A dispersed family is a Armed Forces family that lives off-base. Whilst there are many benefits to living in your own home, there are also some limitations. Here we share information and support services available to you to help you overcome the challenges of being a dispersed family.

Summary of reported advantages:

  • Living in own home/ home ownership
  • Choice to leave near family and friends
  • Educational stability for children
  • Employment stability for non-serving partner

Summary of reported disadvantages:

  • Perceived reduction in support from the RAF
  • Separation from spouse/partner during working week
  • Increased costs; travel, second car, property, etc.
  • Reduced work-life balance for Service person

Support available to dispersed families

If you live away from a RAF unit, you may be uncertain of the support that is available to you from the RAF. Here we signpost you to information sources and known support services:

Facebook group for Dispersed Families

The RAF Families’ Federation runs a Facebook group for families who live away from their parent station. This is a direct result of the Dispersed Families project, where a number of families said they would like to be able to get in touch with others in a similar position.

Request to join >

Distance from the parent unit (or other RAF stations) is reported as a barrier for families when accessing support. Here we share links to RAF resources to help you identify what is accessible to you.

  • RAF HIVE finder you can seek information and support from the HiVE at the unit where the serving RAF member of your family is based, regardless of where the rest of your family lives.
  • RAF Station pages – select your parent station (where your serving person is based) to find contact details for the services available to you, including personnel and family support such as SSAFA Social Work services
  • The Armed Forces Covenant ensures those who serve and their families are treated fairly visit the families page for dedicated support services

Alternatively, you can ask RAF Community Support for advice for your family.

There can be financial disadvantages to living off-base. Here we share where you can go for help and guidance.

Visit our Finance pages for further guidance on financial matters.

Being separated from your partner during the working week and being away from the military community can pose particular issues not faced by the wider community, particularly in relation to employment. These resources will help you identify employment opportunities that meet your needs and the military lifestyle.

The RAF Families’ Federation Education and Childcare reference section is a great starting point, it includes information on Childcare and Early Years, Schools, Service Pupil Premium, Further and Higher Education,  Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, Devolved Administrations, Education Overseas and Support for Children and Young People.

Government organisations

Defence Children Services (DCS) support Service families with matters relating to education and care, previously undertaken by Defence Children and Young People (DCYP).

The Education Advisory Team (EAT), part of DCS, provide guidance on the education of Service children in the UK. The Overseas Education and Supportability Team (OEST), also part of DCS, provide guidance for Service families regarding the education of children overseas.

Organisations supporting Service children in schools

The Service Children’s Progression (SCiP)  Alliance is a partnership of organisations focused on improving outcomes for children from UK military families. SCiP have developed resources for parents and schools; including the Thriving Lives Toolkit.

SCISS provides factsheets to help school leaders, providing awareness of factors Schools supporting Service children may face.

Living off-base can increase levels of separation for families. Here we share the support services available to help you make the most of your time together.

Free and subsidised short breaks for Service families

Accommodation, dining and respite at London Service Clubs (membership required)

Life as a dispersed family has many benefits but there are a number of disadvantages which can put you under extra strain, which can impact your mental health and relationships. If you are finding it tough there are support services available to you:

Dispersed families research

The information on this page is informed by our Dispersed Families Survey Snapshot, which summarises the experiences of RAF dispersed families, as identified through online surveys.

How We Can Help

If you have a specific issue and you are unsure which is best to help with your particular circumstances tell us. Our subject matter experts will point you in the right direction.