There are times in your life when it can be difficult to cope, but when you’re on an overseas posting with no family or other military friends close by, it can be even harder.

Whatever your issue, it often helps to talk to someone who can give advice or practical help. You may have a disability, health issues, or be caring for someone. You may be in a troubled relationship, or need emotional support. This is where the British Forces Social Work Services (BFSWS) Overseas team can support you. Esther Thomas, AFF’s Manager Overseas, meets Mandy Reeve, Head of the BFSWS Overseas team regularly, to share understanding of family life and its challenges.

Global support

BFSWS has been supporting British military families since 2014 in Germany, European Joint Support Unit locations, Canada, Kenya, Belize, USA, Saudi Arabia, Gibraltar, British Indian Ocean Territories and Singapore – and their reach has recently extended to Brunei.

The service is delivered via UK-based staff and some social workers on the ground. This blend enables them to work with overseas commands and host nations to provide specialist guidance and support to children and families 24/7, 365 days a year.

It includes: prevention and safeguarding services for children; parenting programmes; post-adoption support; victim safety work; and one-to-one courtmandated perpetrator programmes.

If you believe that your children would benefit from extra support, you can contact BFSWS directly via 0044 (0) 0808 168 3111 or by email to Command and other agencies can also make a referral.

Generally, a social worker will carry out an assessment within 45 days. You can be reassured that if support is identified as necessary, services will be planned giving due consideration to the ethnic, religious and cultural background of your family to ensure that your needs are met in the most appropriate way. For further info, see

Plan ahead

BFSWS has published an emergency contact form so you can formally nominate someone in your overseas community who is willing to provide support at short notice or in times of an emergency. Having these arrangements agreed in advance will give you and your children reassurance that they’ll be looked after by someone you know and trust. The forms should be available from welfare teams.

Case study

BFSWS worked with more than 100 personnel and their families in the last year. One of them was a spouse who was facing a family crisis. She reached out to AFF, who immediately referred her to BFSWS – they made contact within hours.

She emailed AFF to say: “I’m happy I sent my SOS message in a bottle yesterday and you got it! The BFSWS lady I’m in contact with is wonderful and her support is so important to me. Having friendly feedback and some down-to-earth advice, even if through a computer screen, is priceless – especially for me, a western spouse in a remote area.”

In situ support

BFSAI: 51020 Brunei: 00673 8330224

Picture credit: Daniel_Joshua from Pixabay

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