Support to Armed Forces Families and Partners

Families offer considerable support to those serving, or those who have served in the armed forces. There are specific initiatives under the Armed Forces Covenant to support family life in the armed forces and for veteran families.

Some policies will apply to you and others will not. This section will direct you to the right place on GOV.UK and other trusted resources so that you can see what is available.

A soldier returned safely from Afghanistan, heads home with his family.
A soldier returned safely from Afghanistan, heads home with his family.
Soldiers from B (Rorke’s Drift) Company, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Areas where support for families is available include:

Veterans and Families’ Directory of Services (VFDS)

An easy-to-use application to help organisations and front-line staff that work with and support veterans and military families has been launched by Northumbria University, working with the Ministry of Defence.

The Veterans and Families Directory of Services (VFDS) helps the user to locate services that are available in their area. These have been grouped into categories such as Education and Training, Employment, Finances, etc.

This invaluable resource also provides an option to feedback about the services being offered at a location, plus a button that takes the user directly to the self-help page of the Veterans’ Gateway.

E-learning for Armed Forces Families

Service personnel and their families face often unique challenges. To support them, the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant Partnership have created a series of online e-learning modules, which are intended for specific audiences. This module will help you understand the Armed Forces Covenant as it is applied today, how it works and what to do if it isn’t working.

These resources have been co-funded by Warwickshire County Council and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund as part of the promise to ensure members of the Armed Forces community are treated fairly and not disadvantaged as a result of Service.

Access the e-learning modules on the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant website.

Moving between devolved administrations and returning from overseas

You can view welcome guides for England, Scotland and Wales on Welcome guides for service personnel and their families moving between devolved administrations and returning from overseas.

Supporting children and education

In collaboration between the Department for Education and the Ministry of Defence’s Directorate for Children and Young People, there have been changes to the Common Transfer File (CTF) from September 2018. The CTF is the means by which state schools and local authorities in England transfer pupil data when a pupil moves from one school to another.

An updated leaflet explaining the role of the Children’s Education Advisory Service is here.

From September 2018:

  • When a school receives a CTF with the Service Child flag indicator set to ‘Yes’, an alert will be raised asking that a) the appropriate member of staff be informed of the identity of the Service child joining the school and b) where the concerns section in the ‘Service Child’ section of the CTF has not been completed, that the appropriate member of staff be informed and advised to contact the CTF sending school for clarification.
  • A ‘Service Child’ section has been added to the CTF that asks additional questions based around a child’s response to moving school, parental deployment and parental separation due to extended training periods or other forms of duty.  A free text box has also been added in which a school can include details about any concerns, gaps in education, strengths of the child, etc.

These developments are designed to help schools manage the transfer of Service children and ensure a greater continuity of education and pastoral support.

Any enquiries should be addressed to: 

Part of a quality family life is supporting your children and their education, wherever you are and whenever you move.

There are several links to advice on ways to help maintain service children’s education  on GOV.UK.

The Service Pupil Premium  provides extra funding to state schools, free schools and academies attended by service children in England.

The MOD Education Support Fund (ESF)  is open to publicly-funded schools, Academies and Free Schools in the UK attended by Service children whose parents are subject to exceptional mobility and/or deployment.

The School Admissions Code provides specific information on the school admissions process for service families. This can be found at paragraph 2.18 of the Code . In addition, if returning from overseas, you can apply for school places for your children in advance. 

Wales: There is a dedicated website  for service children’s education in Wales.

Scotland: The MOD has published guidance  on education in Scotland.

The Bereavement Scholarship Scheme  is available to provide university and further education scholarships for the children of service personnel whose death has been attributed to service since 1990. Scholarships available for further education under the scheme now include programmes of study below A Levels. You can apply on the GOV.UK website .


MOD personnel based in the UK have the same access to Childcare Choices as any other citizen. Since 2013, the MOD has been working to ensure that any changes to childcare entitlements can be mirrored, so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so, for entitled MOD personnel based outside the UK. Visit DCYP GOV.UK website for details.

Tax Free Childcare (TFC) was introduced by government in April 2018 and fully rolled out by the end of 2018, replacing the Childcare Voucher Scheme which closed to new entrants in October 2018. TFC is a savings account which working parents can use to pay for regulated childcare. For every £8 the parent pays in, the government will top up by £2 up to a total of £2,000 per year (£4,000 for disabled children). Visit GOV.UK website for details.

This leaflet compares the differences between TFC and Childcare Vouchers.

In overseas locations, TFC can only be accessed when using MOD approved childcare providers or where a provider is accredited by the host nation (existing banking agreements with UK government have to be in place).

In England, parents with children aged 3 and 4 years old can, from the term following the child’s third birthday, access 15 hours free childcare. Since September 2017, working parents in England, who meet the eligibility criteria, can access an additional 15 hours free childcare. Entitlements differ across the UK, please visit DCYP.GOV.UK for full details. Where reasonably practicable to do so, English entitlements are available to personnel overseas.

The 30 hours free childcare code issued by government is not valid for use outside of England. Directorate Children & Young People (DCYP) has worked closely with DfE and HM Revenue & Customs to ensure Service parents returning to England from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and overseas can apply for a 30 hours childcare code before they arrive back in England. This will ensure that entitlements are not missed, especially when parents move mid-term and would not be able to apply within termly deadlines set by DfE.

Parents who are due to return to England, after a term deadline, but are aware of this move prior to a term deadline, can apply for a manual 30 hours code for their return. Parents must call the Childcare Service helpline on 0300 123 4097 and request a manual application.  This leaflet provides information on childcare provision in the Home Nations.

An Additional Needs and Disability Guide has been created for service families by the Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum (‘FANDF’) Committee and the SSAFA Additional Needs and Disability Advisor.

One of the many services SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, provides is a national registered adoption agency, supporting members of the armed forces who wish to create a family through adoption. SSAFA understand the needs of military adopters and this is the only service of its kind in the UK. SSAFA welcomes applications from all members of the serving community and those who have left the armed forces in the last 3 years. SSAFA have produced a useful leaflet called ‘Thinking about adoption‘.

For more information, email the SSAFA adoption team on, call on 020 7463 9326 or visit their website. 

The Children’s Society, who are undertaking NHS England-funded national programmes of work looking at the needs of young carers in armed forces families have produced a report following a pilot programme  delivered in Hampshire and Wiltshire, where 29% of military personnel are currently located. The project looked at how caring responsibilities may negatively affect this group of young people’s health, well-being and education, and to identify challenges they face in accessing support and good practice support.

Having access to healthcare

Having access to modern and advanced clinical care is essential. The National Health Service (NHS),  Ministry of Defence (MOD), charities and welfare organisations are working together to provide this, wherever you are.

Find out about healthcare through the NHS for the armed forces families.

MOD and Department of Health support services information can be found on GOV.UK.

Get healthcare advice for you and your family when relocating within the UK or returning home from an overseas posting.

Mental health support for the armed forces community can be found on GOV.UK and NHS Choices. The NHS can also provide mental health support through the Big White Wall service. This service is available for free to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

The Ministry of Defence has launched the defence people mental health and wellbeing strategy. It provides a renewed focus on promotion of mental health wellbeing and the prevention of mental ill health for serving personnel, veterans, families and MOD civil servants.

Having a home

Having a comfortable home is an important part of your well-being. Whether you are living on or off base, renting or thinking about buying a home, there is advice and support available to you. 

With the Forces Help to Buy scheme your family can borrow up to £25,000 interest free over 10 years to help create a deposit for a new home.

Another way to get financial help is through the government’s affordable home ownership schemes.

Own your own home provides a range of schemes that make home-buying more affordable.

The Joint Service Housing Advice Office (JSHAO) provides serving personnel and their dependants with civilian housing information for those wishing to move to civilian accommodation at any time in their career, and for those during resettlement to assist with the transition to civilian life.

The Scottish Government have created a Veterans Portal which provides information on services for transitioning service personnel and their families and those currently serving who are considering living in Scotland in the future.

Getting financial advice

Managing your money now and the future can be confusing for any of us, but you can get get advice and support specific to those in the armed forces community. 

Find out more about financial and pension advice and support services for the defence personnel and families that you may be able to take advantage of.

We would also recommend using  a free service provided by the Money and Pensions Service which is an arm’s-length body (sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions). It has a joint commitment to ensure that people throughout the UK have guidance and access to the information they need to make effective financial decisions over their lifetime, and is funded by levies on both the financial services industry and pension schemes. The MOD is working with MoneyHelper to generate content specifically aimed at the Armed Forces community.

The MOD has published a helpful guide on financial top tips for service personnel. It provides service personnel with advice on getting a fair deal when they need to access financial services. This page is under regular review.

The Armed Forces Railcard offers your family up to 1/3 off rail fares. Spouses/partners of currently serving armed forces personnel can sign up for the Defence Discount Service.

Joining Forces is 3 credit unions working together to provide savings accounts and loans to the armed forces and their families. Credit Unions are not there to make a profit and have a proven track record of ethical lending and better in many instances levels of interest for savings, and are available to offer free and impartial advice.

The British Insurers Brokers’ Association published on their website a list of their members that can provide tailored support to the armed forces community. The Association of British Insurers provides a list of members providing specific policies that remove disadvantage from aspects of motor insurance.

Finally, we have put together a useful summary of businesses who offer support to the Armed Forces community with mortgages, motor insurance, broadband, media packages, and mobile phones. Click on the link to find out more.

Finance: Overseas Investment and Scam-avoidance

The Covenant team has worked in collaboration with UK Finance, the collective voice of the banking and finance industry, and the Service Families Federations, to provide an Overseas Investment and Scam-avoidance advice note for those service personnel and their families serving, or due to be assigned, overseas.

Supporting spouse/partner careers and education

Supporting spouses and partners aspirations is also part of the covenant, as we recognise the importance of family within the armed forces community.

Organisations who have signed the Armed Forces Covenant have made their own commitments to supporting reservists, spouses and veterans. Find Forces friendly employers in your area.

There are various initiatives under DWP’s enhanced access to Jobcentre Plus services that may benefit you. 

You may be able to claim National Insurance credits for time spent accompanying your partner abroad.

As a spouse / partner of serving personnel, you can be considered for early access to the Work Programme which provides support, work experience and training for up to 2 years to help people find and stay in work. Those who have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 3 month are eligible. 

You can nominate your employer or an organisation for a silver or gold award under the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) which encourages employers to support defence and inspire others to do the same.

The College of Policing have published updated vetting guidance so spouses and dependants of service personnel will no longer fail the residency requirements due to time spent overseas when applying to work for the Police Service.

RBLI Lifeworks is a fully funded support service to help military spouses and partners get the job they want. It’s available to all spouses and partners of any serving (or recently discharged) member of the British armed forces, including reserves and bereaved families. It’s completely free as the course is fully funded by Armed Forces charities.

Supporting the Unsung Hero course is an Award winning, business start-up programme delivered by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce a Defence Gold Employer Recognition Scheme Award Holder.

The Programme has been developed specifically for Armed Forces families to provide them with the transferable skills and support required to start and maintain a business. Now in it’s eighth year the course continues to  be in high demand from Armed Forces Families, Veterans and Reservists.

Recruit for Spouses is an independent social enterprise Community Interest Company run largely by people who have a Serving spouse. They exist to help military spouses and partners find a job or start a business. They can offer help with CVs and interview skills, enhancing digital skills, sourcing career opportunities and placing spouses and partners into posts advertised by partner organisations. They offer access to a range of free online resources including webinars, social media and live Q&A sessions and extend their support to the spouses and partners of serving personnel, veterans, and bereaved or divorced spouses and partners. Visit Recruit for Spouses website

Forces Families Jobs is a website that seeks to bring together employers and service spouses looking for jobs.  It was set up in 2019 by the three Families Federations and the MOD, with support from military charities and a major recruitment agency.

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity – Families Programme provides tailored careers and employability support to meet the diverse and individual needs of partners within the Armed Forces Community (all partners and spouses of both serving personnel and veterans including those who are separated, divorced and widowed in the UK and overseas).  It’s easy to register, click here to submit your request or call our central support team on 0121 262 3058 who’ll connect you with an Advisor or email

Families Federations

Each service has an independent Families Federation, which can offer you support and advice. They work with your service and every level of government as your advocate.

Families Federations meet regularly with key government departments including Department of Work and Pensions, Department of Education, Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence to review issues that are affecting the serving and family community. If you have concerns please get in touch with these organisations.

Naval Families Federation (Royal Navy and Royal Marines)

Army Families Federation

Royal Air Force Families Federation


Information Offices/HIVEs

The network of Information Offices and HIVEs across the UK and overseas are a valuable point of contact for Service personnel and their families, offering an extensive range of material and advice on issues such as relocation, local area information, education, accommodation, employment and training opportunities, childcare and travel. Welfare Information Support Teams and HIVE Information Support Officers (HISOs) research answers to enquiries and have excellent links with Service and civilian agencies. Staff work closely with the unit welfare staff at times of deployment and provide a communication pack detailing how families can keep in touch with their loved ones during deployments. All HIVE staff are bound to a Code of Confidentiality.

The word HIVE is not an abbreviation or acronym but based on the concept that the centres would act like a bee hive.


Royal Navy Royal Marines

Welfare Information Support website


RN Forum

Facebook: /RNRMW

Twitter: @RNRM Welfare


Army HIVEs

The Army HIVEs website contains links to Army HIVE blogs providing information and contact details for all HIVE in UK and overseas.



The RAF HIVE Service provides an information and welfare referral service to the armed forces community, including serving personnel, their families, veterans, reservists and civilians on station.

The HIVEs can support you with:

  • deployment support
  • relocating
  • local station and civilian facilities
  • schools and further education
  • housing
  • healthcare facilities
  • employment and training opportunities
  • places of interest

RAF HIVE Information Officers are not trained in welfare counselling but they are able to offer initial support to individuals and can make referrals to appropriate professional services. All HIVE staff are bound to a Code of Confidentiality.

Community Support Internet Site

RAF HIVE Facebook

RAF HIVE Twitter

Support groups

Find out about the Family Support Groups available to you and your family.

Have your say

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