RAF News

Support group for RAF Parents

Image shows RAF aviator hugging with their child.

RAF parents returning to work following maternity leave now have a Support group.

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Flight Lieutenant Jess Sherman helped develop a support network for parents returning from maternity. After writing to Deputy Commander Capability with her findings, the Chief of Staff Personnel and Air Secretary set up a permanent Parent Support Cell (which is currently being recruited for to provide support for parents throughout their leave and return to work.

  • Think – that Station Personnel are supported in their parenting journey and are not put at a career disadvantage
  • Feel – reassured/supported and that their needs are being considered
  • Do – (Line Managers) – learn about the network and support options. (Service Personnel) – use the support network / remain in employment in the Ministry of Defence after children 

It is the time of year when children go back to school after a summer off, which can bring about mixed emotions for parents. The uncertainty of returning to work as a new parent, presents a whole different challenge and is something that can cause both parent and child significant stress and upset.

After returning from her first maternity leave, Flight Lieutenant Jess Sharman discovered just that, finding the process for supporting parents coming back into the Service was lacking.

Image shows RAF aviator with school children writing.

In this video, Station Commander RAF High Wycombe, Group Captain Philip Arnold chats with Jess, a working mother, about her experiences as a working mother in the RAF, managing breastfeeding at work and how she set up a support group for RAF parents to improve the return-to-work process for future parents.

Having to navigate through a series of firsts, like dropping her daughter off at nursery for the first time, Jess found coming back into a structured professional environment was stressful and upsetting. The process of returning to work after maternity leave did not include anyone reaching out with emotional support or providing guidance on how to return to work when still breastfeeding.

Image shows RAF aviator with school children and civilians.

Wanting to improve the situation for parents in the future, Jess set up a support group for RAF parents, designed to arm individuals at RAF Stations with the knowledge they needed to comfortably return to work after parental leave.

With a more diverse workforce than the RAF was set up with originally, we have to find our new way and anything we can do to have those conversations that enable families to come to work safe in the knowledge that their families are being cared for can only make us more effective as an Air Force.

Group Captain Arnold
Station Commander RAF High Wycombe

After setting up the support group for RAF parents, Jess went on to submit a question to DCOM Cap, to ask what more could be done to support parents returning to work. Following a working group, a new dedicated Parenting Support Cell is being established, to provide support to all parents going through any parenting journey and to be a point of contact for women who are on maternity leave, so there is always some connection back into the RAF, when some people can otherwise feel quite isolated.

I’m really impressed with these groundswell ideas that come up and deliver such important things and it’s an example of the Astra mindset of people innovating and just getting on with stuff and then that good idea being seized on by the RAF and supported.

Group Captain Arnold
Station Commander RAF High Wycombe

The Support Group for RAF Parents started by Jess has resulted in support contacts being available at most RAF stations, staffed by volunteers, their role is to connect individuals across stations with people that can help them, find answers to questions or just provide a bit of peer support.

All parents are invited to join the group on Facebook.

Read more information for RAF Parents

Read the Returning to work Guide

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