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After telling the Guardian it would not be revisiting its recruitment policy the MoD is doing exactly that
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a cost-benefit analysis of recruiting under 18s into the armed forces.
An investigation published in the Guardian on Monday highlighted how the UK is one of only 19 countries that still recruits 16-year-olds into the army, while a report claimed that younger recruits who experienced war were more likely to display post-deployment symptoms including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The report by campaigning group Forceswatch – which drew on 41 existing studies about mental health problems among armed services personnel, as well as interviews with veterans – also indicates that young recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds could be more likely to suffer alcohol problems, depression and suicide.
The MoD told The Guardian last Friday that it had no plans to revisit its policy of recruiting minors. However, it has emerged that two days previously the MoD stated in a parliamentary answer – a day after it learned of the Forceswatch report – that it was looking at the cost of recruiting under 18s.
The parliamentary answer said: "The government agrees that the armed forces should undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the recruitment of U18s and work has been set in hand with the army to look at this."
It was a written answer by the MoD to the Commons defence committee, which monitors the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Defence. The committee is currently examining the education of service personnel.
The MoD denied there had been any kind of U-turn and said they continue to actively recruit across several age groups. As part of their duty of care to our recruits no one under 18 may join our armed forces without the formal written consent of their parent or guardian.
Recent studies have indicated that it costs the taxpayer twice as much to train soldiers who sign up at 16 as they cannot see combat duty until their 18th birthday.
Former Major General Tom Cross told the Guardian that he was fully supportive of the cost review: "This is a serious area that needs to be looked at. If we wish to take a hard line with counties that recruit child soldiers we have to make sure we are on the high ground ourselves."