Our growing team, offering more support

As requests for help and support increase within our community, we are pleased to be able to expand our team to meet the growing needs.

Earlier this year; the fabulous Allison Donnelly joined our Caseworker team, based in Helensburgh, Allison has expanded our physical reach by around 500 miles or so, offering support for Naval Families in and around Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute which is the town closest to HMNB Clyde (Faslane).

Allison herself is a Naval wife, her husband has been serving as a part of the submarine service for over 20 years. She understands first-hand the frustrations and worries families face when their loved ones are deployed.  Life in a “tin can” as its often referred to really does come with its difficulties. It can be difficult for all involved to adapt to long sea deployments, added with the unknown of where they are and when they will be home, often dates can change at the very last minute and extend without notice. Seas Patrols vary in length and type depending on the class of Submarine, with some deploying for nearly a year. Understandably families are often left unsure when they will next see their husband/wife/partner/son/daughter, left behind having to navigate everyday life. It’s important to ensure that families left behind are supported and know who to turn to.  The Naval Children’s Charity understand that emergencies can occur and are on hand to assist families with child related grants, we also have resources aimed at children to make deployments and time apart more bearable.

Based in the Charity Support Hub in Churchill, Allison has been busy engaging with families offering support, guidance, and grant opportunities as per the Naval Children’s Charity’s 5 Pillars of Support (Health, Wellbeing, Security, Education and Life Chances). Working remotely as part of the Casework Team, Allison has vast knowledge of all things Scottish and can offer advice relating to benefits, school systems and relocation should any of our families have any concerns regarding these.  You can contact Allison here

More recently; In fact, just a week ago, we welcomed Karolina Kubica to the NCC family. Karolina graduated in International Relations with specialisation in global security and children in conflict areas. She has gained valuable experience working with the Armed Forces Community throughout her work at SSAFA helping serving personnel, veterans, and their families in a time of need. She is passionate about supporting those with no voice – animals and children, advocating for children with learning difficulties and disabilities. Based in Plymouth, Karolina will be an Outreach Caseworker for the Southwest region, hot desking at both the Gordon Messenger Centre in Lympstone and the China Fleet Club in Saltash.

Ahoy there: We would like to welcome back all our young people that took up our offer and joined a Tall Ships voyage over the summer months. In total 40 of them took to the seas, had an amazing adventure, learnt some valuable life skills and made some lifelong friends. We are over the moon with the feedback we have received so far and are looking forward to doing it again next year. Remember, we offer many opportunities like these, and we will be announcing two new ones in next month’s newsletter.

Celebrating Forces Families Awards: On a final note, if you know of our work and have personal experience of how we help our Naval children, we ask you kindly to spare just a few minutes nominating us for the ‘Military Family Charity of the Year’ Award.  Thank you in advance.

Best wishes,

Clare Scherer MBE
Chief Executive Officer, Naval Children’s Charity

Design a Ship of the Future Competition

Our Talented Winners


Sam Davie

William Almond

Alfie Ward

Our ‘Design a Ship of the Future’ winners have now all received their prizes – Their individual designs transformed into Lego Ships, with thanks to our friend at Bricks by Design. Sam, William and Alfie are all proud as punch, and deservedly so. Thank you to every single child that entered our competition, it was such a hard task to pick only three winners as there were so many truly fabulous, detailed and creative designs.

Once again, huge thanks to our talented friends at Bricks by Design for bringing these creations to life!

Details of our next competition coming soon….

Wavewalker – Breaking Free

Recently we were lucky enough to spend some time with Lady Heywood of Whitehall. As grand as that title may seem, it was fascinating to hear in person Suzanne Heywoods humble beginnings.

Aged just seven, Suzanne set sail with her parents and brother on a three-year voyage around the world. What followed turned instead into a decade-long way of life, storms, shipwrecks and her fight for an education. Suzanne has written a riveting book all about this part of her life called Wavewalker – Breaking Free. It became apparent after reading the book the similarities in themes that Suzanne shares with some of our naval children. With that in mind we have filmed some shorts videos with Suzanne where she offers advice, support, and inspiration.


PART 1 - Parents as Decision Makers

PART 2 - Compromise & Conversation

PART 3 - Education

PART 4 - Education

PART 5 - Resilience & Determination

Not all heroes wear capes – October Newsletter

I would very much like to start this newsletter with some big Thank you’s.

We are so lucky to have some wonderful families, teams and organisations fundraise and volunteer for us, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone for their efforts. Be it knitting Rabbits and Penguins for us to send out to our young people struggling with a parent’s deployment, running the Great South Run or entering the next London to Brighton Bike Ride to raise funds and awareness for our Charity, we genuinely can’t thank you enough.

However, earlier this month one fundraising effort was particularly poignant. One of our beneficiaries, Hector and his family hiked 5 miles to celebrate his 5th birthday. Considering that doctors didn’t expect Hector to be walking by this point due to the extent of his hydrocephalus, the fact that he managed to hike 5 miles along the Cornish Coast path to raise money for us is simply incredible and very humbling. Thank you, Hector!

Strike a Pose: Here at the Naval Children’s Charity we will soon be refreshing our website and with that in mind we are looking to reflect the wonderful diversity of our community visually. We are calling out to all serving and veteran Naval personnel, including our wonderful Marines, Reserves and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with children and young people aged up to 25 to come to one of our three up-coming photoshoots. These will be taking place in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Scotland.

We’d love to celebrate the children and young people from our community and create some exciting new content for all our communications, so if this is something of interest to you, please contact us

Careers and Apprenticeship: For any of our young people currently undecided on their career path, we have great news. The Forces Employment Charity is hosting a Career Change and Apprenticeship Show next month.

The Forces Employment Charity provides life-long and life-changing support for UK Armed Forces veterans and their families and bridges the gap between this community and employers in the civilian world.  This event is designed to give young people who have parents/carers who have served/are serving, the opportunity to explore the different employment and careers options available to them in Andover and the surrounding areas. You can find more information here.

Helping Hands: For the October half term many eateries are offering some wonderful discounts for families. If you pop along to our Facebook page you will find a list of all the generous restaurants and cafes offering free children’s meals or meals for just £1.

Best wishes,

Clare Scherer MBE
Chief Executive Officer, Naval Children’s Charity

Naval Children’s Charity CEO receives MBE!

The Naval Children’s Charity is delighted to share that our Chief Executive Officer, Clare Scherer, is to receive an MBE in recognition of her services to Naval families.

Clare will receive the award as part of His Majesty Charles III’s inaugural ‘Birthday Honours List’. 

“I am extremely proud and delighted to be the recipient of this award. It truly is an honour and I am deeply grateful to HM The King,” said Ms Scherer.  

First working with the NCC as a consultant in 2008, Clare was appointed CEO in 2018. 

During that time, the charity has undergone a successful re-brand, commissioned extensive research into the stresses on the lives of military children in the UK, and produced a suite of resources that help Naval families cope with deployment, grief and mental health. 

In 2021/2, NCC supported almost 4,000 children directly through direct grants and bursaries. Over 1,000 payments in household support have been delivered, including direct support to supplement grocery spend, Christmas presents and housing costs. 

The charity has also provided payments for educational costs, including bursaries for essentials in home schooling. Children with special educational needs and physical disabilities have also been supported, with funding made available for house adaptations, transport for medical needs and hospital stays, therapies and respite breaks. 

In Spring 2021, the NCC was awarded the Royal Navy Team Commendation. Of the 40 recipients for the award, the NCC was the only external organisation to be commended. 

“The [MBE] award is in recognition of my work supporting Naval families and, in reality, the award is for my entire team of staff at the NCC,” says Clare.

“They are the ones who work closely with our families, children and young people, ensuring that their needs are met in a compassionate and meaningful way and I would like to commend them for the dedication and passion they bring to the Charity.” 

At the NCC, we believe that to be the child of someone who is, or has been, in the Naval Service should be a positive and enhancing experience – something to be borne with pride.  

As such, over the next few years, the NCC is expanding its ‘Life Chances’ programmes; offering all Naval children new experiences which will give them the skills to thrive in their future lives and careers. 

Clare added: “We are excited to be developing our support to all our Naval Children, not just those where there is crisis driven by disability, illness or significant financial hardship.  

“Many of our children and young people are impacted by their parents’ service in the Royal Navy and we look forward to providing them with resources and opportunities to help them cope and enable them to thrive, helping them to be the best they can be.”

Supporting Naval children with special needs

Are you the parent of a young child that potentially has special needs and are finding yourself struggling with the system? Both the Naval Children’s Charity (NCC) and the Naval Families Federation (NFF) have noticed that they are receiving enquiries from families on this issue.  

For many families with young children some indications of potential special needs show at a young age, often picked up by health visitors or as they start nursery or school. Getting the right assessments, therapies and support for your children can be a long and bewildering process.  

The NCC are often approached by families in these situations looking for advice, support and, on occasion, financial assistance to facilitate the journey which can lead to getting an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) put in place.  

All children and young people may experience learning difficulties at some point. This is not unusual. For most children the difficulties are temporary and are soon overcome with help and encouragement from home and school.

The term ‘Special Educational Needs’ is used to describe learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for children to learn than most children of the same age. Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are likely to need extra or different help from that given to other children their age. This help is known as special educational provision.

There are four main categories of special educational needs as set out in the SEND code of practice: 0-25 years   

Children may have difficulties in one or more areas, such as:

  • Thinking, understanding and learning: these children may find all learning activities difficult, or have particular difficulties with some learning activities such as reading and spelling. They may learn at a slower pace than others, find the curriculum difficult, or struggle with organisation and memory.
  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties: these children may have very low self-esteem and lack confidence. They may find it difficult to follow rules or settle down and behave properly in school. They may find relationships difficult, appear withdrawn or isolated or do things that impact on their health and wellbeing. 
  • Speech, language and communication: these children may have difficulty in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying to them. They may find it hard to make friends or relate to others, find conversations and play confusing or challenging. They may find it difficult to make sense of the world around them or to organise themselves.
  • Physical or sensory difficulties: these children may have a disability or a medical condition that has an impact upon their learning. They may have a physical difficulty such as a visual or hearing impairment. These difficulties can be age related and may fluctuate over time meaning they may find it hard to access a school because of their disability or might need extra support or specialist equipment. 

The first and most important thing to remember is that all children with SEN are entitled to receive a broad, balanced and suitable education which includes the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (for children aged 3 to 5) or the National Curriculum (for children aged 5 to 16).

Most children with SEN have their needs met in a mainstream school or early settings, although some children with more complex needs benefit from the more specialist help offered in a ‘special’ school.

You should be told if the school thinks your child has or may have SEN and how the school will be helping your child. Your views are very important and so are your child’s own views. The school should make sure that you are involved in all decisions that affect your child because you have a vital role in supporting your child’s education.

If you are a serving family and are looking for advice and support for a child with SEN then the Education Advisory Team (EAT(UK)), part of the MOD’s Defence Children Services (DCS), can help. Other advice for all children can be found through the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA). 

However, we know that finding support can be difficult. There can be long waiting lists for assessments and then for the recommended therapies. In some cases, the NCC can support your family with navigating this process.  

Therapeutic support. If your child has been recommended therapy, such as Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) it can be difficult to find a practitioner that has availability and that your child connects with.  

We know that there is a backlog within the system for children waiting for specialist help, as of Nov 2022 there were 65,000 children under the age of 18 on the NHS waiting list for SALT. Evidence shows that early intervention is beneficial, leading to better outcomes in speech, language and communication.  

The NCC have partnered with a new online resource to help families and professionals find the right therapist for your child. TAC Access is a directory of Therapists across the UK who work both face to face and virtually. We can also, in some circumstances, support your family in funding SALT and other therapies.  

There is a new app which has been developed to support parents with speech delayed children, called Pippin Speech. The app includes activities, resources and ideas to try with your child at home.  

The NHS has resources for parents to support children with speech and language difficulties which are available regionally through your local NHS Trust.  

The Naval Children’s Charity (NCC) has also developed a partnership with the National Autistic Society (NAS) to offer experienced and bespoke support to Naval parents who have children with Autism, whether diagnosed or not. To find out if your child meets the criteria for support from the NAS, you can contact the NCC directly, or come to the NCC through RN FPS/other agencies, and our caseworking team will carry out an in-depth assessment to establish the circumstances and needs of your child.

This may then lead to a referral to the NAS and, if required, financial assistance from the NCC towards additional support following recommendations from the NAS. The NAS have centres that can provide assessments for children which are recognised by Local Authorities. 

Clare Scherer, CEO of the Naval Children’s Charity said

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Autistic Society to help improve the support given to our children and young people with Autism and to provide professional and tailored support to the families. As part of our programmes supporting the Health and Wellbeing of our families this is a significant partnership for us.”  

The RNRMC, through their Strengthening Families programme, are working with organisations such as the NCC and Kids Charity to develop support to parents with neurodiverse children. 

Any financial support from the NCC is means tested but we offer much more than just financial grants. If you think you would like to discuss any issues facing you and your children please contact us on caseworkers@navalchildrenscharity.org.uk or call 023 9263 9534. Visit the education section of our help page, to find out more.