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Reading Force is a shared reading initiative for Service families. The charity provides free books and scrapbooks to Service children of all ages, in order to support and encourage Armed Forces families with shared reading both at home or when separated.

 

Through this programme, participating families experience the following benefits:
• Maintaining good contact with a parent when they are away from home;
• Increased contact with extended family, especially grandparents;
• Improved communication within the whole family;
• More fathers get involved with their children’s reading;
• A sense of community and affirmed identity.

 

Please see this brochure to find out more about their causes, and use this link to sign up for your copy.

 

Posted on: 6th September, 2018
Updated on: 21st June, 2019

 

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

 

A new compensation scheme has been announced for military personnel affected by increases in Scottish tax – an issue that was flagged up by the Naval Families Federation.

 

When Scotland’s new income tax regime came into force earlier this year, anyone who lived in Scotland and earned more than about £26,000 started paying more income tax than they would do if they lived elsewhere in the UK.

 

It is thought that around 8,000 serving personnel fall into that category.

 

When the Scottish government first announced its ‘progressive’ system, the Naval Families Federation acted on behalf of Naval Service families and conveyed their concerns to Defence ministers.

 

We firmly believe that serving personnel north of the border should not be worse off than colleagues who are posted elsewhere, and that all should be treated equally.

 

The NFF is delighted that the MOD has listened and responded with the new scheme of ‘mitigation payments’ announced by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson today, which will see affected personnel receive a compensation payment ensuring all serving people effectively pay the same rate of tax, wherever they work, in the current tax year.

 

Only Regular personnel whose main place of residence is in Scotland and who are worse off by a minimum of £12 a year will be eligible, while a cap of £1,500 has also been set.

 

The payment will be retrospective, ie paid after the end of the 2018-19 tax year, and the scheme will be reviewed on an annual basis by the MOD. More details of this year’s scheme will follow later in the year.

 

This is a great example of how the NFF acts as a bridge between our community and the Government to promote equality for you and your family. We will continue to monitor changes in policies to act on your behalf.

 

For those in the Armed Forces, details are available in a Defence Internal Brief, serial number 2018DIB/08.

 

You can access BBC’s news article on the compensation scheme here.

 

Posted on: 19th July, 2018
Updated on: 6th August, 2018

** This article is about our work with the Armed Forces Covenant/ Defence Select Committee in 2018. If you would like to read an update of the work carried out in 2019, please click here. **

 

As part of our work with the Armed Forces Covenant, each year we are asked to comment formally on the Covenant Annual Report, alongside the AFF and RAF FF. In addition to our written observations, our Chief Executive Anna Wright also appeared as a witness before the Defence Select Committee (DSC) earlier this year to talk about the Covenant, how it is being delivered and how it is affecting our people and their families.

 

The DSC Report has now been published and we are delighted to see that the Committee have listened to the evidence presented by the NFF and have included some of our suggestions in their recommendations. For example, during her evidence session, Anna told the Committee that, whilst we would like to see the Service Pupil Premium amount increased, our priority would be for it to be extended to early years and up to 18 years, because there were gaps at either end in terms of pastoral support.

 

As a result, the Committee have recommended that:

“We call on the Government to review the Service Pupil Premium for England, with particular reference to whether it should be increased and whether its range should be extended to under-5s and to all Service children, including those aged 16–18 years across the UK. We also call upon the Government to provide target guidance to help schools use the Service Pupil Premium appropriately.”

(Defence Select Committee Report on the Covenant, paragraph 135)

 

This is a great example of how we are speaking up on your behalf, at all levels within government, to try and make life better for you and your family. If you want to know more about our evidence and the Committees findings, you can access the full report here.

 

Posted on: 16th July, 2018
Updated on: 22nd October, 2019

There are several travel offers available for Serving personnel and their families. Whether you are travelling home, or planning a mini break, the following discounts may help reduce the cost:

 

National Express
  • Members of the Armed Forces can book their travel with a 60% discount with a MOD90 ID card or a Defence Privilege Card.
  • Spouses and partners of the Serving person and other members of Defence Discount Service can claim a 30% discount off with a Defence Privilege Card.

For more information on your eligibility and T&C, please visit here.

 

Virgin Atlantic
  • You can save up to 12% off.

This discount will expire on 5th September 2019. Please log onto your account on Discount Defence Service for more information.

 

Loganair
  • 10% off all return flights

This discount will expire on 30th April 2020. Please log onto your account on Discount Defence Service for more information.

 

EuropCar
  • You can save up to 20% off your UK car hire.
  •  Up to 35% discount for bookings made before 29th July 2018 and pick up before 30th September 2018 during their Summer Sale.

For more information and their T&C, please visit here.

 

Forces Car Hire
  • This site offers cheap car rentals around the world for members of the Armed Forces.

Please visit this site for quotes, bookings, and T&C.

 

Forces Travel Ferries
  • You could claim up to 15% off your travel with some of UK’s biggest ferry operators.

Please visit this site to plan your journey and claim your discount.

 

HM Forces Railcard
  • For £21 per year, you can save 1/3 on most rail fares throughout Great Britain within 12 months. This card is available to members of the Regular Forces and their spouse/ civil partner.

You can read about this discount here. Please contact your local UPO to apply for yours.

 

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • You can save up to 5% off.

This discount is for Defence Privilege Card holders. Read about their T&C here.

 

 

Other discounts

There is so much more available to the Armed Forces community and their family members. You can find out more about other discount services here to explore your options, and you can read about other holiday offers here.

 

Posted on: 13th July, 2018
Updated on: 17th July, 2019

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

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:

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). Royal Navy Family & People Support (RN FPS) (023 9272 8777) can provide support.

Remember you are not alone:

Get good practical advice – contact the Suzy Lamplugh Trust 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 Suzy Lamplugh Trust 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: 4th August, 2022

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