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** 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

 

The Secretary of State for Defence has asked Andrew Selous MP to produce an independent report to Government to see what more support can be offered to Service families.

 

The report will analyse the different experiences of Service family members, focussing on:

  • Spouses and civil partners
  • Long term partners
  • Children and dependents

 

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 report team would like to receive evidence in respect of the following areas, but would also welcome evidence in any other areas of concern:

  1. Accommodation and home ownership
  2. Deployment lengths and frequencies
  3. Children’s education
  4. Health services
  5. Employment of non-serving members of the Armed Forces community
  6. Pressures on service couple and family relationships
  7. Transition to civilian life for the whole family
  8. Numbers of house moves

 

The report team is keen to hear what is working well in addition to what needs to be improved.

 

Submissions/comments should be sent to andrew.selous.mp@parliament.uk by the 15th of March. ‘Independent Report on Service Families’ should be included in the Subject line of the email.

 

The review will seek the first-hand experiences of military families. All families and their data will remain anonymous and no-one will be personally identified in any report. The review team will not retain any data after the report has been published. All discussions will be completely confidential and the information received will never be shared with anyone else.

 

** Edit: The consultation period has ended on 15th March. **

 

We were delighted to host Andrew Selous MP and Prof Jan Walker, lead of his research team, at our offices in HMS Excellent on 4th April 2019. We were joined by over a dozen of serving personnel and Service spouses/partners. Read the news story here.

 

If you have missed the opportunity to submit evidence, please do contact us, as we would like to hear from you. The NFF exists to give all serving Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel and their families the opportunity to have their views heard by those in positions of power, and we can challenge policy on your behalf.

 

 

Posted on: 4th February, 2019
Updated on: 5th April, 2019

** Update: This survey is now closed. Please see the results here. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the survey.**

 

The Ministry of Defence is in the process of reviewing the provision of military housing from initial application through to the complaints process, including the future repair and maintenance contract, currently held by Amey. Please complete (and share) this Housing Survey to allow the NFF to use your views and feedback to influence the outcome of decisions made.

 

Naval Families Federation CEO Anna Wright said:

“Royal Navy and Royal Marines families provided evidence in relation to the Carillion Amey Service Family Accommodation (SFA) maintenance contract, which the Naval Families Federation presented to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in 2016.  Members of the Committee recognised the importance of feedback from Armed Forces families. Please take up this invitation to have your voice heard on this important subject.”

 

This survey will run until midnight 30th November 2018 and takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

 

Please note this survey is for the new SFA maintenance contract and is not part of the Future Accommodation Model (FAM) project. Information on FAM can be found here.

 

Posted on: 7th November, 2018
Updated on: 17th January, 2019

HALO survey

The Helping Armed Forces Loved Ones Survey (the ‘HALO’ survey) aims to better understand the needs and experiences of people who are worried about the mental health of a loved one who services or has served in the Armed Forces.

 

The second wave of the study is now underway. This part of the study focuses on mood swings.

 

If this sounds like something that may be relevant to you, please take 10 minutes or so to complete the confidential online survey. Upon completion, you can opt in to enter into a prize draw to win one of 5 Amazon gift vouchers (worth up to £50). The survey is here.

 

 

Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds

The HALO survey is part of a bigger HALO study that gives you the option to seek support directly from Help for Heroes ‘Hidden Wounds’ programmes. ‘Hidden Wounds’ can help if you are worried about the mental health of a family member, partner or loved one serving in the Armed Forces. It can help you, too, if you are worried about the effect of their mental health on your own wellbeing. To find out more visit the website and use the contact form or email.

 

HALO social media

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Posted on: 5th November, 2018
Updated on: 30th January, 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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Posted on: 17th July, 2018