A digital platform, where 16-19 year olds from armed forces families can meet online with others from the service community in a safe and secure environment, has recently launched. Connected Forces is being led by the Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance and The Brightside Trust.

Caitlin, who grew up in a military family, is one of the young people taking part in the focus group stage. “Having military friends has always been really helpful for me because I would be  constantly moving around and not knowing what I was doing or where I was supposed to be,” she says. “This platform will be great because if you’re struggling then you can contact someone who has been or is going through a similar situation. It will make such a difference to have someone to talk to who really understands. I’m also looking forward to making new friends with similar experiences to mine.”

The project is being funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and will include a space for discussion and support in small groups, plus one-to-one conversations in a moderated environment. Rachel Lad, from the SCiP Alliance, explains the initiative: “Research shows that discontinuity in relationships and opportunities can negatively affect service children’s sense of identity, whilst also indicating that army children report feeling lonely more often than their peers.”

Finding friends

Many service children in England are in schools where there are only a few others with a parent in the military, so they often don’t have peers who can relate to the circumstances that they face as a result of service life.

Rachel says: “At university events across the network, young people expressed that the ages 16-19 are particularly challenging as they become more aware of their parent’s roles, are more likely to take on care responsibilities and are less likely to have support from colleges. These young people also highlighted the benefit of connecting with others from a service background.

“We hope to support up to one hundred students from all branches of the armed forces. We’ve been working closely with young people to build the platform to ensure that it meets their needs.”

For more information email rachel.lad@winchester.ac.uk

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