Friday 24th November 2023
Here we offer guidance to RAF families with SEND returning to the UK from an overseas assignment:
The MOD recently published guidance on the assessment of support needs for accompanied assignments overseas which explains the processes involved in assessing whether the needs of Service personnel and families can be met in overseas locations.
But what about moving back to the UK?
The RAF Families Federation are aware some Service personnel and families may encounter challenges accessing services as they return to the UK.
For those based in overseas locations, subject to different time zones, it can be challenging to engage with the various agencies in the UK; the process of returning to the UK can be difficult to navigate at a time that is already busy and stressful enough.
The RAF Families Federation (RAFFF) policy team have compiled some guidance and signposting to support you in the process.
We understand that some Service families may have additional needs and require adaptations to Service Families Accommodation (SFA) they wish to occupy. We also know that applying for these adaptations as soon as possible will help make moving into a new SFA easier – it allows time to source and/or adapt SFA to meet your needs.
It is important for Service personnel to inform their Career Manager of any additional needs their family member may have. Increased time considerations may then be given to allow adequate planning for any move to SFA that may need adaptations.
To apply for SFA you can complete an application on the e-1132 system, available on the Defence Intranet. We are aware that choices of properties for those requiring adaptations may be limited and suggest families with additional needs engage with Pinnacle early to discuss your options.
If you have any special considerations or require Additional Needs/Disability Adaptations to your home, please include these in your application using the ANDA request form enclosing any reports from the appropriate professional source, such as your Occupational Therapist or healthcare professional. These reports need to be sent to the following secure email address: [email protected].
The RAFFF website has more information on How to apply for SFA – bit.ly/43BWXlD – please contact us if you have any concerns or need support with this process.
Support for Children and Young People
The MOD educational supportability process ensures that the needs of children and young people are considered while Service personnel are preparing to relocate overseas, but the RAFFF are also aware that families may need support as they return to the UK – particularly if your child has SEND.
We are aware that childcare settings in some areas across the UK are oversubscribed and families may encounter challenges accessing childcare provision that meets their needs. When considering postings on your move back to the UK, if you will need childcare (either Early Years or wraparound childcare for school aged children) we suggest researching childcare options early to ensure that you will be able to access childcare places in settings that can support your child(ren) appropriately and meet your needs.
The RAFFF website has a section on childcare with key information and links which we hope will help you to navigate the process of researching and securing appropriate childcare places. Please contact us if you are encountering challenges accessing childcare that meets your family’s needs.
Securing school places is a key concern for many families relocating to the UK – particularly if your child(ren) has SEND and may need additional provision to be put in place to support them at school. The GOV.UK website has information on school admissions – and the RAFFF website also has guidance to support Service families applying for school places.
We are aware that schools in some areas of the UK are oversubscribed and families moving back to an area they previously lived in may not be able to secure places in schools their children previously attended, if they are full. We encourage families returning to the UK to engage with your preferred school(s) and admissions authority early to enquire about the school application process and availability of school places.
To help you decide whether a school may be able to meet your child’s SEND, you could ask to meet with the SEND Coordinator (or equivalent in the devolved administrations) at the school to ask what support and/or adaptations they may be able to offer to meet your child’s needs. Engaging early can allow time for settings to ensure appropriate support is in place to meet children’s needs. Wherever you are locating to in the UK, the Education Advisory Team (EAT) can offer guidance on school admissions, appeals and SEND.
In other countries the process of assessing, diagnosing, and supporting children with SEND can vary from one country to another. Some key differences may include:
- Terminology: Different countries use varying terms and conditions to describe SEND or disabilities. These terms may encompass a wide range of conditions and may not directly correspond to terminology used in the UK.
- Assessment Processes: The methods and procedures for identifying and assessing SEND can look very different overseas: some countries may rely on standardised assessments made by a child paediatrician and others may emphasize clinical or educational evaluations or a combination of both. Time frames for assessment and diagnosis may be shorter, and the parameters for diagnosis may also be quite different. In some countries, diagnosis may be made in one visit to a SEND specialist, or by a child psychologist in a school setting. In the UK diagnosis may take much longer; the child will normally be assessed and observed over a longer period, usually via a multi-agency approach that may involve health, educational and child psychology professionals. In the UK, a measured approach to the diagnosis of SEND is generally taken to allow children to develop and move through milestones, this prevents inaccurate diagnoses closing off areas of support that the child may require as they develop.
- Legal Framework: Each country has its own legislation and policies governing SEND, just as we do in the UK. The rights, entitlements, and support available to children with SEND can vary greatly depending on these frameworks.
- Support Services: The range and availability of support services, and the eligibility factors to access them vary from one country to another. This includes access to educational support, child therapies such as Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and funding for additional resources. Some services in the UK, particularly child therapy services, have strict eligibility factors, and although you may be receiving these in your overseas location, these may not be available, or your child may not be eligible for these in UK. Local authorities often have their SEND Offer available online which can help to gain an understanding of what is available to meet your child’s specific needs in your new location.
With this information in mind, it is essential for serving families to gather as much evidence relating to their child’s circumstances before they move back to the UK:
- Plan ahead! Make sure you have all the evidence from any education or healthcare professionals who have been involved with your child’s care to bring back with you, bring paper or digital copies if possible. This may include medical reports, educational observations, and any child therapies they may have been receiving, together with any supporting evidence of the reasons your child is accessing these services.
- Once you know your assignment destination, contact the relevant agencies that you may need to be involved with your child’s care and education once you return to the UK. Make sure they are aware you are a service family; many GP practices are veteran accredited (this includes service families) and can code your records to indicate this. Early contact is vital and can result in a smoother transition and speedier access to any service or therapy, or placement on a waiting list for that care. This may be a school, GP, or other healthcare professional who can refer you for the relevant support for your child. To help with your health care planning we have compiled some guidance and information on registering with a GP which you can do up to one month before you return to the UK.
- Be prepared to have to repeat some observations or assessments that your child may have already received overseas. This is reasonably common in the UK for those returning from overseas, as diagnoses made overseas may not always be accepted in the UK.
- It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the healthcare services available in your area and the types of treatment and child therapies that they have commissioned, you can do this via the NHS website.
Although we understand that moving back to the UK is an extremely busy and challenging time, we know that any prior preparation, collation of evidence and forward planning you can achieve, will make the transition easier once you arrive back in UK.
View our comprehensive returns guidance here, including a checklist of things to consider as you transition back to the UK.