Jim Murphy MP learns what life is like for young people growing up in a military family

MP Jim Murphy met with young people from RAF families at the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund’s annual Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons [last night] to hear about the realities of growing up in a military family. The young people, who all live on RAF stations, spoke about what it’s like having a parent in the armed forces.

They also delivered a new report which focuses on the positive impact the Airplay programme – the RAF Benevolent Fund’s youth support programme for children from RAF families – is having on the young people and their parents.

The charity designed and launched Airplay in 2010 in direct response to research which found that keeping children and young people safely occupied on stations was serving parents’ foremost concern after housing. The charity continues to fund and manage this partnership programme, which is the first of its kind in the Service community and operates on all major RAF stations across England, Scotland and Wales.

Jim Murphy heard about the challenges faced by children of military families during the teenagers’ visit to the House of Commons. The teenagers spoke of the importance of Airplay and the support they have been given.

Speaking after the event, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Jim Murphy, said:
“While society recognises the sacrifices made by serving personnel, it is easy to forget the sacrifices made by their families. The RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay project is unique in that it is the first of its kind in the Service community and provides a safe and supported environment for children and young people to meet, as well as vital continuity for children re-locating between stations.”

There are three elements to the Airplay programme: Airplay childcare centres, Airplay parks and games areas and Airplay Youth Support. The youth support element of the programme, which is aimed at 8 to 18 year olds, is delivered by trained Airplay youth workers employed by national charity, 4Children, working in partnership with RAF Community Development staff. It provides safe and supported environments for children and young people to meet and take part in organised activities. By delivering consistent, high quality support to young people, the programme also helps to relieve some of the pressure on hard-pressed serving parents and provides vital continuity for children re-locating between stations.

Reece (17) from RAF Cosford said: “I’ve found some parts of being in an RAF family difficult, like leaving friends behind and the interruption to the school curriculum which means I sometimes missed important topics. Airplay has always been welcoming and friendly and has helped me through the hard parts. I feel like it’s really been there for me.”

Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund said: “As the Royal Air Force’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay programme demonstrates our commitment to providing support to serving families where it is needed most. I hope today’s event, and the report we’re launching today, gives some sense of the scope and scale of the project and the hugely positive impact the programme has had to date, not only on the lives of the young people themselves, but also on their hard-pressed parents.

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