January 2018