Three family flats were officially opened recently by Defence Minister Mark Lancaster, Naval Base Commander Commodore Jeremy Rigby and Chief Executive of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) in Portsmouth Naval Base. These flats offer a home-from-home for Service personnel, with warm and welcoming environments for parents and their families.
At the official opening, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:
“We are committed to ensuring our personnel receive the best accommodation and support possible. These flats will allow naval personnel with children and single parents in particular, to spend more family time together.”
The Royal Navy has set out to provide support to families with the provision of these self-contained units, known as the Navy Mews, that can be hired for short periods – such as weekends, or up to a fortnight – by military men and women on a priority basis, favouring single parents or others restrained by circumstances from spending time with their families.
Commander Martin Evans, the Portsmouth Naval Base Executive Officer, said:
“We identified a need some years ago; if a service person is the primary caregiver in a child’s life, the MOD will always provide a permanent home – however separated single parents often struggle to retain quality contact with their children because of a combination of the restraints imposed by Service life, the costs involved, and the lack of an accessible ‘home-from-home’ facility.
“We wanted to provide somewhere where these parents can have a feeling of normality rather than a hotel where they can cook and eat together, read together, play together and bond in a home environment.”
The project, the brainchild of Portsmouth Naval Base’s accommodation and facilities team, was supported by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), which granted £250,000 for the project in 2015, Portsmouth Naval Base’s own Leisure and Amenities fund and the support of BAE Systems, who delivered the project at cost. The Ministry of Defence is also investing £100 million in HMNB Portsmouth over the next 6 years, supporting and sustaining thousands of jobs across the region as it becomes the home of our world-class Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers later this year.
Robert Robson, Chief Executive of the RNRMC, said: “We are delighted that our project at Navy Mews, in the heart of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, is ready for use.
“Providing these flats for our families will make it so much easier for people to spend time together – and at a time when the Naval Base is readying itself for the arrival of the two biggest ships in the history of the Navy, they have never been more badly needed. I wish everyone staying here a warm and comfortable home from home.”
Leading Seaman Andy Till is the first member of the naval service to use the accommodation and is very supportive of the initiative, he said: “I stayed here with my daughter for two days and it’s just like being at home.
“It really is fit for purpose, it has everything you need and my daughter really enjoyed it. She’s asked to come back but I think we should let other families enjoy it before coming back ourselves. I’ll definitely recommend it to other guys I know in my situation and encourage them to use it as well.”
Other funds supporting the project include a number of local charities, community groups and suppliers helping to furnish the flats, and donations from the Service families’ community, who have provided toys, games and books to set up the perfect family environment.
Among the community supporters is a team of seamstresses, who are part of service families themselves, who hand-made soft furnishings to bring a homely touch to the flats. The Friends at Number 10, as they are called, formed a sewing group as a support network in the heart of the naval family community in Old Portsmouth. They started out by turning old uniform into things like cushions, aprons and bunting and were keen to show their support to the navy mews project by making throws, cushions and other soft furnishing for the flats.
The flats can sleep between three and seven people, and have a full suite of modern appliances, games, kitchenware, central heating and television equipment. The buildings will be maintained by Portsmouth Naval Base’s accommodation and facilities team to give a much-needed home for families.
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