Month of the Military Child: How the Fund is meeting the needs of RAF children

To mark the Month of the Military Child, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, provides insight into the challenges RAF children experience, how the demand in support for young people in the RAF has increased over the years, and services available for young people to thrive as part of the RAF Family.

There are more than 100,000 children who have a parent actively serving in the British Armed Forces[1]; 34,000 of whom are part of the RAF Family.[2] Research has shown that the main worries of RAF children are deployment and frequent home moves, having to leave friends behind and the disruption to their education, all of which can have an impact on emotional wellbeing in young people, including heightened anxiety and feelings of isolation.2

To overcome these challenges, the RAF Benevolent Fund offers a range of support for young people and their families, including practical, financial, and emotional assistance. Over the last 20 years, the Fund has invested over £40m in supporting children and young people in the RAF Family.

The Fund saw a 131 per cent increase in children and young people receiving support through its Listening and Counselling service from 2020 to 2023, covering a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, behavioural challenges, and family change (e.g. deployments, relocation, separation).[3] There was also a 93 per cent increase in the Fund’s family counselling programme, which strengthens relationships and communication between family members.

In 2010, the Fund launched its youth work programme, Airplay, which provides a safe and fun place for children and young people of the RAF Family to learn and interact with their peers. Airplay (for ages 8-18) and Ben Play (for ages 5-8), saw a huge 37 per cent increase in attendees in 2023 in comparison to 2021, with nearly 3,000 young people attending across 25 stations.3

By delivering consistent, high-quality support to young people, the programme, which is delivered by One YMCA, helps to relieve some of the pressure on serving parents and provides vital continuity for children relocating between RAF stations.

Airplay attendee, Cyrus, said: “I love Airplay because it just makes you feel at home, when everyone is with you it’s one of the best experiences ever.

“I think Airplay is important for kids like me as it brings us all together, and it can especially help people who are not so confident and are a bit shy by bringing them out their comfort zone.”

Air Commodore Simon Harper, Director of Grants, Services and Programmes at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said:

“The Month of the Military Child is a fantastic opportunity to recognise the challenges, strength, and achievements of RAF children who, like their parents, sacrifice so much.

“Over the last 20 years, we are immensely proud to provide bespoke support for RAF children and their families, including significant investment in childcare centres, play parks, mental health support and our Airplay programme.

He added:

“Airplay has a hugely positive impact not only on the lives of young RAF children, but also their parents who are grateful to have a safe, supportive and fun space for their children where they can fully embrace and celebrate being a part of the RAF Family.”

Since 2019, the Fund has provided over £5.4m in grants to Airplay services across the stations.
The Fund also identified a rise in financial assistance for RAF families in 2023 in comparison to 2022, with a 70 per cent rise in support provided for childcare and children’s needs.

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, mental health support, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

[3] RAF Benevolent Fund data and insights 2023

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