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Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, recently published a report looking at the lives and experiences of children who grow up in an Armed Forces family. The Naval Families Federation attended the launch of the report, and spoke with the Children’s Commissioner afterwards about particular challenges experienced by Naval Service families.

 

The report, ‘Kin and Country: Growing up as an Armed Forces Child’, explores how primary and secondary school children with parents in the Armed Forces feel about moving school or country, how their lives at home and school change with deployment and whether or not they feel they receive the support they need.

 

The Children’s Commissioner’s Office spoke to children up and down the country whose parents are currently serving in the Army, Navy or RAF, as well as speaking to teachers, parents and members of the Armed Forces to build a clear picture of where there are gaps in provision for children, and why these gaps exist.

 

The report shows that most children in Armed Forces families are growing up living happy lives, despite the unique challenges they face. It is clear though that the lifestyle can be tough, and that multiple school moves often leave children feeling unsettled and anxious. For children with additional needs or teenagers in the middle of exam courses, moving around adds another layer of complication.

 

Alongside the impact of mobility, service children describe a range of complex emotional responses to the deployment of their parents, sharing the impact that parental absence has at home, with changing family dynamics and increased responsibility for siblings and household tasks. For children who had both parents deployed at the same time, these issues are exacerbated by the need to move to stay with another family member for a significant period of time.

 

You can read the full report, and its recommendations, here.

 

Posted on: 17th July, 2018

The Scottish Government has published a welcome guide, specifically written for Naval Service families.

 

This booklet provides information you may need to help settle in. It covers aspects such as housing, education, healthcare, employment, benefits and social care, other useful information, and a list of supporting organisations.

 

If you are considering, or are due to move to Scotland for an upcoming assignment order, you can read this guide online here. The Scottish Government is planning to distribute this booklet in hard copy in the near future, though no dates have been confirmed. We will keep you updated.

 

Posted on: 5th July, 2018

What do you know about the Armed Forces Covenant?

Warwickshire County Council, on behalf of the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant partnership has launched an innovative e-learning resource for Armed Forces personnel and their families.

 

This training programme has been designed to support those leaving or who have left the Armed Forces and helps in the process of adjusting to life outside of the Armed Forces.  It addresses issues that are commonly experienced within the transition and adjustment process such as acquiring accommodation, employment, health as well as personal and family adjustment.  It also raises awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant and highlight how it can support them in reducing disadvantages that can occur as a result of their service.

 

These modules were created by the Armed Forces Covenant Team within the Council, in collaboration with ex-serving personnel, the Naval Families Federation and the Army and RAF Families Federations.

 

Anna Wright, CEO of the Naval Families Federation said:

“I am delighted to lend my support to this fifth, and final, Armed Forces Covenant e-learning module, which has been developed by the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Covenant Partnership. We have worked with Phil Deakin and his colleagues on all of these modules and have been thrilled to see how successful they have been in not only raising awareness of the issues faced by serving personnel and their families, but also providing advice about how the Covenant can help to overcome them.

This final module really strikes a chord as it coincides with the research that we and the other Families Federations have recently published, in partnership with the Forces in Mind Trust, which puts the spotlight on how families transition out of the Armed Forces. I am sure that the module will help the individual and whole family make a successful move back to civilian life”

 

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

“I am very pleased to welcome this new resource focused on Service Leavers and Veterans.  We know that the period of transition and adjustment to civilian life can be difficult for some individuals and families and this e-learning will aid them in settling back into civilian life.  One excellent feature is the ‘Three Top Tips’ being shared from veterans of all 3 services as well as spouses who have made the transition.”

 

You can access these e-learning resources here.

 

Posted on: 14th May, 2018
Updated on: 8th May, 2019

The Future Accommodation Model (FAM) survey results have now been published. These will be used as part of the on-going policy development for the FAM, which will combine the survey with other results (e.g. the single Service Families Federations’ surveys) and Focus Group findings to refine the accommodation offer based on your feedback.

 

A Tri-Service FAM pilot scheme will be carried out in several locations throughout the UK. This was due to start in December 2018 but will now take place in 2019. Ministers are expected to confirm locations and start dates next year. The scheme is planned to run for two years and there will be a consultation period on completion of this. FAM is expected to be gradually introduced once the consultation period is complete.

 

To read the report in full please click here.

 

In addition, thank you to everyone who took part in our Future of Accommodation Model survey.

 

Here are the headlines of our findings from the Naval community.

 

Posted on: 3rd May, 2018
Last updated on: 25th October, 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

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:

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Posted on: 14th February, 2018

The Royal Navy has announced that in order to meet the demands of future Defence tasks, they are planning to conduct a number of Type 23 (T23) frigate baseport changes to co-locate all Towed Array Anti-Submarine T23 frigates in Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport, and all General Purpose T23 frigates in Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth.

 

Why?

The introduction of the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Carriers into service and the Royal Navy’s future focus on Carrier Strike Task Group (CSTG) operations has presented the opportunity to optimise the baseport locations of the T23 Frigates.

A CSTG will comprise of at least one Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Carrier, two Type 45 (T45) Destroyers and two T23 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigates. With the baseports of the eight T23 ASW frigates currently split between Portsmouth and Devonport, there is the potential for Portsmouth to have to simultaneously generate five major platforms; the Royal Navy has stated that this would be extremely challenging for a single dockyard to manage. Re-baseporting all T23 ASW frigates in Devonport aims to provide greater operational flexibility and de-risk T23 availability for CSTG.

 

What is the timescale?

The Naval Families Federation has been told that the baseport changes will occur during, what the Royal Navy calls, unmanned ‘Upkeep’ periods, so that they can aim to provide a smooth personnel transition programme to minimise disruption for ships’ crews and their families.

The change programme will start with HMS Richmond in August 2018, with all subsequent ships baseport changing on the first day of their next ‘Upkeep’ period. We have been assured that all baseport changes, which will complete by 2023, are in excess of the minimum manning notice.

Portsmouth Naval Base aims to benefit from additional investment to support QEC and T45 Destroyers; Devonport will become the focus for the generation of surface ship Anti-Submarine Warfare capability.

The Royal Navy routinely reviews its requirements for future waterfront infrastructure, including berths, docks and related facilities, to inform decisions regarding infrastructure investment, base porting and maintenance. A decision has yet to be made for the base porting of the Type 26 and Type 31e Frigates, however we will update you as soon as we receive further information.

 

The T23s to be baseport changed are as follows: 

Ship Current Baseport Future Baseport
RICHMOND Portsmouth Devonport
ST ALBANS Portsmouth Devonport
MONMOUTH Devonport Portsmouth
ARGYLL Devonport Portsmouth
WESTMINSTER Portsmouth Devonport
MONTROSE Devonport Portsmouth
KENT Portsmouth Devonport

 

If you would like to contact us with your feedback or you have any questions regarding this announcement, please phone us on 023 9265 4374 or email contactus@nff.org.uk .

 

Posted on:  30th November, 2017

Children and young people should be protected from inappropriate and excessive caring responsibilities so they can enjoy their childhoods, thrive and reach their potential.

 

Young carers from Armed Forces Families have been highlighted as a particularly vulnerable group. The impacts of the caring roles for these young people are further compounded by other factors linked specifically with military life. We have worked in collaboration with the Children’s Society to help them to produce this report.

 

It evidences the need for support for these young people and proposes actions to improve identification and assistance. The report also contains recommendations for military and civilian services and suggestions for further actions and reading.

 

Posted on: 16th November, 2017

In preparation for presenting evidence to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) 2017 the Naval Families Federation (NFF) asked you what you thought about pay in the Naval Service.

 

Your Voice Heard 

438 of you responded with 215 choosing to provide us with invaluable free text feedback.

 

Around 50% of you told us that you were: concerned about your financial situation some of the time; able to save for a rainy day some of the time; worried about managing your debts some of the time; and felt there was enough money coming in to pay for the things that you need some of the time.

 

Around 25% of you felt satisfied with your financial situation and shared with us that there was enough money coming into your household to pay for the things that you need a lot of the time.

 

Of those of you who said you have had to make changes as a result of the ongoing public sector pay restraint during the past 12 months, three quarters of you told us that you had to cut back on holidays/leisure activities.

 

To read the results in full, please click here.

 

Update: 

The AFPRB will meet in the Autumn term in 2018. The survey for AFPRB is now closed. Read the survey results in full here.

 

Posted on: 24th October, 2017
Updated on: 12th November, 2018

Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre provides free legal advice to members of the public across a range of different legal areas. They help those who are unable to access legal advice as part of their effort to bridge the gap in access to justice.

 

Advice is delivered by QMLAC Student Advisers under the supervision of qualified lawyers.

 

A member of QMLAC will contact you within three working days to get a few more case details, to establish whether your legal issue is something student advisers are able to assist with. You will also be asked for your household income to determine whether you meet the income threshold to receive free legal advice.

 

If they are able to help, a virtual appointment will be offered to the you. Following that appointment, you will receive your advice letter 14 days later. Please note the clinics run on an academic term time basis only.

 

Appointments will start from October to April only. Follow this link to find out more.

Posted on: 19th October, 2017
Updated on: 6th October, 2020