Community workers supporting families of deployed Royal Naval and Royal Marines have been recognised for their dedicated service.
Helen Howlett, Adele Towsey, Karen Underdown and Jackie Eades have been presented with awards from Devonport Naval Base Commander Commodore Steve Dearden for their work with the Plymouth-based organisation Families and Friends of Deployed Units. Adele was also awarded the Commandant General Royal Marines Commendation for her work with Taunton-based 40 Commando during last year’s Afghanistan operation.
Karen was also presented with her NVQ level 2 award in Community Development work and Gill Duke from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton with the Brigadier’s Award for excellence and with her NVQ award.
All the workers are employed by the Naval Personal Family Service and Royal Marines Welfare (NPFS/RNW), part of the extensive Ministry of Defence welfare network. The NVQ awardees are the first in the NPFS/RMW to be given this award. NPFS is also registered with the Army and these awards are the first the Army have had completed.
Gill Duke works at the Tall Trees Family Centre at Yeovilton, in a singleton post with minimal supervision. During this prolonged period she took on increased responsibilities of management to maintain provision to service families and has increased the involvement of outside agencies. Gill has been fully committed to the Tall Trees Family Centre and embraced new responsibilities by giving many hours of her own time to ensure centre activities are maintained for the benefit of the service population. Gill has balanced the needs of the centre users with operational requirements of the military units in order to provide maximum support to families during these ongoing periods of separation.
The citation stated: ‘Gill is owed an enormous amount of thanks for all her hard work, dedication, commitment and support that she has given during this busy period. She has done an excellent job and her input with these increased responsibilities has been extremely valuable.’
Adele, a Community Development Worker at Crownhill Family Centre, Plymouth, for the Naval Area Community Organisation within NPFS, seeks to anticipate and prevent social and domestic difficulties caused by the unique challenges of service life.
In 2010 Adele led on supporting families of 40 Commando from the Plymouth area. She offered a fortnightly support group attended by 12-20 families a time. This group built resilience to improve the emotional effects that separation and deployments may have on service families.
She offered a programme of activities to decrease emotional conflict between family requirements and the impact during deployment. She brought together other agencies (chaplaincy, social workers, and family support workers), highlighting the importance that multi-agency working has for families. The network of support this group provided nurtured families’ emotional resilience and well-being and improved coping skills.
One user said: “I wanted to be with others who shared my experiences and knew what I was going through. There has been a real togetherness throughout, which has been helpful.”
Adele performed her duties to an exceptionally high standard, proving to be an outstanding group facilitator, possessing natural empathy, awareness and confidence when delivering this programme of support. While delivering this project Adele continued to develop community projects at Crownhill. She suggested new ways of working within the community team by linking the RMW and the community organisation, resulting in the extension of this support group to all families undergoing conflict deployments. She also helped implement an outreach project during the forthcoming Afghanistan operation. The operation involves hundreds of RN/RM members under the operational command of 3 Commando Brigade, so many families are potentially supported by NPFS.
Dan Richmond, Naval Area Community Officer (West) of NPFS/RMW , said: “Adele is owed an enormous amount of thanks for all her hard work, dedication, commitment and support. She has done an excellent job and her input during this period of time has been extremely valuable and she thoroughly deserves to be a recipient of the award.
Since its inception in 1999 Helen and Adele have been responsible for the development and co-ordination the Friends and Families of Deployed Units (FAFDU), with Jackie and Karen playing a key role in support of this project. The FAFDU project has grown significantly in recent years and has been of significant importance during the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. The community workers and support staff have initiated several schemes for families of deployed personnel, through local leisure, social and recreation organisations, inspiring a number of local businesses to show their support for the families of deployed personnel by opening the doors of their attractions and businesses, at reduced charge or even free.
Dan Richmond, Naval Area Community Officer (West) of NPFS/RMW said: “An enormous amount of thanks should go to Helen, Adele, Karen and Jackie for all their hard work, dedication, commitment and support that they have given to this group over the past ten years. They can be justifiably proud of the success of this project and they thoroughly deserve to be the recipient of this award/commendation.
Family support is primarily delivered through NPFS community development staff working from community centres, family centres and within the service family accommodation. Initiatives include pre-school children’s provision, Friend and Family Deployment Support Groups, parent and child groups, youth and play activities, and family orientated social events, activities are related towards five outcomes identified in the Government policy outlined in ‘Every Child Matters’.
The importance of the work is highlighted throughout deployments, through work with families in order to support them in coping with ‘the emotional cycle of deployment’ and the changes in families which occur during deployments. The strength of community support programmes is in building resilience in service families while encouraging voluntary participation and integrated working. This develops networks of formal support (military and civilian agencies) and informal support (families and friends), enabling the generation of community spirit and self-help while in the long term assisting families to develop their own networks of support and coping mechanisms for the future.