Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, is today (Tuesday) publishing a report looking at the lives and experiences of children who grow up in an Armed Forces family.
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.
However, despite the challenges highlighted in this report, many of the children in the study had developed very effective coping strategies. The vast majority of service children we spoke to during this project were happy, resilient and incredibly proud to have a parent serving in the Armed Forces.
The report makes a number of recommendations:
The report will be launched tonight at an event in Parliament hosted by Johnny Mercer MP. Armed Forces Minister Tobias Ellwood MP and Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith MP will speak at the event, alongside some of the children who took part in the project.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, commenting on today’s report, said:
“The vast majority of service children we spoke to during this project were happy, resilient and incredibly proud to have a parent serving in the Armed Forces. Belonging to a military family was central to their identity and sense of self, and it is clear that we should celebrate the contribution and the sacrifices made by military families.
“However, more can be done to improve the services that help these children as they cope with the pressures brought about by frequent moves and parental deployment. I want to see a child-focused approach to supporting military families that takes into account the complex challenges that are inevitably part of growing up in an Armed Forces family.”