Earlier this year I published the first part of the Family Review which reinforced the importance of family to children and parents alike, in all different forms of family. Part 2 of the Review will consider how public services can be reformed to better harness the inherent strengths of family units and networks. Within this I will pay particular attention to certain groups who have specific requirements from public services, such as the families of serving military personnel.
Part 1 of the Family Review made clear that all families have a range of needs, for which they sought help either from inside the family or from services. Families of military personnel are no different, but the demands placed on those who serve can make family life more complex.
In particular, the life of military families is impacted by deployment and moves between bases within the UK or abroad. There is no fixed pattern to this, and it depends on the role service personnel hold and very much depends on the service, for example Navy deployments often mean extended periods at sea. But, all of these roles place additional demands on the families of those serving. Some of this is practical: changing areas mean changing schools, and, if you’re a child with additional needs, it means a new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) system and a new Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). Often it means new waiting lists. But there is also a high emotional cost – on both parents and children – in moving areas, and having to form and reform friendships and support networks. Or managing with one parent away for extended periods. Even for those serving families deployed locally, the nature of military service often means weekend working.
All of this is a strong reminder of the amazing commitment not just of serving personnel, but of their whole family. As a society, we owe it to everyone ion a military family to understand their commitment and sacrifice and to do what we can to mitigate the impact on family life. This is why we have the Armed Forces Covenant, which is a promise by the UK government that military personnel should ‘…face no disadvantage when accessing public and commercial services…’. I want to understand if this is being applied consistently across all public services, and whether we are doing enough to meet the unique needs of serving families.
I have written to several officials to better understand what provision the state makes for armed forces families in the following areas:
- Access to CAMHS in military families
- Access to the ‘Reducing parental conflict programme’ for those serving in the military
- Primary Care for mobile military families
- Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) provision for children in military families
I want to emphasise that military families are a group to be celebrated. Their strength and commitment should be put right at the forefront when we design public services. They should not have to beg for special accommodations to reflect the demands of military life; it is beholden on us across society, and in each area of public service to understand their sacrifice and make the necessary amendments. My special report on serving families will set out how this can be done.