Army targeting young recruits to solve recruitment crisis
Concerns have been raised that the army is relying on 16 and 17-year olds to make up shortfalls in recruitment, as reported by The Guardian:
The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe which allows enlistment at the age of 16. Recruits are not eligible for combat operations until the age of 18.
Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is one of a number of organisations who campaign against recruiting under-18s. A recent report published by CRIN in collaboration with Child Soldiers International, entitled “Conscription by poverty? Deprivation and army recruitment in the UK”, has revealed that army recruits under the age of 18 come disproportionately from England’s poorest constituencies.
Previous recruitment campaigns have been found to have deliberately targeted those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The report challenges the assertion that the army offers young people social mobility and instead makes the case that enlistment is more likely to be damaging to young people’s prospects.
Official recruitment figures show that in the year to the end of March 2019 the army enlisted 1,000 16-year-olds and a further 820 17-year-olds, accounting for 28.8% of overall recruitment.
Are we out of step by recruiting under-18s?
I have written previously on criticism which has been levelled against the army for its social media campaigns targeting 16-year-olds receiving their exam results:
There have been ongoing calls to raise the enlistment age to 18, in line with other European and NATO countries.
The UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which was adopted in 2000 and came into force in 2002, commits signatories to not recruit children under the age of 18 or sending them to battle or conscripting soldiers under 18.
While the armed forces continue to provide significant opportunities for young people looking to build a career, it has been highlighted that young recruits are more likely to suffer physical and psychological harm.
An MoD spokesperson said:
“We are proud of the opportunities serving in the armed forces affords young people, from basic literacy education and support for postgraduate degrees, to high-quality accredited training and unique employment prospects.”
It appears that recruitment will remain an issue for our armed forces and it is important that the Ministry of Defence meets its obligations to all recruits but especially its youngest recruits, to ensure that they are properly supported to meet the demands of what can be a challenging environment in which to work. There should be an emphasis on pastoral support, as well as training and education, to properly equip young recruits to make the most of all of the advantages an army career has to offer.
Hannah Swarbrick is a senior solicitor in the Military Claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, you can contact Hannah free of charge and in confidence on 0207 288 4851 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the team will contact you. Find out more about the Military Claims team.