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It is with great pleasure that we, at the Naval Families Federation, are launching our 2021 Childcare report. We hope that you will agree with us, that it has been worth the wait and that it will help to shape the future of childcare for the Royal Navy.

 

We are so grateful to everyone who responded to our childcare survey last year. Our report aims to ensure that your voices, experiences and concerns that you have about childcare in the Royal Navy have been accurately represented. In addition to families’ feedback we have included lots of relevant research.

 

The focus of this report is on those aspects of childcare which place an extra burden on households as a direct result of Royal Navy Service life.

 

It is our aspiration that the short and long term recommendations made in this report will inform future MOD policy (including the wraparound childcare pilot and policy), as well as Royal Navy and wider Royal Navy charitable support.

 

To read the full report, please download the interactive PDF here.

 

Posted on: 27th January, 2021

 

In 2019, the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, commissioned The Rt. Hon. Mark Francois MP and his research team, to produce an independent report on improving Retention within the Armed Forces.

 

The review team gathered evidence to inform the study in a number of ways, including email consultations and visits to military bases. The NFF was delighted to host the team at HMS EXCELLENT to meet with Service personnel and spouses/partners at a forum during the consultation period.

 

The report, ‘Stick or Twist?’, which has been seen by the Prime Minister, is now available. 

 

It produces 14 specific recommendations to help improve Retention in HM Armed
Forces. These include reviewing the degree of operational tempo, pay and allowances, childcare and
the maintenance of Service Family Accommodation. Examples below:

 

  • It must be clearly acknowledged that the pressures on family/personal life remain the
    single biggest driver for people to leave HM Armed Forces and it is realistically unlikely
    that the problems of Retention can be ameliorated unless this challenge is faced head
    on. This means the Department must look again at both its alert states and its high tempo
    of recycling personnel in order to seek to achieve a more realistic work/life balance –
    without compromising key operations. (recommendation 2)

 

  • The cost and availability of childcare is now a material reason why Service personnel are
    leaving the Armed Forces and Defence needs to think innovatively in order to provide
    increased capacity in childcare, including “out of hours”, and also needs to ensure that this
    is a cost which even junior ranks can realistically afford. (recommendation 5)

 

Commenting on the findings of the “Stick or Twist?” report, Mark Francois MP said:

“My team and I have worked for over a year to provide proposals to improve Retention. Some of these, such as extending the Forces Help to Buy Scheme and expanding Childcare for service personnel are thankfully already being actioned. We have made further proposals, including taking Service Family Accommodation (SFA) away from the failing Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and vesting it in a dedicated Forces Housing Association (FHA) instead. This new entity would be optimised to provide decent, affordable accommodation for service personnel and their families and would be run in their interests, not that of the MoD bureaucracy. However, there is always more to do, in order to persuade personnel to “Stick” rather than to “Twist” and dare I say it, Remain in HM Armed Forces”.

 

Click here to listen to an interview with our CEO’s reaction to the report from an episode of Sitrep via BFBS Radio (23rd July, 12:12 onwards). The Naval Families Federation (NFF) welcome your thoughts on the report, please do contact us.

 

Posted on: 22nd July, 2020
Last updated on: 14th August, 2020

 

 

 

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity announced the release of a new survey report written by the FANDF committee. This powerful report shares the voices of this sometimes-overlooked Additional Needs and Disability community within the Armed Forces. This is the first time that this demographic has shared these insights and their experiences in an official capacity with the Ministry of Defence.

 

Under the MOD’s Defence and Inclusion (D&I) strategy, efforts are being made to shine a light into every corner of the Forces community. In order to better support these families, their opinions and personal experiences have been collated and their own on-the-ground-recommendations are being shared.

 

Key report findings:

  • Lack of a ‘normal’ family routine caused by military lifestyle leaves those families with additional needs and disabilities struggling to climb waiting lists and access specialist services required
  • Children’s education can suffer as stretched local authorities subconsciously under-resource support for children who will ‘move on’ shortly. The report finds ongoing issues with obtaining an educational diagnosis and support for children, according to 29% of respondents surveyed
  • Access to continuity of health care is a big concern, with health and educational records taking time to be transferred and those families claiming access to support having to start again from scratch every time they move
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder is the most common additional need identified by 48% of respondents, and specialist support for military families dealing with this is necessary

 

Click here to read the report in full. 

 

Posted on: 27th January, 2020

Pioneering research into the effects of ‘weekending’ – non-operational separations – on Naval Service families has been unveiled by the Naval Families Federation at Admiralty House in London.

 

At a gathering of influential military and civilian supporters of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, drawn from the Services, charities and industry, NFF Chief Executive Anna Wright said the new research indicated that the effects of weekending on spouses and children matched those of longer deployments, affecting relationships, spousal employment and general wellbeing.

 

With the Naval Service keen to recruit and retain the best talent to its ranks, this research will improve understanding of the families’ perceptions of the challenges and opportunities they face, which can affect serving personnel, particularly as their place of work is often far from the family home.

 

Anna said that “of the three Services, the Naval Service has the most separation in terms of military deployments. That is an issue in its own right.

 

“What is less well-known is that, of the three Services, the Naval Service also has the most non-operational separation.”

 

Drawing on their own family experiences, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones both acknowledged the importance of families in the operational effectiveness of the Naval Service, and the challenges caused by such separations.

 

Mr Williamson noted that ‘family’ is an important concept in the Service, and thanked the NFF for undertaking the project.

 

He also told the audience, representing Naval Service families and their support network, that “we always recognise that you being stronger, our Armed Forces are stronger.”

 

Speaking of the research, Admiral Jones said: “Many aspects of Service life, including time spent away from home as a result of working for the Royal Navy, are not easily compatible with family life and I am acutely aware that we ask a lot of our people and their families too.

 

“We are constantly looking to improve the wellbeing of our Naval Service families and there is much work in progress with Royal Navy Royal Marine Welfare, NFF and the Service charities.

 

“However, we can only change things for the better if we have a clear understanding of what really matters to all who serve and the families upon whose unswerving support we all rely.

 

“So I really welcome this report by the NFF which provides really valuable insights on which we can act, and in so doing ensure that life in the Naval Service is as good as it can be for our people and their families.”

Speaker behind a lectern.
Speaker behind a lectern.

The third guest speaker was NFF Homeport magazine columnist, blogger and Naval wife ‘Olive Oyl’, who gave her own take on separation from husband ‘Popeye’ in a sparkling speech that prompted laughter and knowing looks from many in the audience.

 

Summing up the findings, Anna said the challenges faced by families included difficulties in balancing careers with childcare while the partner is away, the placing of more responsibility on older children and a feeling of being under pressure to cram weekends with ‘quality time’ as a family.

 

Many spouses, said Anna, spoke of the sense of ‘just coping’ with the additional responsibilities, resulting in stress, anxiety and tiredness – though she reminded those gathered that Naval families are a resilient group, and there was no question of whingeing.

 

“So there we have it – we have an in-tray to tackle,” she concluded.

 

“The NFF are up for it, and we hope that you are too – our ‘just-coping’ families deserve no less.”

 

The findings of the research – commissioned by the NFF and carried out by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), funded by Greenwich Hospital – will be used by the MOD, senior military personnel and military charities to help improve support for Naval Service families.

 

Read the executive summary here. The full report can be downloaded here.

 

One immediate result of the project is the production by the NFF of a resource for parents and carers.

 

Titled ‘A Guide for Parents and Adults Supporting Children and Young People’, the publication – described by Anna as ‘light-hearted and empowering’ – was created by Bridget Nicholson of the NFF to offer strategies and encouragement for families affected by all forms of separation and those who support them; one finding of the research was that there is a general lack of appreciation that shorter separations still have a significant impact, and the booklet is in part designed to help address that.

 

The publication is available in hard-copy format from the NFF, or can be downloaded here. *Regrettably, we are only able to send hard copies to our beneficiaries due to resource constraints.*

Gallery
Crowd talking.
Speaker behind a lectern.
The Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Alexander Williamson and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones addressing guests at the Naval Families Federation.
Crowd talking.
Team photo.
Crowd talking.

Images UK MOD Crown Copyright 2019

Posted on: 7th February, 2019
Updated on: 21st June, 2019

A two-year tri-Federation project comes to fruition today (Thursday 1st November) with the publication of a report into transition. This report, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has revealed that more awareness about the demands of transition is needed for families of Service leavers.

 

The report contains a list of recommendations including the need for:

  • A shift in culture (for policy makers, service providers, Service leavers and families themselves), which better appreciates the breadth of transition and the need to engage with it from an earlier point in a Service leaver’s career.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of advance planning.
  • An education piece to cover transition entitlement and processes.
  • Tailoring support to families’ specific needs.

 

The report, the first to specifically look at the lived experience of Service families, reveals the complex nature of transition and affirms the six ‘elements’ of transition: housing, health, education and children, employment, finances and wellbeing.

 

It also highlights the need for further research to better understand specific cohorts of families such as Foreign & Commonwealth, those whose Service leaver is being medically discharged and the challenges faced by Service children.

 

Anna Wright, CEO Naval Families Federation, said:

“The unique nature of Naval Service life is reflected by the ‘can do’ attitude of our families. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that all Naval Service families find the transition process to be without challenge. This report provides those in decision making roles with an insightful and honest bank of information to help support their thinking and consider the needs of Naval Service families when reviewing or updating appropriate policies.

“We are hugely grateful to all the families who took part in the research, offering their time and

sharing their ‘lived experience’ to inform this report.”

 

Sara Baade, Chief Executive, Army Families Federation said:

“The Army Families Federation is very grateful to FiMT for the opportunity to conduct much-needed research showing more needs to be done to support those going through transition out of the military. This work strengthens existing evidence in this area and the report’s recommendations are invaluable in supporting the case for improved resources and services that families can use to ensure their transition is successful, whatever their make-up. This key evidence also supports the Veterans’ Strategy announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this year; those transitioning out of the Forces are the veterans of tomorrow, and ensuring families overcome the many challenges transition can pose goes some way to ensuring a successful civilian life.”

 

Graeme Spark, Acting Director, RAF FF said:

“We have been delighted to have been part of this project – understanding completely the need for a holistic approach to transition to best support RAF families now and in the future. We now look forward to helping deliver where we can some of its recommendations.”

 

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said:

“The process of transition is not solely about the Service personnel, it affects the entire family unit. What has become clear, from the library of research funded by FiMT, is that the earlier planning for leaving the Armed Forces starts, the more successful and sustainable is the transition.

“The recommendations within this report highlight the need to do more to ensure that the families of Service personnel are given the support required to successfully navigate the transition pathway.”

 

You can read the full report here. Please contact us if you would like to obtain a hard copy.

 

If you have an experience of transition that you’d like to share or have any questions or concerns, contact: transition@nff.org.uk.

 

Posted on: 1st November, 2018
Updated on: 14th November, 2018

Thank you to everyone who responded to our recent survey about mental health for Royal Navy and Royal Marines families. Your feedback is extremely valuable and helps us to represent accurately your views and experiences. The results of the survey are here.

 

This survey was carried out to assist the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) with its current inquiry into the Mental Health of the Armed Forces. The Committee makes recommendations for change. On 25 July 2018 it published Part 1 of its report into the Mental Health of the Armed Forces, which considers the scale of mental health issues. The Naval Families Federation provided evidence for this report. The Committee accepted our view that mental health should be considered in a holistic way, rather than focusing solely on the serving person. We want to find out more about the impact of military service and lifestyles on the mental health of family members, to make sure you are properly supported. Part 1 of the Committee’s report acknowledges that families’ mental health can be affected by the stresses of Service life and by traumatic events experienced by their military partners. It makes a number of recommendations, including that the Ministry of Defence, in conjunction with the health departments of the four nations, places a greater focus on Service and veterans’ families as part of its mental health care provision. This should include supporting further research into the mental health of current and former Service families to determine what provision is needed. The Ministry of Defence should also monitor how this provision is applied across the UK as part of its annual report on the Armed Forces Covenant.

 

You can read Part 1 of the HCDC report here and our evidence here. We will keep you up to date with any further developments as they happen.

 

Posted on: 5th September, 2018

 

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