resources: risks

December 2016

This article, written by Child Soldiers International and published in the Royal United Service Institute Journal, argues that raising the UK enlistment age from 16 to 18 would bring benefits to young people and the British armed forces. The article explains that the UK’s low enlistment age is counterproductive internationally, as it implies to other countries that it is acceptable to use children under the age of 18 to staff national armed forces.  

October 2016

Medact’s report on the long-term impacts of the British military’s recruitment of children under the age of 18, presents evidence linking ‘serious health concerns’ with the policy, and calls for a rise in the minimum recruitment age.

The report’s findings include:

  • Child recruits are more vulnerable to PTSD, alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide, death and injury during an armed forces career when compared to adult recruits.
  • Military recruitment marketing takes advantage of adolescent cognitive and psychosocial vulnerabilities.
  • The current practices for recruiting children in to the British armed forces do not meet the criteria for full and informed consent.
  • Those recruited as children, upon turning 18, are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat roles which carry greater risks than other roles.

The UK is one only a handful of countries worldwide to still allow recruitment from age 16, a policy which has been strongly criticised by multiple UN and UK parliamentary bodies, child rights organisations and human rights groups.

March 2016

Published by Child Soldiers International, this short and accessible booklet addresses questions often raised about under-18s in the armed forces, presenting the facts - based on extensive research - rather than the fiction. Also contains very useful quotes and statistics. Great when talking to your MP or for those thinking of enlisting!

Despite this widespread unease about the policy of recruiting 16 and 17 years olds into the armed forces, a number of common misconceptions still lead many under-18s to leave their education early and enlist. This booklet examines these ‘myths’ in light of the evidence available.

‘The fact that the British armed forces continue to recruit from the age of 16 sets a poor example internationally and impedes global efforts to end the use of child soldiers. The Army surely does not need to make youngsters sign up formally at such a young age – there have to be other, better ways to meet our requirements whilst respecting our human rights obligations.’

Major General (retd) Tim Cross CBE

December 2015

This report highlights seven recommendations from the Defence Committee’s report Duty of Care: Third Report of Session 2004-05 which have not been partially or fully implemented, and around which substantial concerns remain.

This report goes on to present additional evidence and arguments about the experience of the youngest recruits including lower educationlal standards within the armed forces; evidence that the youngest recruits are subject to higher physical and mental health risks, than older recruits, and have poorer long-term outcomes; and, understanding that adolescence is a period of on-going maturation and vulnerability.

This report then discusses the concept of 'in loco parentis' and 'moral obligation' with regard to the army's duty of care towards young recruits, noting that the Defence Committee were concerned in 2005 that the MoD distinguished too rigidly between legal and moral obligations, with the latter as less important. 

In 2005, the Defence Committee discussed the lack of balance beween training needs and considerations for operational effectiveness, and thus made its recommendations. Ten years on, it is apparent that operational arguments, and current difficulties meeting recruiting targets, continue to prevent the armed forces from reviewing both their position on enlisting under-18s, and their recruitment practices and materials.

Raising the age of recruitment would prioritise the best interest of young people recruited in the armed forces, who would benefit from recruits who are more mature and do not need additional duty of care requirments. 

Forward Assist is a Veterans Support Charity helps those leaving the forces to re-invent themselves! Soldier to Citizen! It provides ‘needs led’ practical support,vocational skills training and social activities for veterans of all ages. The website also has interesting articles from a veteran's perspective.

2014


A BBC resource. Includes a final section on 'could this happen today'?

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the British Army had 700,000 available men. Germany’s wartime army was over 3.7 million. When a campaign for volunteers was launched, thousands answered the call to fight. Among them were 250,000 boys and young men under the age of 19, the legal limit for armed service overseas.

March 2014

ForcesWatch's submission to the Defence Select Committee inquiry on Military Casualties draws on our research published in The Last Ambush and concludes that:

  • The continued targeted recruitment of minors from disadvantaged backgrounds deserves to be re-appraised from the perspective of long-term mental health risks that this group faces. 
  • Where possible, we hope that the development of military health research will better specify personnel who face higher and lower risks.
  • Future research could also better account for personnel who show some symptoms of mental ill-health but are not counted as full ‘cases’ of a specific ‘disorder’. 
  • A large number of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are likely to need mental health support services for years to come.  It falls to the state to take prime responsibility for ensuring that the long-term welfare needs of injured veterans are met.  That is an expensive undertaking, which it behoves any government to appreciate and accept before deciding whether to send young men and women to war
28 October 2013

This report from ForcesWatch, shows that young soldiers recruited from disadvantaged backgrounds are substantially more likely than other troops to return from war experiencing problems with their mental health. It calls for the policy of recruiting from age 16 to be reviewed so that the greatest burden of risk is not left to the youngest, most vulnerable recruits to shoulder.

Download the full report (PDF 1294kb)

Download the Executive Summary (PDF 268kb)

August 2013

This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, indicates that the risk of fatality in Afghanistan for British Army recruits aged 16 and completed training has been twice as high as it has for those enlisting at 18 or above. This increased risk reflects the disproportionately high number of 16 year olds who join front-line Infantry roles. This is mainly the result of recruitment policies which drive the youngest recruits into the Army’s most dangerous roles.