You will already have found that joining the RAF community means moving into quite a new world. You will probably be a long way from home. SSAFA is made up partly of an experienced, professional body of health visitors, midwives and social workers and partly of a very much larger, widespread, but still very experienced, voluntary organisation.
SSAFA Social Work Managers/Personal and Family Support WorkerMOD has contracted SSAFA to provide the RAF with a social work service in the UK. It comprises professionally qualified Social Work Managers, who are regionally located and provide professional welfare support to station administrative staff, a link with Local Authority Social Services staff and other civilian welfare related organisations as well as supervising the Personal and Family Support Fieldworker, who are either a qualified social worker or who will have some Service experience, although not necessarily as a Service person, are based on each large and medium size station. They receive training prior to taking up post and assist station executives by providing direct welfare services to RAF personnel and their families; as such, they work closely with medical officers, flight commanders, padres, personnel management staff and others. The service that is provided is under agreed rules of confidentiality between the client and SSAFA which, in simple terms, means that (with few clearly defined exceptions) anything told in confidence cannot be passed to a third party without the individual's consent. Even if your station does not have its own SSAFA Worker, it will be covered by a station nearby and you are encouraged to make use of the service whenever you feel in need of welfare advice or assistance.
There are 7000 voluntary SSAFA Workers throughout the United Kingdom and Eire. Telephone numbers are available from Personnel Services Flight and are in all British Telecom directories or at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or through the SSAFA Website (below). A voluntary worker is never far away. All voluntary workers are civilians, most are ex-Service people and some are Service wives. They are unpaid and work voluntarily because they understand the kind of problems Service people face. They can be approached for advice on any matter and all approaches are treated in confidence.
Home Visits and Reports
Occasionally, a visit by a SSAFA professional or voluntary worker is requested by a Station if the Commanding Officer believes that someone's work is suffering because of family worries (usually parents or a spouse who has not yet been able to join their partner). Initial contact should be made with the SWG. An independent report is then obtained, which may help the situation. Such a report will never prejudice a career but can often help it. A SSAFA report may also be requested by you or by the Service when it appears that there may be grounds, in less clear-cut cases, for compassionate leave, preferential treatment or discharge.
SSAFA Community Health and Social Services Overseas
On behalf of the MOD, SSAFA delivers the British Forces SWK Service and a Health Service to families serving overseas ( in Germany, as part of the more wide ranging Health Alliance which also provides medical, dental and nursing care). The service is made up of health visitors, community midwives and social workers, all of whom have worked and obtained their professional qualifications in the UK before joining SSAFA. The majority of posts are in British Forces Germany but there are staff in some other overseas locations. The Health Visitor is a trained nurse with a midwifery or obstetric qualification, whose work is mainly with the under fives. She routinely visits newly arrived families with young children to advise on matters relating to health and to inform them of the medical and welfare facilities available in the area. The Health Visitor also provides antenatal care, child health surveillance, immunisation, school health and health . She/He works closely with the Medical Officer and Social Worker, as well as the Community Midwife. These all form part of the Primary Health Care team. Social Workers are usually based in or near the Medical Centre; their offices are open most mornings, and a message may be left with the secretary. Social Workers offer a confidential service and their work covers aspects of welfare and Statutory responsibilities which, in the UK, is provided by Local Authorities such as: child care; adoption; marriage guidance; court work and general welfare advice. You will find that they have had experience of dealing with many complex situations, so do not be afraid to ask.
Support GroupsSSAFA facilitates 4 support groups. Each group has its own webpage (links below) with forums to allow you to post messages and talk to each other about the issues that matter to you.
Families of Injured Service Personnel
Bereaved Families Support Group
Bereaved Siblings Support Group
Although the Defence Vote funds SSAFA - FH statutory responsibilities overseas and the Social Work Service in UK, many of the additional SSAFA - FH activities are met by voluntary fund raising. This happens throughout the United Kingdom as well as overseas and if you hear of any such event, please offer to help with the activity - you can be sure of a warm welcome and that the money raised will be well spent.
When to Consult SSAFA?
This may sometimes be obvious, for example on relationship, pregnancy, child health, matrimonial, fostering and adoption and children-at-risk matters. However, SSAFA staff as well as the voluntary workers are good listeners and you can take your worries to them - even problems you might not want to discuss within your family. Above all, remember that the help does not end when you are no longer part of the RAF community; SSAFA goes on helping whenever you need them in later civilian life.
ForceslineSSAFA run Forcesline, an independent listening and signposting service on behalf of the MOD, providing support and options for Armed Service Personnel and their families. If something is getting you down, and you feel the need to talk it over with someone outside of the chain of command, then call Forcesline; it's completely confidential, and they are available every day from anywhere in the world. You can talk about anything.
The line is open from 1030 - 1930 (UK local time) Monday to Friday. Free phonen lies operate from Germany, Cyprus and the UK:
From the UK (Main Line): 0800 731 4880
From Germany: 0800 1827 395
From Cyprus: 800 91065
From the Falkand Islands: # 6111
From anywhere in the world: (Call-back) +44 (0)1980 630854
Paradigm Home Link is available from operational theatres, dial Homelink access number, then enter *201 at the PIN prompt.