Andrew Robathan MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans has paid his first visit to the RAF Families Federation at their base at RAF Wittering and praised the organisation for its work on behalf of RAF families. The Minister, who meets the Chairman of the RAF Families Federation at regular intervals to discuss issues of concern to RAF families, welcomed the opportunity to meet the rest of the Federation team and hear more about their work.
The Minister was introduced to the team of 8 staff, most of whom have either served in the RAF or have strong family links to the Service themselves. They demonstrated how they gather evidence from family members and briefed the Minister on their plans for 2012, including visits to RAF units and 3 themed surveys. The Minister was particularly interested in their work to promote and measure the impact of the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Minister said of his visit: “I welcome the opportunity to visit the RAF Families’ Federation, and I value greatly the work that they do. These are difficult times across all government departments and, whilst the MoD’s funding has been protected to a degree, I recognise that it remains a very unsettling time for many Service families. In fact, dealing with the uncertainty is probably the greatest challenge for today’s Servicemen and their loved ones. As we continue to transform Defence, the advice of all three Families’ Federations will continue to play a very important part in the formulation and communication of future policy, and I pay tribute to the excellent work of everyone involved”.
Dawn McCafferty, Chairman of the RAF Families Federation, said: “We are delighted to host the Minister at our offices and provide him with an insight into the types of issues RAF families face on a daily basis. Themes we touched on centred on the uncertainty created by the closure of RAF bases and the phased redundancy programme initiated as part of the Strategic Defence& Security Review. We also discussed the impact of the pay freeze and reductions in allowances, concerns about future pensions, and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation Transformation programme. Housing issues were also highlighted and the Minister expressed genuine interest in our families’ aspirations for home ownership and the challenges of a mobile military lifestyle. The opportunity for a few family members to also speak with the Minister direct was particularly welcome.”
Naomi Sparrowhawk said: “It has been very useful to meet the Minister and be able to air my views. I now feel people are listening. And with the RAF Families Federation, it is nice to know that as we move around the RAF there is someone at the end of the phone who can do something”.
Cpl Scott Gillson said: “It’s been really good. The Minister seemed to listen and be interested in what we had to say.” Following his visit to the Federation, the Minister visited RAF Wittering and met a number of Community Support staff who support RAF personnel and their families at unit level. To round off his day, he visited the Federation’s parent charity, the RAF Association, at their Headquarters in Leicester, where he learned about the support the Charity provides to the RAF Family, serving and veteran.
The RAF Families Federation represents the concerns of RAF personnel and their families. It operates entirely outside the RAF chain of command, so can always promise an independent and confidential service. Evidence-based reports are sent by the Federation to senior RAF staffs, Government Ministers and those who can make a difference.