Army defies child rights campaigners, intensifies intake of 16-year-olds for riskiest roles

Figures released today reveal that the British Army has increased its intake of 16-year-olds in the past 12 months, defying calls from the UN, children’s rights organisations and others campaigning for an end to the recruitment of minors.

  • 16-year-old recruits outnumber any other age group and are made to serve 50 per cent longer than adults
  • Courts rule MoD has unlimited powers to discriminate against young recruits

In the 12 months to 30 September 2016, the Army enlisted 1,000 16-year-olds[1] (up from 870 in the previous 12 months)[2], accounting for 13 per cent of total enlisted intake. This makes 16-year-olds the single biggest age group entering the Army, for the first time since 2012. The overall intake of minors as a percentage of enlisted recruits rose to 24.1 per cent (up from 22.5 per cent in the previous period), while intake of adults decreased.

The Army’s recruitment policies state that it uses recruitment of minors as ‘an opportunity to mitigate Standard Entry [adult] shortfalls, particularly for the Infantry’.[3] The Infantry has the highest fatality and injury rate of any major branch of the armed forces, with infantrymen in Afghanistan seven times more likely to be killed than personnel in the rest of the British armed forces.… Read more

Parliament considers military visits to schools petition

Members of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee asked for views at an initial hearing in September. Local authorities, the Scottish Government, the MoD and others then submitted responses.

The Scottish Youth Parliament and Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, were particularly supportive of the petition.

The SYP found that the majority of young people consulted ‘agreed that guidance should be developed’ and also ‘felt that there should be public monitoring of visits to schools’.

Mr Baillie said: ‘There should be clear national guidance about the content of such visits and when and where they are to be conducted’.

All the responses, including the reply from ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland (1), can be found here:

(See Petitioner Letter of 11 November for our final response).

A 2014 ForcesWatch report highlighted how over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces during a two year period. (2)

In some areas every school was visited, and some as many as 20 times or more over a two year period. Many of the visits were explicitly about careers in the armed forces.

The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament Education and Culture Committee to hold an inquiry into armed forces visits, and for the Scottish Government and local authorities to:

  • Produce guidance for local authorities and schools on how visits by the armed forces should be conducted.
Read more

More media coverage of our petition to the Scottish Parliament

The Herald, 20 November 2016

SCOTLAND’S children and young people’s commissioner has said young people from deprived backgrounds should not be targeted by the military for recruitment and that visits by the Armed Forces to schools should be more tightly regulated, as MSPs prepare to consider proposed restrictions.

Tam Baillie also called for an outright ban on the recruitment of under 18s to the military, something which under existing Ministry of Defence (MoD) rules can only take place with parental consent and away from school grounds.

The MoD claims that military representatives only go into schools to give presentations, citizenship talks, hold meetings with staff, participate in career events, practice interviews and hold activities with the students, such as science and maths challenges, as well as indoor or outdoor exercises.

Holyrood’s public petitions committee could make a decision this Thursday on taking forward a proposal from military recruitment watchdog Forces Watch and Quakers in Scotland that would to see the Armed Forces subjected to more scrutiny when entering classrooms.

The moves began following a Sunday Herald investigation early this year which revealed Tory plans to create military cadet units in state schools in Scotland’s most deprived areas. The idea was attacked by a senior SNP source as an attempt to recruit vulnerable children as British Army ‘cannon fodder’.… Read more