Supporting military families

Topics: Early years Parenting

Evaluating early help services for families with a parent or carer in the armed forces

Although military life has many benefits, military-connected families also experience unique challenges such as being separated from loved ones and having to relocate frequently. This can create stress and anxiety for parents, carers and children.

By providing support at an early stage, we aim to build families’ resilience and improve their wellbeing.

We evaluated three services that we deliver in or near military bases, to find out whether they are having a positive impact on families:

  • drop-in services for parents and children under five-years-old
  • school lunch clubs
  • group work for children with anxiety and emotional problems.

Authors: Nicola McConnell, Elizabeth Thomas, Anna Bosher, Richard Cotmore
Published: 2019

Key findings

It’s appropriate and viable to provide early help services for military-connected families.

Families associated with the military experience higher anxiety and additional stressors compared with the general population of the UK. There is promising evidence that military families benefit from targeted support.

Using our early help services regularly has a positive impact on military-connected parents.

  • Parents who regularly used our services reported having significantly greater social connections and greater confidence in their parenting abilities compared with those who were new to the service.
  • Parents who were new to the drop-in service and completed our follow-up survey after three months reported a reduction in anxiety levels.
  • The number of parents who felt they had support in times of need was significantly higher among families who had been using our services for around three months or more.

Using a strengths-based approach helps build protective factors within families.

Underpinning services with a strengths-based theoretical framework enables practitioners to focus on finding ways to build protective factors such as resilience, social connections and support in times of need.


“[The NSPCC practitioners] are very well trained about child development. When I get a challenging behaviour that is new to me, like she started biting, and I don’t know how to deal with my child biting. But they have seen that so many times before...I found that really helpful, it’s all about having that extra more experienced parent on hand. As you’re away from your family, you’re away from your friends, you need somebody to ask these things.”


“Children have opened up and shared things with us that have been quite serious concerns. They haven’t had the opportunity to do that before. And that meant we could make referrals back to the local authority and the family got more specialist, targeted support.”

Practitioner delivering the emotional resilience group work


McConnell, N. et al (2019) Early support for military-connected families: evaluation of services at NSPCC military sites. London: NSPCC