Service children are 'ticking time bomb'

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Report calls for more support for those with parents deployed in war zones

The UK is sitting on a "ticking time bomb" of problems for pupils with parents serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, a report timed to coincide with Remembrance Sunday has revealed.

Children of service personnel face "greater challenges" than their peers because their parents are absent for long periods in war zones, regularly moving schools and in some cases dealing with a parent's injury or death, it says.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children's Fund (RNRM), which commissioned The Overlooked Casualties of Conflict, says 90,000-186,000 service children are being educated in the maintained sector.

The report calls for schools to be more attentive to the needs of service children, such as knowing when a parent has been deployed or providing time off if they return during term time.

It adds that a child with a service parent can move schools up to 11 times in their school life, affecting their mental health and educational attainment, and "limiting their life prospects".

The report coincides with the death of five British soldiers in Helmand, Afghanistan, and comes just days before Remembrance Sunday.

Monique Bateman, the RNRM's director, said: "Over the last 20 years we've seen service children experience the repercussions of the Falklands war, and we have no intention of sitting back and watching it happen all over again.

"We predict we are sitting on a ticking time bomb of problems for children whose parents have served in Iraq andor Afghanistan."

The study calls for more research to better understand the impact of service life on children's development and their long-term mental health.

Professor William Yule, a child psychologist at King's College London and the founding director of the Child Traumatic Stress Clinic, said service children need urgent attention.

"Many children benefit from having a parent serving in the Armed Forces, but a substantial minority suffer quietly and for far too long," he said. "Their mental health is affected, as is their educational attainment, and that in turn may limit their life prospects.

"Many children get distressed at preparing for the deployment of their parents, worry while they are away - particularly witnessing the 24-hour news coverage - and may find it hard to readjust when they return."

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