New report reveals the positive impact of charity's programme supporting young people from military families.
Yesterday, a group of young people with parents in the armed forces delivered a new report to Defence ministers, MPs and Lords highlighting the issues they face growing up in a military family. The report focuses on the positive impact the Airplay programme – the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund’s youth support programme for children from RAF families – is having on the young people and their parents.
At the charity's annual Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons, the young people, who all live on RAF stations, spoke about what it’s like having a parent in the armed forces and how Airplay is helping them on a daily basis.
The RAF Benevolent Fund designed and launched Airplay in 2010 in direct response to research which found that keeping children and young people safely occupied on stations was serving parents' foremost concern after housing. The charity continues to fund and manage this partnership programme, which is the first of its kind in the Service community and operates on all major RAF stations across England, Scotland and Wales.
There are three elements to the Airplay programme: Airplay childcare centres, Airplay parks and games areas and Airplay Youth Support.
The youth support element of the programme, which is aimed at 8 to 18 year olds, is delivered by trained Airplay youth workers employed by national charity, 4Children, working in partnership with RAF Community Development staff.
It provides safe and supported environments for children and young people to meet and take part in organised activities. By delivering consistent, high quality support to young people, the programme also helps to relieve some of the pressure on hard-pressed serving parents and provides vital continuity for children re-locating between stations.
The Airplay Youth Support report was compiled by 4Children following extensive interviews with young people growing up in RAF families.
It explores some of the challenges which are unique to children with serving parents, such as the serving parent being deployed or being posted to different locations every few years; and also the fact that stations are often located in remote, isolated areas far from recreational facilities.
The report highlights the challenges this brings while at the same time demonstrating the way that Airplay youth workers, working in partnership with RAF Community Support staff, are helping children to overcome those challenges with practical examples of how this is being achieved.
Lord Astor of Hever said: "We know that we cannot expect our airmen and women to focus on doing their duty if they are worried about their family and so I have been hugely impressed to see the progress of the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay programme.
"Since it started 12 years ago, the RAF Benevolent Fund has spent in the region of £24 million and rolled out the programme across all main RAF stations.
"I want to reassure you that the value of your work is also recognized at the very highest levels of government.
"So I offer my sincere thanks to the RAF Benevolent Fund for the work that you do on a daily basis to help those who defend our country."
Reece (17) from RAF Cosford said: "I've found some parts of being in an RAF family difficult, like leaving friends behind and the interruption to the school curriculum which means I sometimes missed important topics. Airplay has always been welcoming and friendly and has helped me through the hard parts. I feel like it’s really been there for me.
Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund said: "As the Royal Air Force’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay programme demonstrates our commitment to providing support to serving families where it is needed most.
"I hope today's event, and the report we’re launching today, gives some sense of the scope and scale of the project and the hugely positive impact the programme has had to date, not only on the lives of the young people themselves, but also on their hard-pressed parents."
Charles Ellis, Deputy Chief Executive at 4Children said: "I'm delighted that this report testifies to the impact that Airplay Youth Support is having on young people living at RAF stations right across the country. Much respect and recognition is rightly given to those service men and women who make huge sacrifices to serve our country, but we must remember that their partners and children also pay a price.
"Our youth workers work tirelessly to ensure that young people from RAF families have the help they need at their fingertips. While many of these young people have very little say or control over their own lives, we make sure that they are firmly in the driving seat when it comes to Airplay activities and support."
Damian Pinel, Chief Community Development RAF said: "Airplay has made and continues to make, a significant impact on the lives of children, young people and families within the RAF community.
"The support of the RAF Benevolent Fund and the partnership with 4Children has enabled Community Development Officers on stations to develop bespoke programmes to meet the specific needs of the community, confident that resources and expertise are available to ensure a consistent level of delivery.
"This report highlights some of the many successes achieved by Airplay in a relatively short period and highlights the potential for further development."