Social worker trial on carrier proves a success

A Second trial of putting a Royal Navy social worker on a serving warship has underlined their benefit – to shipmates and the ship.

Chief Petty Officer Vic Glassey is providing a listening ear and directing shipmates on aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales to much-needed support, helping sailors and their families in difficult times.

The former naval medic is one of the Service’s first qualified social worker – her branch badge is Royal Navy Welfare – and sailed with HMS Queen Elizabeth when the carrier deployed to the USA last autumn for trials after the Naval Service Family and People Support team was asked to provide greater assistance to deployed ships and units to meet the changing needs of personnel on deployment.

Since February, she’s been aboard the carrier’s sister, spanning a mix of sea trials and several months alongside in Portsmouth undergoing maintenance.

Vic’s presence on board both carriers allowed those personnel who needed it by tapping into the NSFPS’s resources… which led to support given to families, and reassurance for loved ones at sea.

Issues spanned the gamut of human emotions and problems, but the majority focus on the mental health of personnel and dependents, physical health, relationship difficulties, and bereavement.

More than 70 personnel on the two carriers have received specialist welfare support, while numerous shipmates have been given advice and assistance at an early stage to hopefully prevent situations worsening.

The senior rating believes her time on HMS Queen Elizabeth busted a few myths and helped to erase the stigma surrounding welfare issues.

“I often hear people saying that people go to welfare to try to get sent home,” she said. “Only seven per cent of personnel who received specialist welfare support had to return home – and that was due to their presence at home being essential.

“Over 90 per cent of personnel who accessed support said they wanted assistance to allow them to remain operational.”

I honestly believe that having RNW on board can save lives. If something like depression gets too much or other underlying issues then things could get out of hand.

Commander Joe Allfree

The senior rating was given an office in a busy part of the carrier – ideal for shipmates to drop in.

“Confidentiality is paramount and I always offer to close my door, but I’ve noticed a change – people are saying it’s ok to leave the door open, as they don’t feel the need to hide the fact that they are accessing support,” she added.

Feedback from both those helped and the command team on Prince of Wales has been extremely positive.

“I honestly believe that having RNW on board can save lives,” said one of those helped. “If something like depression gets too much or other underlying issues then things could get out of hand.”

Commander Joe Allfree, from the carrier strike group staff, believes the presence of a social worker is to the benefit of the entire task force when it deploys.

“Just as HMS Prince of Wales will offer superior medical and engineering support to a task group by virtue of our facilities and more senior personnel, the ability to support a whole task group with a NS PFS worker is obvious,” he said. “If people really are a priority we must do something about it and not just talk about it.”

Form her experiences on the sister ships, Vic is convinced that there is a need for – and benefit of – deployable social workers.

“Serving personnel have expressed that they really benefited from a place to come to deal with problems at sea,” the senior rating added.

“The support from HMS Prince of Wales’ ships company has been fantastic – they welcomed me and made me feel like one of their own.

“If you have a NS FPS worker deploy with you in the future please embrace and support them; they will be there for you and every member of the ship’s company in their moment of need.”