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NHS England is seeking to improve the health and wellbeing support provided to military families, and your views are helping to shape that plan. The NHS in England provides healthcare services for families of serving personnel – regulars and reservists – who have registered with an NHS GP practice. But not everyone in the NHS understands the specific health needs of Armed Forces families, and what they are entitled to under the Armed Forces Covenant. That can mean, in some cases, that such families have problems getting the right care and support, which can lead to further challenges and difficulties.

 

Armed Forces community support networks have been set up in some parts of the country, focussing on improving their experience of health services, and feedback from families with experience of such networks has been positive. But in many areas such links are more informal and not as well-developed, so one strand of the engagement exercise was to explore whether setting up more networks might help.

 

The engagement took place for two months from the end of September 2020, supported by a questionnaire and a series of online focus groups and one-to-one interviews. More than 160 organisations were contacted directly to encourage responses, and with the supporting media also playing its part, a total of 1,391 responses were received by the NHS. Armed Forces families contributed 424 responses, and more than 80 per cent of the respondents were aged between 26 and 65. Just under 20 per cent of the respondents were from, or had links to, the Royal Navy or Royal Marines.

 

Now the results have been analysed, the NHS is embarking on a programme of actions under the heading ‘you said, we will do…’

 

One general theme that emerged was that Armed Forces families believed they would benefit from more information and dedicated support to help them find and access NHS services, and that a person acting as a single point of contact outside the chain of command, rather than an array of documents and leaflets, would be more helpful. And one line of thought is that community support networks could fulfil the function of a single point of contact, as well as helping NHS organisations understand the military culture and lifestyle, as well as the implications of the Armed Forces Covenant.

 

Furthermore, reducing waiting times as a result of moving bases and more joined-up communication between NHS organisations and between the NHS and Defence Medical Services (DMS) would ensure that Armed Forces families do not repeatedly have to start the referral process every time they move.

 

Respondents also indicated that better understanding from NHS staff, particularly from GPs, would make accessing services easier.

 

These findings have been shared with decision makers to help shape what support could be put in place for Armed Forces families in the future – and although this engagement has been completed, the NHS will continue to seek the views and experiences of Armed Forces families to ensure that any future support put in place meets their needs. The findings will be considered by the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Oversight Group (AFOG), who will look at what actions are needed to progress improvements in this area.

 

Agreed actions will be progressed in collaboration with the NHS England and NHS Improvement Armed Forces Patient and Public Voice Group, Armed Forces families/Armed Forces community, the Naval Families Federation and our two sister groups in the Army and RAF, the wider NHS, Department of Health and Social Care and Ministry of Defence.

NHS report: 'You said, we will do'
Click here to access the 'You said we will do' report.
Front cover of the NHS report
Click here to access the research findings.
Posted on: 13th September, 2021

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

The 2020 Covenant Annual Report is now available. The NFF was delighted to have the opportunity again this year to set out our Formal Observations on the report (p.13 onwards).

 

Further support delivered this year includes:Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2020 - Summary on a page
  • The MOD extended the Education Support Fund to the 2020/21 financial year
  • In addition to MOD investing £123 million in-year to Service Families Accommodation, the government committed £200 million to improve MOD accommodation
  • The Forces Help to Buy scheme was extended until December 2022
  • The MOD’s Wraparound Childcare pilot programme began making payments to families at the first pilot sites, RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton.
  • The Living in Our Shoes report was published. This is an independent review of the support provided to Service families, commissioned by MOD and led by Andrew Selous MP.
  • The Defence Holistic Transition Policy, Joint Service Publication 100, to support Service leavers and their families to adjust to all aspects of the transition to civilian life, was published.

 

We would encourage you to read through the Report to learn more about the work being undertaken to support you and your family. If you have any comments on the Report, or would like to raise a concern which you believe falls within the remit of the Armed Forces Covenant, please get in touch with us via our website.

 

Posted on: 10th December, 2020

 

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

 

 

In January 2019, Andrew Selous MP was asked by the then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to produce an independent report to capture the needs of Service families.

 

The review team gathered evidence to inform the study in a number of ways, including email consultations, visits to military bases, schools with large numbers of Service children, and meetings with key military personnel and stakeholders. The NFF was delighted to host the team at our offices to meet with Service personnel and spouses/partners at a forum during the consultation period.

 

The report, ‘Living in our Shoes’, which features our parental absence guide, is now available.

 

Key themes emerged during the review about the challenges experienced by Armed Forces families today which are regarded as detrimental to modern family life and relationships. These refer to: Service Family Accommodation (SFA); mobility; deployment; the impact of Service life on military children and young people; the employment and careers of spouses/partners; the health and well-being of Serving personnel and family members; and the impact of Service life on personal relationships.

 

Members of the Armed Forces have a great sense of pride in the work they do and the sacrifices they and their families make.

 

The report outlined over 100 recommendations in different areas to support Service personnel and their families. The recommendations are targeted primarily at actions for the MOD and the three single Services, but some have implications for other government departments and local authorities in England, the Devolved Governments of the UK, and a range of organisations in the statutory, private and charitable sectors.

 

  • You can download a copy of the summary here. The full report can be found here
  • Please click here to see the Government’s response to the recommendations made in the report.

 

Posted on: 30th June, 2020
Updated on: 16th April, 2021

 

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

The Naval Families Federation (NFF) listens to and learns from our Royal Navy and Royal Marines families, and takes the information provided to influence change.

 

As part of our work, each year we are asked to set out our formal observations about the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report. Our Chief Executive Anna Wright was by the Defence Select Committee (DSC) to give evidence earlier this year to talk about the Covenant, its delivery, and any concerns on a range of areas that may affect Royal Navy and Royal Marines families.  You can watch the session from the video below (or click here), or read the transcript here.

 

 

The DSC has now published their observations in the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report (2018).

 

We are delighted to see that the Committee has listened to the evidence presented by the NFF on your behalf. Examples include:

 

The impact of separation on family relationships

3.58 & 3.62: Anna Wright from the Naval Families Federation thought that there was little support for families in the community who have the added burden of separation from a loved one. She believed that this was taking a toll on family relationships and impacting on retention within the Armed Forces: “A part of the retention equation is lack of family time—that is a real concern for me”… In response to our report the MoD should clarify what data it has on the number of dispersed families within the Armed Forces. It should take steps to ensure that dispersed families are aware of and have access to support services. The MoD should also continue to monitor whether its flexible working initiative has a positive impact on dispersed families.

 

Service Pupil Premium

4.85 & 4.90: Anna Wright from the Naval Families Federation told us that there was a lack of transparency: “There is a perception that you have the Service Pupil Premium in England and then there is nothing in Scotland. However with GIRFEC [Getting It Right for Every Child] every child is taken care of.” … We commend the publication of the ‘Welcome to’ packs for families moving between devolved administrations. However, we are concerned that the key information contained in these documents is not reaching Service families. We are also concerned at the lack of data from devolved administrations about Service children presented in the Covenant Annual Report. In response to our report, the MoD, in coordination with the devolved administrations, should improve its outreach processes to Service families to ensure that they are fully informed of differences in the way support is provided for Service children across the devolved administrations. The MoD should ensure data from the devolved administrations is collected and incorporated into future Covenant Annual Reports.

 

The above are some of the tangible examples of how your feedback to the NFF can influence policies that affect families, to work and make improvements for our Royal Navy and Royal Marines families.

 

We would encourage you to read through the Reports to learn more about the work being undertaken to support you and your family:

  • Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2018
  • Defence Select Committee Report

 

We welcome your thoughts on the reports. Please do contact us: contactus@nff.org.uk

 

Note: To read about our work with the Armed Forces Covenant and Defence Select Committee in 2018, please click here.

 

Posted on: 26th September, 2019

 

*EDIT: The report, which has been seen by the Prime Minister, is now available. *

 

To collect evidence for ‘Stick or Twist’, an independent report on retention, Mark Francois MP and his research team visited multiple Naval Service agencies in Portsmouth on Thursday 23rd May. They joined the Naval Families Federation (NFF) and over a dozen dual-serving couples, Service spouses and partners to listen to their ‘lived experience’.

 

With the Armed Forces keen to retain the best talent, this research will provide insights to understand how to create an environment that ensures better retention of Service people, an objective that has been set out by 10 Downing Street.

 

One of the pressing issues highlighted related to childcare and education; there were questions about the use of Service Pupil Premium and concerns were raised about the cost of childcare and its relation to spousal employment.

 

Another theme focused on the implementation of Flexible Service. Some of the families told the team that whilst they appreciate that policy is now in place, it is unrealistic for certain branches within the Naval Service to apply, as operational needs take priority.

 

Finally, pressure on family life was discussed with some spouses describing that the ‘weekending’ lifestyle coupled with the uncertainty of Service commitments has impacted on family functioning and their mental health.

 

Anna Wright, CEO of the Naval Families Federation, said:

‘‘Following the very constructive visit of Andrew Selous MP last month, we wanted to give our families the opportunity to talk directly to Mr Francois and his team about their experiences. We are delighted that this meeting has opened up the conversation between Naval Service families and the government.

 

‘Of the three Services, the Naval Service has the most separation in terms of military deployments as well as non-operational separation. Recent research confirms what families have told us – that the Naval ‘weekending’ lifestyle could affect family-functioning and Service partners’ mental health and career progression. We look forward to seeing these and other issues related to retention addressed in the forthcoming ‘Stick or Twist’ report.”

 

‘Stick or Twist’ is now calling for evidence from serving people and their families and from those who have recently left the Armed Forces, as well as from providers of services to Armed Forces families in the statutory, voluntary and charity sectors. Submissions should be made by 00:00 on 31st May 19. Please visit this page for further information.

 

Posted on: 23rd May, 2019
Updated on: 22nd July, 2020

 

** EDIT: The report, which has been seen by the Prime Minister, is now available.  **

 

The Prime Minister has recommissioned The Rt. Hon. Mark Francois MP and his research team, to produce an independent report on improving Retention within the Armed Forces.

 

Following on from his successful 2017 report on Armed Forces Recruitment, Filling the Ranks, the Prime Minister has recommissioned Mark Francois MP and his research team, to produce an independent report on improving Retention within HM Armed Forces.

 

The report team would like to hear from serving personnel and their families and from those who have recently left the Armed Services, as well as from providers of services to Armed Forces families in the statutory, voluntary and charity sectors.

 

The team’s objective as set out by No. 10, is: “To understand how to create an environment that ensures the best retention of Service personnel for as long as Defence need them.” The team are required to provide initial findings to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence by the end of July 2019 – with the full report to be submitted by the end of the calendar year.

 

The report team are keen to receive evidence on those factors which materially affect retention in the Armed Services. These include, (but are not strictly limited to):
  • The pressure of service life on personnel and their families
  • Frequency of deployment/nights out of bed
  • Remuneration and the “pull factor” of alternative employment opportunities outside of the Armed Forces
  • Career progression – for both service personnel and their spouses/partners
  • Accommodation and home ownership
  • Quality of medical services available to Armed Forces personnel and their families
  • Educational issues, including the provision of special needs education to children

 

The report team is keen to hear both what is working well and what is not working well and should be improved. Unlike, Filling the Ranks, the conclusions of the report will not necessarily be revenue neutral, but any recommendations must be financially realistic. Submissions/comments should be sent to mark.francois.mp@parliament.uk by the deadline of 00:00 on the 31st May 2019. Please include ‘Stick or Twist Report’ in the subject line of the email.

 

The review will seek the first-hand experiences of currently serving, ex-Service personnel and their families, with a series of planned visits to units. All respondents and their respective data will remain anonymous and no one will be personally identified in any report.

 

Commenting on the commissioning of the report Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee said,

“I am pleased that the Prime Minister has asked the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP to produce an independent report to Government to see what more can be done to understand the factors underlying Armed Forces Retention and produce recommendations on how Defence and other areas of government can set the conditions to optimise retention. This study has the full support of the Secretary of State for Defence, the Services and myself.”

 

Posted on: 8th May, 2019
Updated on: 22nd July, 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