Millions ‘wasted’ on junior army recruits, report claims
Tens of millions of pounds is wasted on training young soldiers for roles that could be filled more cost effectively by adults, a report has found.
Military chiefs are spending up to £94 million on training young recruits, campaigners claimed.
Researchers found it costs the Ministry of Defence twice as much to train a 16-year-old as an 18-year-old.
The Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch joint report, added that Britain was becoming “increasingly isolated” in continuing to enlist personnel below the voting age the armed forces.
The report found it cost an estimated minimum of £88,985 to recruit and train each new soldier aged 16 to 17-and-a-half, compared with £42,818 for each adult recruit, including salary costs.
Initial training for minors lasted either 23 or 50 weeks, depending on the recruit’s trade, but enlisting adults could complete the phase one course in 14 weeks.
The drop-out rate for minors more than a third compared to fewer than three in 10 for adults.
But under-18s who complete training are likely to serve for 10 years rather than the 7.6-year average for over-18s, it added.
As a result, the report finds the taxpayer would have saved up to £94 million a year had only adults enlisted, based on recruiting for a nominal 10-year career and accounting for differing trainee drop-out rates and average career lengths.
“Recruiting minors into the army is a practice from a bygone era,” said David Gee, of ForcesWatch.
“It’s not just young recruits who pay the price for outdated MoD policies – taxpayers do too. And so does the army, when it finds itself undermanned on the frontline because so many minors have dropped out of training.”
Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former army officer, said the report needed to be examined carefully.
He said: “I commanded 150 Junior Leaders in the 1980s, the majority of whom went on to be first class infantry soldiers.
“However, social conditions, financial conditions and recruiting have all changed over the last couple of decades and if it now seems that junior entry soldiers are less than cost effective, the whole issue needs to be looked at.”
But a MoD spokesman criticised the report.
He added: “We do not recognise the figures suggested in this report, which ignores the benefits and opportunities that a military career offers young people.
“We continue to actively recruit across all age groups and as part of our duty of care to our recruits no young person under the age of 18 years may join our Armed Forces without the formal written consent of their parent or guardian.
“There are currently no plans to revisit the Government’s recruitment policy for under-18s, which is fully compliant with United Nations Conventions.”