The Carers Trust estimates there are around six million carers in the UK and a significant number of Service families are caring for a loved one. Here, Karen Ross, AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist, looks at what support is available to Service families…

Krystal and Dan are the parents of two boys aged six and five months. Lexi, their eldest son has a rare neurological condition with learning difficulties and attends an SEN school. Often, they spend up to an hour getting Lexi to eat properly and he needs constant supervision with all aspects of his daily living. Krystal has to frequently attend hospital appointments, some at a specialist unit quite some distance from where they live. Dan has been working away recently and is due to deploy to Afghanistan, which means Krystal will have to continue to care for Lexi not only as his mum but also as his carer alone.

When both parents are able to divide care between them it can relieve the strain, but if you’re a Service family, the nature of Army life can add to the pressure. It’s important for you to receive support and, if possible, a break from caring. The good news is there’s help available for Service families:

Your Unit Welfare Officer
In the first instance, make sure your soldier’s unit is aware of your carer status. This should be flagged up when you complete the AGAI 108 form to register your family member’s additional need and/or disability. You may also want to discuss your role with your Unit Welfare team if you need extra support, particularly if your spouse is due to deploy.

Contact a Family
Contact a Family supports families of disabled children whatever their condition or disability. It can put you in touch with others in a similar situation – often in your local area. It is running a project to strengthen relationships in families with disabled children and has teamed up with Relate to offer free online access to Relate consultants. Free workshops are available in England.

Help for Heroes Band of Sisters
The Band of Sisters, part of the charity Help for Heroes, is for loved ones, male or female, who care for Service personnel who have had a life-changing injury or illness in Service since 2001. Band of Sisters provides mutual support through being in touch with others who are going through something similar. Members may also be eligible for some financial and welfare support through the Quick Reaction Fund.

Home–Start
Home–Start is a national charity with volunteers who provide support and friendship to more than 32,000 families every year. Volunteers can visit your home for two hours every week to provide one-to-one support tailored around your family’s need. Support can continue until you are confident you can manage without it or until your youngest child reaches five or begins school. Home-Start also has offices in British Forces Germany and Cyprus.

SSAFA holidays
Every year SSAFA Forces Help provides short breaks for Service children aged 8-14 with additional needs and/or disability, as well as holidays for siblings and young carers aged 8-12. SSAFA also runs two support groups – the Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum and the Families of Injured Service Personnel – and helps the Service community through their volunteer support service. In Western Europe trained SSAFA volunteers offer respite support for two to four hours per week for Service families who have children with additional needs and/or disability. 

The Royal British Legion
The Legion has four family Break Centres located around the country as well as links to Parkdean and Haven holiday parks. It also offers adventure breaks to Service children.

The Legion has partnered with Dementia UK to provide a new service with Admiral Nurses to support sufferers of dementia and their carers. Initially it will be available in Lancashire and the West Midlands but will be rolled out nationally over the next two years. Legion beneficiaries can either be the person with dementia or their carer.

Caring for a relative in your quarter
If you live in Service Families Accommodation (SFA) and you need to care for a relative in your home – other than your own children – you need to apply for permission from Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) under the ‘other occupancy’ rule in JSP 464. You will not be entitled to a larger SFA but you can apply for above entitlement subject to availability. DIO will not fund adaptations, these will have to be sourced through your Local Authority, but permission will have to be sought from DIO.

If you have any issues relating to caring and Service life, contact me at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

Useful links

Carers UKwww.carersuk.org or call 0808 808 7777

Carers Trust – www.carers.org or call 0844 800 4361

Carers Direct – NHS service with information and advice – Freephone 0808 802 0202 or www.nhs.uk/carersdirect

National Network of Parent Carer Forums www.nnpcf.org.uk

Contact a Family – Helpline 0808 808 3555 or workshops 020 7608 8726

Band of Sisterswww.helpforheroes.org.uk or call 01980 844280

Home-Startwww.home-start.org.uk or UK 0800 068 6368, British Forces Germany 0049 5151 917356, British Forces Cyprus ESBA call 00357 2472 4977, WSBA call 00357 2596 3748

SSAFA – www.ssafa.org.uk or 020 7463 9275 or www.ssafasupportgroups.org.uk. SSAFA Western Europe Projects Office on 02161 472 3392

Royal British Legion – 08457 725 725

GOV.UK – information on benefits and credits – www.gov.uk/carers-allowance

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