North Wiltshire MP James Gray hosted the launch of a new report, Meeting the Needs of the Serving RAF Community, from the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund in the House of Commons last week. The report finds that the biggest challenges our serving RAF personnel and their partners are experiencing include mental well-being difficulties, social isolation and partner employment opportunities.

The research reached almost 10 per cent of serving RAF personnel and was conducted with the support of the RAF. The key findings are:

  • relationship difficulties and loneliness were the top major issues reported by RAF personnel and partners;
  • 52% of RAF personnel said they had experienced community or social isolation within the past few years;
  • 42% of partners said loneliness had been a problem they had experienced;
  • 39% of RAF personnel and 48% of partners reported problems with their mental well-being within the past few years;
  • 27% of RAF personnel said they had experienced marriage or relationship difficulties in recent years;
  • 76% of RAF personnel say they tend to prefer to deal with their problems alone than seek help;
  • 39% of RAF personnel said they had been too embarrassed to ask for help in the past;
  • frequent station moves, distance from close relatives, deployments, irregular shifts, anti-social hours all contributed to feelings of social isolation.

In response to the findings, the RAF Benevolent Fund today announced a multi-million pound response to the RAF’s key needs, as highlighted by the research in the report, and is in addition to other on-going work and support already provided. Some of this will be delivered through grant funding, while other programmes will be tested via pilot schemes first to ensure that they are effective and valued before consideration is given to rolling them out further.

  • Enhancing mental well-being among individuals by funding access to the mindfulness app Headspace for RAF personnel.
  • Enhancing social engagement, increasing connectivity and reducing isolation and loneliness by piloting Station Engagement Workers, providing funding for facilities and play parks, and expanding its flagship Airplay youth support programme on RAF Stations.
  • Increasing the employability and well-being of RAF partners by piloting workshops and seminars.
  • Enhancing and strengthening family relationships by completing and evaluating a pilot providing well-being breaks for RAF families across the UK.
  • Increasing awareness of the range of support that is available to the serving RAF community, ensuring more people receive support in times of need by developing a digital tool which provides an easy-to-access source of information.

Mr Gray said: “As a Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust, I am aware of the sacrifices our Armed Forces make every day, serving their country. I whole-heartedly support the measures announced today by the RAF Benevolent Fund and congratulate them on their wide-reaching welfare initiatives, targeting the entire RAF Family.”

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Chief Executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “If we didn’t know it already, this project has reminded us that RAF personnel and their families demonstrate incredible resilience on a daily basis, as they wrestle with the challenges of modern-day Service life. However, given the increasing complexity of some of the issues faced, there remains a requirement for targeted support to assist serving RAF families during periods of need.”

“Working closely with the RAF, the Fund has developed a package of practical initiatives that will make a real difference to the lives of RAF personnel and their families in the areas that have emerged from the research.”

In his foreword to the report, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson MP said: “The extensive support that the charity currently has in place is already impressive and highly regarded by both myself and the Chief of the Air Staff. But the additional projects the Fund has committed to develop in the coming years, in direct response to this report, will make a substantive difference to RAF personnel and their families in need and distress.”