New survey report aims to improve understanding and support for Forces families with additional needs or disabilities

The survey has been compiled and report written by Michelle Claridge of the Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum (FANDF) and includes feedback from 255 families.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity is proud to announce the release of a new survey report written by the FANDF committee. This powerful report shares the voices of this sometimes-overlooked Additional Needs and Disability community within the Armed Forces. This is the first time that this demographic has shared these insights and their experiences in an official capacity with the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Under the MOD’s Defence and Inclusion (D&I) strategy, efforts are being made to shine a light into every corner of the Forces community. In order to better support these families, their opinions and personal experiences have been collated and their own on-the-ground-recommendations are being shared.

Key report findings:

  • Lack of a ‘normal’ family routine caused by military lifestyle leaves those families with additional needs and disabilities struggling to climb waiting lists and access specialist services required
  • Children’s education can suffer as stretched local authorities subconsciously under-resource support for children who will ‘move on’ shortly. The report finds ongoing issues with obtaining an educational diagnosis and support for children, according to 29% of respondents surveyed
  • Access to continuity of health care is a big concern, with health and educational records taking time to be transferred and those families claiming access to support having to start again from scratch every time they move
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder is the most common additional need identified by 48% of respondents, and specialist support for military families dealing with this is necessary

Michelle Claridge, Vice Chair of FANDF, report author and former Army Education Officer explained:

“As a military spouse and mother to a child with additional needs, I know first-hand the challenges of this perfect storm of circumstances. It takes someone with this shared experience to fully comprehend and convey these unique complexities and that is exactly what we aim to do with this report.

“If we can use this evidence as a tool to kickstart tangible, positive changes for families like ours, we will be delighted. We have made the experiences of our families as clear as possible to eliminate the lack of understanding that we often encounter, what happens next could be life-changing for many of them.”

Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity said of the report:

“We are proud to support those military families with additional needs and disabled members on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and their focus group, the Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum. FANDF’s report shines a spotlight on the views of those families who not only have the challenges which all service families face, but additional complexities of having a member with additional needs.

“This is the first time this cohort has been surveyed and it brings to the fore some vital insights. We look forward to working closely with the FANDF committee and our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to ensure that the Armed Forces Covenant is upheld, and the needs of all military families are consistently met, whatever their circumstances.”

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:

“Military families are often the unsung heroes of the Armed Forces community who play a key part in supporting our service personnel.

“We continue to work hard to meet the needs of families, particularly in relation to the impact of mobility and access to services.”

Read the FANDF report in full here.


Notes to editors:


Established in 1989, the FANDF aims to ensure all military families with additional needs and disabilities receive the support they need to lead full and stress-free lives. Consisting of serving Forces families who have a close loved one with an additional need or disability, the FANDF has lived experience and knowledge of the challenges faced.

A biennial Conference is held at MOD together with local outreach events. The FANDF produced the Additional Needs & Disabilities Guide for families.


SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. In 2018, our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 82,000 people in need, from Second World War veterans to young men and women who have served in more recent conflicts, and their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. We are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.

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