Scheme aims to get navy mums back to their jobs

Lt Cdr Rachel Smallwood with her son Tom Anthony
Lt Cdr Rachel Smallwood with her son Tom Anthony

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A NEW scheme aiming to keep women in the Royal Navy after having children has been deemed a success during a trial at Portsmouth Naval Base.

The trial of the Maternity Coaching Scheme has been receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from those taking part.

Research found a significant reason behind mothers leaving the navy was the feeling of an unsatisfactory work-life balance and often being reluctant to deploy and leave their children.

Lieutenant Commander Rachel Smallwood of the Royal Navy’s diversity and inclusion department set up the scheme to provide reassurance, advice, information and support to women both before and after motherhood through coaching sessions and the creation of individual action plans.

There are also physical training sessions to help the new mums keep up their fitness levels and a Bumps and Babies club that runs different weekly activities.

The Army and RAF have been watching the trial closely with a view to setting up their own coaching groups.

Lt Cdr Smallwood, mother to two-year-old Tom, said: ‘Nationally 85 per cent of women who worked full-time before having a baby either don’t return to work at all or return part-time.

‘Part-time isn’t an option for servicewomen and the Royal Navy loses too many talented women who can’t make it work upon having a family.

‘The coaching sessions are not lecture briefs. It is not about telling them what to do. It is all about asking effective questions and using coaching techniques that draw out the answers from the participants.’

One aspect which has received particularly good feedback is the maternity buddy scheme – women in the Royal Navy who have had babies and returned to work who come along to sessions to offer advice on how they manage their situations.

Commander Felicity Campbell, is one of the buddies and she was deployed to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan just one month after returning to work.

‘The mother-of-two said: ‘It is important that women in the services have people to turn to for advice and support.

‘I would have loved something like this when I was pregnant.’

For more information contact Leading Hand Lesley Smith on 023 9272 3892.