Girl Guides defend controversial new deal with British army

Petition launched after members claim partnership with military runs counter to the Guides’ peace ethos

The Girl Guides are braced for a backlash after signing a high-profile sponsorship deal with the army.

The controversial move has been attacked by some of the group’s 500,000 members as well as pacifist organisations, who claim the decision by Girlguiding, as it is now known, to accept sponsorship for an initiative involving members as young as four runs counter to its inclusive, peace-orientated ethos.

A petition on the website protesting against the deal has been launched by Pippa Gardner, a Guides volunteer and former trustee, who is dismayed that members only learned of the sponsorshipin a newsletter. “Nobody knew it was coming.There was no consultation,” she said.

The army already sponsors a Cub Scouts badge, but its partnership with the Guides represents a ratcheting up of how it promotes itself to children. Over the August bank holiday weekend the army deployed recruitment vehicles and stands to at least one Guides event. Pictures posted on Facebook show young girls posing next to army vehicles while holding up “Army, Be the Best” posters.

Critics of the army’s decision to sponsor the Guides’ leadership skills builder initiative dismissed it as a PR stunt and pointed out that many human rights organisations, including the UN, are critical of the way the military targets potential recruits at a such an early age.… Read more

Parliamentary mental health inquiry shows youngest military recruits and those from disadvantaged backgrounds face greater mental health risks than others in the forces

We welcome this recommendation but add that research should be independent, based on cross-sections rather than those who seek help, and in anonymised conditions.

We regret that moral injury (how issues of conscience impact mental health) which is recognised by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, was not mentioned in the Committee’s report, nor were other significant areas related to wellbeing such as violent offending and drinking.

  • While limited research and data shows mental health in military populations to be broadly the same as in the civilian population, the mental health of the youngest recruits is markedly worse than that of their civilian counterparts. The Surgeon-General accepted the evidence submitted by ForcesWatch and others and admitted that ‘academic data suggests that younger recruits may be more at risk’.
  • The only group of veterans to show higher rates of suicide than the general public were those under the age of 24, who have a risk three times higher than their civilian counterparts. (p. 17 of report)
  • Early service leavers (most common among youngest recruits) and young recruits with a lower educational status, in a lower rank and from regions with historic lower social economic status, suffer more from mental ill-health than others in the military population.
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Warrior Nation – how the power of the military challenges British democracy

The report – Warrior Nation: war, militarisation and British democracy by Professor Paul Dixon and published by ForcesWatch – examines the relationship between recent conflicts and the wider power of the military in society and over UK politicians. (3)

The report is published in the run up to Armed Forces Day (30 June) when hundreds of events will take place around the country.

Armed Forces Day was established in 2009 as part of the ‘militarisation offensive’ as one of many initiatives to seek to make the armed forces more visible in civil society and to generate public support for them, and the conflicts they are engaged in.

Other militarisation initiatives have included promotion of the ‘military ethos’ in schools, including the Cadet Expansion Programme, and the Armed Forces Community and Corporate Covenants with aim to generate support for both armed forces personnel and military institutions.

The report argues that the idea of the Armed Forces Covenant – a moral contract between British society and the military – was ‘invented’ in order to progress it into legislation and promote military interests in wider society.

It includes an analysis of how the military actively pushed for escalation of Britain’s involvement in the wars in Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan from 2006 but then deflected responsibility for their failures onto politicians.… Read more

My thoughts exactly: UK army accused of dictating soldiers’ press statements

Child Soldiers International, a charity that campaigns against the recruitment of under-18s to the armed forces, noticed that graduates of the Army Foundation College (AFC) had spoken of their sense of achievement in exactly the same upbeat terms in dozens of newspaper reports.

Graduating from AFC Harrogate in front of my friends and family is something that I am very proud of doing. I’m now looking forward to the next stage of my army career,” a number of young men and women were quoted as saying.

As a junior soldier you learn core life skills such as leadership, teamwork and determination. I have made loads of friends and met new people, and have become much more confident in my own ability.

Precisely the same quotes have been used in local newspaper articles about graduates across the UK from the south of England to Scotland since 2015.

Tactics for the recruitment of teenage soldiers is a sensitive issue. The Guardian revealed last year that the army had been specifically targeting young people from working-class backgrounds in a glossy television campaign.

Rachel Taylor, the director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, said: “It has always been evident that army recruitment campaigns portray an unrealistic and highly edited version of military life.Read more

UK military school audit reveals teenage recruits at risk

Concerns over the safety and welfare of 16- and 17-year-old soldiers have emerged in an internal audit that flagged up a string of issues relating to staff, the standard of education and living conditions, the Guardian can reveal.

The audit found that a drive to fast-track late joiners at the Army Foundation College (AFC), which trains and educates teenage recruits, had led to significant issues including skewing staff/student ratios in risk-to-life activities such as weapons training. It also found some staff had not received criminal record clearance before arriving at the college.

The audit concluded that able teenagers were not being challenged in lessons at the college in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and some recruits were unhappy about their accommodation and food.

AFC Harrogate hit the headlines in March when it emerged that 28 recruits aged 16 and 17 had claimed they were assaulted and abused by instructors during a battle camp in the summer of 2014. The case against the instructors collapsed after concerns over how the investigation had been handled.

The audit took place in 2015 and has come to light now because of a parliamentary question put by Liz Saville Roberts, the leader of Plaid Cymru at Westminster, who said it raised concerns about the policy of the armed forces recruiting minors.… Read more

British army ads targeting ‘stressed and vulnerable’ teenagers

Paid-for Facebook messages suggested to 16-year-olds that a career in the army would still be open to them if they did not get the grades they hoped for.

Campaigners against the recruitment of child soldiers accused the army of cynically trying to recruit young people at a time when they are worried about their results and future prospects.

Rachel Taylor, the director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, said: “Targeting army advertisements at teenagers when they are stressed and vulnerable is abhorrent. These adverts prove once again that the MoD is deliberately targeting children at the lowest limit of the legal recruitment age to fill the lowest qualified, least popular and hardest-to-recruit army roles.

Using Facebook to target the country’s young people unwittingly and exploiting the anxiety of those who may be disappointed with their GCSE results with idealised and unrealistic advertisements is shameful.

The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “The government’s recruitment ads on social media tell young people that exam results don’t matter. If they truly have potential army recruits’ best interests at heart, they should prioritise their education budget over the army’s social media budget.”

There has been growing concern about some of the army’s tactics for drawing in new recruits.… Read more

News coverage of the Scottish Parliament’s report on armed forces visits to schools

The Scotsman: Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee said the government should carry out a nationwide study of the impact of school visits by the armed forces. MSPs have also demanded more data on the number of visits in Scotland each year, calling on the Ministry of Defence to make clear exactly which schools it attends, and how often. The Scottish Government today said troops speaking to pupils in school must “not seek to exert undue or inappropriate influence”.

Read more at:

Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

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Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

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Scottish Government urged to ensure army school visits are ‘appropriate’

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The Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee said the government should carry out a nationwide study of the impact of school visits by the armed forces.

MSPs have also demanded more data on the number of visits in Scotland each year, calling on the Ministry of Defence to make clear exactly which schools it attends, and how often.

The Scottish Government today said troops speaking to pupils in school must “not seek to exert undue or inappropriate influence”.Read more

Scottish Parliament recognises child rights and welfare concerns around armed forces activities in schools

After two years of deliberation of the petition calling for greater scrutiny, guidance and consultation around armed forces visits to schools in Scotland, MSPs have published a report this morning.(2)

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee have made a number of recommendations that recognise concerns of the petitioners and supporters of the petition, including child rights organisations.(3)

These include commissioning a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment around appropriateness of content and balance, both within presentations made by the armed forces and within the wider curriculum. They indicated that the CRWIA should consider the the issue of consultation with parents.

The Committee also recommended that careers information provided to young people should reflect the challenges and risks involved in an armed forces career, so that they are fully informed.

In a bid to enable better scrutiny of the activities, the Committee recommended that data about the visits should be made publicly available by the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD and the armed forces gave oral evidence to the Committee in which they stated that their engagement with young people in schools had ‘matured’ since 2014.(4)  The petitioners contested this and a number of points made in the evidence and requested further information. (5)

New data published in 2017 shows a continuing high level of visits to schools, with some schools visited repeatedly, and most visits for careers purposes.(6)… Read more

Harrogate abuse court martials

Our soldiers deserve first-rate justice

Liberty, 20 March 2018

The UK has two separate justice systems – one for soldiers, and one for the rest of us. Yesterday, an important criminal case being heard in the court martial – kept out of the public eye by reporting restrictions until now – collapsed. And it exposes everything that’s wrong with this second class system.

This two-tier justice system is failing men and women who risk their lives fighting for our country. And when things do go wrong, there isn’t even an equivalent to the Independent Office of Police Complaints (formerly the Independent Police Complaints Commission) for soldiers and their families to turn to.

Inquiry into abuse of teen Army recruits collapses after Royal Military Police bungle their investigation

Daily Mail, 19 March 2018

  • Royal Military Police investigated abuse at Army Foundation College, Harrogate
  • Judge said probe ‘seriously flawed’ amid missing evidence and witness coercion
  • Recruits aged 16 were allegedly spat on, punched and made to eat animal faeces
  • RMP made ‘policy decision’ not to interview accused soldiers for fear they’d lie

Lewis Cherry, a Northern Ireland-based solicitor who specialises in military law, said: ‘I have never found anything that has been as badly done as this.Read more

Military recruits: How MoD could be targeting your children

Armed forces personnel have visited primary schools to show pupils how to use guns.

The scale of armed forces visits to schools – including primaries – in Scotland can now be revealed by STV News, however, as well as evidence the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is deliberately pinpointing poorer areas.

A total of 927 visits to schools, colleges and universities were made in 2016/17, the largest number of which were in Glasgow, Aberdeenshire and Fife.

Scottish Government agency Education Scotland confirmed the MoD had asked for statistics on the deprivation rates in schools in 2015.

Eileen Prior from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said parents were worried about the armed forces visiting their children at school.

She said: “I think there would be a lot of concern among parents that this is a recruitment drive.

“Parents are generally concerned about the armed forces going into schools, whether it be primary or secondary, and particularly in more deprived areas where perhaps the armed forces might be seen as one of the few routes to a career.”

Of the country’s 361 state secondary schools, 68% (244) were visited by a branch of the armed forces during the period.

At least eight visits were made to primary schools.… Read more