Conversations around the experiences of carers in the service community are gathering momentum, with some charities and agencies putting greater focus on carers’ needs, the support they receive and the impact of military life.

Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, is often contacted by families with a family member who has additional needs and/or disability and often they don’t identify themselves as a carer. It can be helpful to acknowledge that you’re either a parent carer or a carer as there is support available.

WO1 (ASM) Ian Hewitt is a parent carer for his daughter Bronwyn, who has congenital hydrocephalus, Global Development Delay, coeliac disease, is nonverbal and has many other associated conditions. Ian explained that although Bronwyn is mobile, her cognitive level can be an issue, especially with her hazard perception, however Ian and his wife Deborah encourage her to do as much as possible because they want to support her independence. Bronwyn also has a younger sister.

They spent 12 years in Germany where both their daughters were born. They were aware of the hydrocephalus prior to Bronwyn’s birth and informed Ian’s chain of command immediately who were extremely supportive. As her medical care was ongoing in Germany when he was selected for promotion, he was given another posting there to allow that care to continue.

Bronwyn attended a nursery who provided excellent support while Deborah returned to work. Ian then spoke with his chain of command about returning to the UK where more specialised support could be provided. They looked for suitable education provision and housing before their move, identifying Salisbury as the area that would give Bronwyn the most stability.

The support from Ian’s chain of command continued in the UK. “I was able to discuss my next roles and assignments,” says Ian. “I was also able to deploy with the knowledge my family had a suitable support network in place.”

Ian says the hardest part has been retaining their quarter, as it’s only been allowed on a surplus basis.

Deborah claims Carer’s Allowance and has now found part-time work in a school – they receive Disability Living Allowance for Bronwyn. The one area they struggle with is trying to get after-school clubs and respite care.

One excellent resource they’ve accessed in Wiltshire is swimming lessons for Bronwyn and the couple say the care given by Salisbury District Hospital is superb.

Bronwyn attends Exeter House School, where Ian is now chair of the board of governors. “I wanted to give something back as she is receiving excellent support there.

“Around 15 per cent of the children at Exeter House are service children, so I thought I could be a good point of contact and do as much as I can.”

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