Summary of report content
Healthwatch Suffolk was asked by Suffolk Family Carers to evaluate the Military Families Project. This aims to support serving forces personnel in Suffolk to overcome the stresses that a caring role can bring. They spoke to 4 military family carers and five professionals involved in welfare support to military personnel.
There is general agreement amongst both carers and professionals that the Suffolk Family Carers offer is unique, and provides support that is different to that already on offer to military families. One of the key elements is the way it combines both an understanding of carers issues and the unique pressures that military life can place on individuals and families. Carers described how the support they have received from the Military Families Lead had helped to reduce their levels of stress and improved their mental health. This in turn had enabled them to undertake their work more effectively.
Professionals felt their association with the project had enhanced their own knowledge and understanding of carers issues, enabling them to more easily identify carers in need and to signpost them to appropriate support. Professionals outlined the impact that the Military Families Project had on improving overall operational effectiveness.
The Mental Health Awareness training was recognised as offering significant preventative benefits for the wider military community. This included that it had provided people with the awareness to identify issues, and the tools and techniques to support themselves and others through moments of stress.
The importance of the Mental Health First Aid training as a means of reaching out to carers was evidenced in feedback from three of the four carers interviewed. They considered that they had used this opportunity to make themselves and their situation known to the Military Families Lead and to ask for help.
Other benefits identified about the service included the speed of response and the convenience of a locally based service. Interviewees felt that the service was easily accessible for personnel within local bases
Barriers to people seeking support continue to persist, either because people do not recognise themselves as a carer or because they do not want their personal issues known to others at work. Loss of continuity of support is also important, with interviewees expressing that it is not worth engaging with a local organisation because of the possibility that they will be posted to a location where ongoing support may not be available. There is an ongoing need to engage and educate the military community about carers issues.
Significantly this project has started to provide evidence that there is a need for support for carers within the military community. The strength of this service is the way in which it combines knowledge and skills around supporting carers with an understanding of the pressures of military life. The service has achieved this in a way that other generic support offers have not, and this is recognised by those who have engaged with it.