Children and the Armed Services

Young people under 18 may be in the armed forces as recruits or trainees, or may be dependants of a service family. The frequency and location of family moves makes it essential that the service authorities are aware of any concerns regarding safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child from a military family.

Arrangements to Safeguard

Young people under 18 may be in the armed forces as recruits or trainees, or may be dependants of a service family. The life of a service family differs in many respects from that of a family in civilian life, particularly for those stationed overseas, or on bases and garrisons in the UK. The services support the movement of the family in response to service commitments. The frequency and location of such moves make it essential that the service authorities are aware of any concerns regarding safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child from a military family. The armed forces are fully committed to co-operating with statutory and other agencies in supporting families in this situation, and have procedures to help safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Looking after under-18s in the armed forces comes under the MoD’s comprehensive welfare arrangements, which apply to all members of the armed forces. Commanding Officers are well aware of the particular welfare needs of younger recruits and trainees and fully committed to co-operating with statutory and other agencies in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of under-18s.

Children who are care leavers (from the local authority care system) who have joined the armed forces have unrestricted access to local authority social care workers.

Social work services are available within the forces, as follows.

  • In the Royal Navy (RN) this is provided by the Naval Personal and Family Service (NPFS) and the Royal Marines Welfare Service.
  • In the army this is provided by the Army Welfare Service (AWS)
  • In the Royal Air Force by the Soldiers’ Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association-Forces Help (SSAFA-FH).

When service families or civilians working with the armed forces are based overseas, the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their children is vested with the MoD, who fund the British Forces Social Work Service (Overseas).

Movement of Children between the United Kingdom and Overseas

Children’s social care should ensure that SSAFA-FH, the British Forces Social Work Service (Overseas), or the NPFS for RN families is made aware of any service child who is the subject of a child protection plan and whose family is about to move overseas. In the interests of the child, SSAFA-FH, the British Forces Social Work Service (Overseas) or NPFS can confirm that appropriate resources exist in the proposed location to meet identified needs. Full documentation should be provided and forwarded to the relevant overseas command.

All referrals should be made to the Director of Social Work, HQ SSAFA-FH or Area Officer, NPFS (East) as appropriate, at the addresses given in Appendix Five.

Comprehensive reciprocal arrangements exist for the referral of child protection cases to appropriate UK authorities, relating to the temporary or permanent relocation of such children to the UK from overseas.

Enquiries about Children of Ex-service Families

Where a LA believes that a child who is the subject of current child protection processes is from an ex-service family, NPFS, AWS or SSAFA-FH can be contacted to establish whether there is existing information that might help with enquiries. Such enquiries should be addressed to NPFS, AWS or the Director of Social Work, SSAFA-FH, at the addresses given below:

Royal Navy


All child protection matters within the Royal Navy are managed by the Naval Personal and Family Service (NPFS) – the Royal Navy’s social work department. This provides a confidential and professional social work service to all naval personnel and their families, liaising as appropriate with local authority (LA) social services departments.

Child protection issues involving the family of a member of the Royal Navy should be referred to the relevant Area Officer, NPFS.

NPFS Eastern Area Portsmouth
(02392) 722712 Fax: 725803

NPFS Northern Area Helensburgh
(01436) 672798 Fax: 674965

NPFS Western Area Plymouth
(01752) 555041 Fax: 555647

Royal Marines


The Royal Marines Welfare Service is staffed by trained but unqualified Royal Marine senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs). They are accountable to a qualified social work manager at Headquarters Royal Marines, Portsmouth. For child protection matters involving Royal Marines families, social services departments should notify SO3 (WFS) at Portsmouth. Tel: (02392) 547542.

Army


Staffed by qualified civilian social workers and trained and supervised army welfare workers, the Army Welfare Service (AWS) provides professional welfare support to army personnel and their families. AWS also liaises with LAs where appropriate, particularly where a child is subject to child protection concerns. LAs who have any enquiries or concerns regarding safeguarding or promoting the welfare of a child from an army family should contact the Senior Army Welfare Worker in the nearest AWS team location or:

Chief Personal Support Officer
HQ AWS
HQ Land Command
Erskine Barracks
Wilton, Salisbury
SP2 0AG
Tel: 01722 436564
Fax: 01722 436307
e-mail christine.blagbrough576@land.mod.uk

Royal Air Force


Welfare support for families in the RAF is managed as a normal function of Command and co-ordinated by each station’s Personnel Officer, the Officer Commanding Personnel Management Squadron (OCPMS) or the Officer Commanding Administrative Squadron (OCA), depending on the size of the station.

A number of qualified SSAFA Forces Help Social Workers and trained professionally supervised Personal and Family Support Workers are located throughout the UK to assist the chain of Command in providing welfare support.

Any LA that has any enquiries or concerns regarding safeguarding or promoting the welfare of a child from an RAF family should contact the parent’s unit or, if this is not known, the OC PMS/OCA of the nearest RAF unit. Additionally, the SSAFA Forces Help Head of Service RAF can be contacted at:

Head of Service
SSAFA-Forces Help Social Work Service RAF
HQ Personnel and Training Command
RAF Innsworth
Gloucester
GL3 1 EZ
Tel: 01452 712612 ext 5815/5840
Fax: 01452 510875 or

Director of Social Work SSAFA-Forces Help
19 Queen Elizabeth Street
London
SE1 2LP
Tel: 020 7403 8783
Fax: 020 7403 8815

Overseas


The following should be consulted:

Royal Navy
Area Officer (NPFS) Eastern
HMS Nelson
Queen Street
Portsmouth
PO1 3HH
Tel: (02392) 722712
Fax: (02392) 725083

Army and Royal Air Force
Director of Social Work SSAFA-Forces Help
Contact details as shown above.

For any child being taken abroad and subject to child protection procedures or a child protection plan, the Director of Social Work SSAFA-Forces Help must be consulted, using the same contact details shown above.