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Smart Works is a UK charity that provides high quality interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to any woman with a confirmed interview. They give women the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools they require to succeed at interview and start a new chapter of their life.

At the core of their service is a dressing and interview appointment at one of their Smart Works centres.  During her visit, each woman receives a high-quality interview outfit (theirs to keep) tailored to their taste and style by Smart Works’ stylists. This is followed by dedicated one-to-one interview training with an experienced recruitment, HR or coaching professional.

The Smart Works service is currently run in six locations across the UK: North London, West London, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Reading and Birmingham, with more on the way.

Case studies

Tina Singh

Tina came to visit Smart Works for the first time in September 2015 and was successful in securing a role as a catering assistant in early October.

I had no smart clothes to wear for interviews and my confidence was at an all time low when I was referred to Smart Works in September.

The dressers at Smart Works made me look super sharp for my interview.  They were so kind and friendly; they knew how to dress me and gave me lots of styling advice.  They really were experts.

The interview techniques and tips I learnt during the interview coaching was also so very useful, and really helped me prepare for my interview properly.

Everyone at Smart Works made me feel worthy.  They really built up my confidence and I would recommend the service to anyone.”

Letitia Adu-Sarkodie

Letitia visited Smart Works in April 2015 having applied for over 30 jobs unsuccessfully in the previous 6 months.  Shortly after coming to Smart Works Letitia secured a job at Google in their HR department.

 “Being unemployed for a long time and being unsuccessful in so many applications had really impacted negatively on my sense of self worth and confidence.  I didn’t really believe in myself at interview which I am sure showed, and I know I wasn’t instilling confidence in the people interviewing me.

 Coming to Smart Works gave me a real confidence boost, it was a fantastic experience.

 The Interview session was priceless as it gave me so many good tips on how to answer tricky interview questions.  I really appreciated being able to go through my CV and I learnt how to speak about my skills and experience positively.

 I definitely left with a smile, and to top it all off I survived a very hard three hour interview and got the job!”

Appointments at Smart Works are by referral only. Each local Smart Works works with a large range of referral partners who support women back into work. If you are unsure you can find contact numbers here and they will be able to advice you.

 

For further information, please click here.

 

Posted on: 30th January, 2017

Grandparents caring for grandchildren under 12 could qualify for National Insurance credits that can top up their income in retirement.

Many working-age grandmothers and fathers could qualify for Class 3 National Insurance credits for looking after children aged under 12 – which can be used to top up their income in retirement.

Half of Britain’s 7 million working-age grandparents have a grandchild under the age of 16.

Working parents can give up the Child Benefit credits they receive and donate them to their child’s grandparents or other adult family members for the previous tax year. Grandparents and parents must apply for the credits to be transferred.

 

Top grandparent facts

Top grandparent facts include:

  • 1 in 4 working families and 1 in 3 working mothers use grandparents for childcare
  • 63% of all grandparents with grandchildren under 16 help out with childcare
  • 1 in 5 grandmothers provide at least 10 hours a week of childcare
  • the proportion of grandparents who are of working age is set to grow as the retirement age gradually rises

 

More information

Applications for NI credits for caring for children under 12 need to be made to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and must be signed by both the adult carer and the Child Benefit recipient. Applications need to be made in the October following the end of the tax year in which the caring took place.

The credit is a Class 3 National Insurance credit and protects entitlement to basic State Pension and bereavement benefits for spouses and civil partners.

There is no minimum requirement for the number of hours of care in a week as long as the credit is transferred for a full week. For details of who can apply and how, visit here or phone the National Insurance Helpline on 0845 302 1479.

The new flat-rate State Pension, set above today’s means-tested support, is designed to provide certainty to people about what they will get in retirement. It will benefit women, and also the self-employed, who are currently excluded from qualifying for state second pension.

Figures in this release come from the Grandparents Plus briefing paper on grandparental childcare and their publication Doing it all?

 

Posted on: 20th January, 2017

Armed Forces personnel redeployed within the UK will now be able to rent out their homes without facing higher costs or having to change their mortgage.

 

This commitment from the majority of the UK’s high street banks and building societies is an extension to the offer made back in January 2016, which allowed service personnel posted overseas to rent out their homes at no extra cost.

 

Previously, members of the Armed Forces who rented out their homes during deployment could have been required to change their residential mortgage to a buy-to-let mortgage, often incurring new charges and an increased rate of interest. Under the new agreement they will no longer have to do this, saving both time and money.

 

The initiative is supported by 47 of the UK’s largest banks and building societies, including Barclays, HSBC and Nationwide, and the change will benefit almost 265,000 people in the UK and abroad.

 

British Bankers’ Association CEO Anthony Browne said:

“Members of our Armed Forces work all over the world to look after us, so it’s only right that we look after them. The extra support provided by the main mortgage providers will make sure service personnel and their families are not disadvantaged when they are required to work away from home and want to rent out their house, and make their mortgages fairer”.

 

Posted on: 10th January, 2017

If you need two tonnes of sand moving from underneath a beach hut, who else would you call on but ‘Royal’.

Adam’s Hoofing Hut is a wonderful memorial to an extraordinary young man, Adam Brown, who made the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving his country in Afghanistan. On the beautiful Dorset coast, in his favourite holiday location of Mudeford, the Hut is a perfect retreat for Royal Marines families and friends to relax, unwind and reflect.

Thanks to the continued hard work of Adam’s family the ‘Hut’ needed more space to house the Sea Kayaks and other equipment that is now available to those visiting; what the family did need however, was a bit of muscle to get the site ready.

Step forward some Royal Marines Cadets from Yeovil who were itching to help out. In true Corps style they literally ‘dug out blind’ to get the sand moved and prepared the area ready for the new equipment to be safely stored. The cadets talked about what being able to help meant to them; ‘It was an honour to be involved in the project and thank you to our MSSC representative, Charlie Wilson for linking us up with the family so we could carry out this task’.

You can find out more about the fundraising and how to book here.

 

Posted on: 7th December, 2016

The Marine Society are now offering a discount on education courses, through their partnership with Greenwich Hospital.

 

They are offering GCSE, IGCSE, AS and A Level courses in a number of subjects at a 50% discount for all Royal Navy and Royal Marines spouses.

 

Subjects include: Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, English, Geography, History, Maths, Physics, Law, Psychology, Religious Studies and Sociology.

 

For more information please email education@ms-sc.org.

 

Posted on: 7th December, 2016

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has pledged to support Service spouses and partners in gaining the leadership qualifications to help them further their career.

 

Ensuring that Service spouses and partners are not disadvantaged in finding and staying in employment due to service life is a key part of the Armed Force Covenant, which states that: The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly.

 

The Chartered Management Institute has sought to uphold this promise by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. In their pledges, the CMI support Service spouses and civil partners through their MOD Family Membership Scheme, which provides access to Leadership, Mentoring and Coaching qualifications, helping Service spouses to gain the key skills and professional recognition which can help Service family members to find employment.

 

The Scheme is also available free to children of Service personnel (aged 16-18) and allows them to become a Campus CMI Affiliate with access to all the benefits of online resources, including study support.

 

CMI’s pledges offer a discount on their qualifications and membership for family members of Service personnel who are CMI members, and a commitment to support Service spouses or Reservists who they employ with flexible working arrangements, where possible.

 

Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee is a CMI companion and participated in the signing of the Covenant at an event on 14 November. He said:

“The families of our Service personnel are an important part of the Covenant. We value and are grateful to them – the unsung heroes who support our Armed Forces. Knowing that the nation, and organisations like the Chartered Management Institute recognises this is extremely important and fundamental in making the Armed Forces Covenant work.”

 

Posted on: 18th November, 2016

The days of lullabies, trips to the park and help with homework are over. You have gone from being a supervisor of your child’s life to a spectator as your young person takes their first steps of independence. This can be a challenging transition for any parent, but what if your young person has decided to join the Royal Navy or Royal Marines?

 

Back in the 1960s, recruits at HMS Raleigh were given a compulsory postcard to send home to their parents in their first week of training, and were told what to write! Nowadays parents are much more likely to hear the unvarnished reality of their children’s experiences.

 

We’ve been talking with parents about their experiences of their grown up children joining the Naval Service. They have told us about some of the things that have helped them during the early days of training and moving on to first assignments. A common thread in the feedback we received from parents was that they felt confident that their ‘children’ were being well looked after and supported by the Service. Families felt that their young people knew where to get help and support, and that they had access to people who would listen to any concerns. There was good awareness among young recruits of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ guidance on issues such as bullying or harassment. In particular, parents mentioned Royal Navy Chaplains as providing invaluable support, whether or not the young person has a faith.

 

HMS GLOUCESTER GETS ROYAL WELCOME HOME - 25th March 2011. HRH The Duchess of Gloucester will join Type-42 destroyer HMS Gloucester as she sails back into Portsmouth on March 25 from her seven-month deployment to the South Atlantic. Pictured: Mrs Marie Grinnell and son AB (SEA) Ashley Grinnell. Model release forms held at FFRPU(E) As the ship’s sponsor the Duchess launched the ship on November 2 1982 and has been closely involved ever since – seeing her through 15 Captains, two rededications and 25 years of commissioned service. HRH The Duchess of Gloucester will join the destroyer by helicopter before meeting the ship’s company and sailing with her into Portsmouth. This will be HMS Gloucester’s final homecoming as she will be decommissioned from the Fleet in June. *** Local Caption *** Pictured: Mrs Marie Grinnell and son AB (SEA) Ashley Grinnell.

 

One mum said that young people generally get caught up in what they are doing and life with their new ‘oppos’, and tend to think about mum and dad when something goes wrong. This can be misleading for parents who may only hear about the more challenging stuff. Despite how it may sometimes feel as a parent of young people, you are very influential, and your support and ability to listen can have a huge impact on their success.

 

Parents who have experienced Service in the Armed Forces themselves said that they felt this was a huge advantage to them in helping them to feel confident and happy about what their young people were doing. One father said that he felt confident that if he approached the Navy about any concerns that he would be taken seriously. He felt it was important that parents who had not served in the Armed Forces themselves realised that people will talk to you and help you. Several parents said it was helpful to ‘buddy up’ with someone who has more experience of Naval life, and that appropriate social media groups could be helpful in reducing anxiety for parents.

 

Here are some of the top tips you shared with us:

“Simple really; don’t worry about them; they are being better looked after than we could ever dream.”

“Get them a good iron and a good ironing board!”

“Expect phone calls with tears and asking to come home from basic training. It probably won’t happen but be prepared so that you can look after your own feelings and be supportive. Talk beforehand about the fact that it will be tough and about how they can get support if they need it. Try to foster determination to stay for the basic training at least. Agree that this can be the finishing point if they want it to be, but encourage them not to give up half way through.”

“At times supporting a serving person can feel like a bit of a one-way street (like many areas of being a parent!). Care packages and letters are appreciated, although letters are not always reciprocated.”

“If you don’t hear from your young person, assume the best and not the worst. If anything serious does happen, you will get to hear about it. No news is usually good news.”

“Do your best to boost them up and be positive.”

“Make contact with other parents in the same situation. There are lots of groups and support networks online. The Royal Navy website has a forum and there is a Royal Navy Family and Community Facebook page. There are also numerous unofficial groups and networks that you can access via social media. Please be careful to avoid posting information about operations or ships’ movements, use your privacy settings to limit access to your profile, and don’t identify yourself as a Service person’s family member on your public photos and details. Parents have told us that Facebook groups have been incredibly helpful. They are not always easy to find at most are ‘secret’, so you need to find someone in real life who can introduce you. Some of the parents we spoke to had become friends with other parents of serving people, and found this very helpful.”

“If your young person is in a relationship with a long-term partner, accept that they may make that relationship a priority when they have time off, and that their time with you may need to take a back seat. This can be tough for any parent, but training and deployment can result in time to invest in relationships being in short supply. As hard as it may be, your young person may have a new centre of gravity in their life. A wise parent will foster a good relationship with their adult child’s partner, and seek to support them through times of separation in an appropriate way.”

“Equip yourself with information. Find out about what is involved. You can download ‘A Parent and Guardian’s Guide to Careers in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ from the RN website that will answer many of your questions. Information packs are given out at new entry training establishments, but if these don’t reach you as a parent you can find all the information you need via the Royal Navy website or from us at the Naval Families Federation.”

Thank you to all the parents who took the time to speak with our team for this article. If you would like to give any feedback about your experiences of being the parent of a serving person, please do get in touch with us here.

 

Posted on: 17th November, 2016

Many thanks to all those who took part in our ‘Wearing of Unearned Medals’ survey.

 

We shared our findings with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee who will use this evidence when The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Commons later this month.

 

The bill is intended to ‘prohibit the wearing or public display, by a person not entitled to do so, of medals or insignia awarded for valour, with the intent to deceive’.

 

If you would like to read the results of the survey in full, please click here

 

If you would like to read the comments in Annexes A and B which are referred to in the report, please email info@nff.org.uk.

 

Thank you once again for taking the time to share your views on this important matter.

 

Posted on: 11th November, 2016

The Welsh Government have now produced a refreshed Package of Support document – ‘Giving and Receiving – Supporting and Investing in our Armed Forces Community in Wales’ details what support is available to the Armed Forces community in Wales with devolved services.

 

It encapsulates the 2-way relationship that exists between the Armed Forces and the community in which they live.

 

They have also produced a ‘Welcome to Wales’ document for Serving Personnel and their families to make them aware of the support available on moving to Wales.

 

These 2 documents should be read in conjunction with the UK Government’s Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow. Together they set out the UK Government’s overall intent for supporting the Armed Forces community.

 

The Government are committed to providing support for our Armed Forces community and the aim is to ensure effective and efficient provision of services which support their needs.

 

Since 2013 a number of new and developing commitments, both within Welsh Government policy areas and partner organisations have progressed.

 

Additional funding from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) has also increased resources available to the third sector and local authorities to provide specific support in essential areas.

 

This relates to the decision by the Chancellor to transfer £35m from fines levied on banks for attempting to manipulate the LIBOR interest rates to the Ministry of Defence for use in supporting the Armed Forces Community managed under the Community Covenant Fund.

 

More information

For further information relating to the Armed Forces community, please contact ArmedForces@wales.gsi.gov.uk. 

 

Document Download

Welcome to Wales (updated in June 2020)

Giving and Receiving

Posted on: 26th October, 2018
Updated on: 29th June, 2020

Radio 4’s ‘Bringing up Britain’ series debates parenting with families, experts and policy-makers. Today’s show is called ‘Parenting at a Distance’ and our Director of Evidence and Strategy, Bridget Nicholson is on the panel, you can hear her discuss the demands of military deployments, long-distance parenting and the impact of separation on families here.

 

Posted on: 3rd August, 2016