resources: recruitment age

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.  

November 2016

Veterans for Peace UK is an international chapter of the U.S.network. 

They run workshops in schools and colleges giving an honest view of military life, as well as publish and campaign around military and peace issues. 

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.

June 2016

The Committee on the Rights of the Child recently reviewed the UK's position on implementing the articles and protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They made a number of recommendations relating to the armed forces recruitment of under-18s and the military's activities in schools.

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. 

March 2015

In advance of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child's consideration of how the UK complies with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (during autumn 2015), the UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a short report outlining areas of concern.

On children in armed conflict (the UK is a signatory to the Convention's Optional Protocal on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict), the report states:

Again, WE HOPE THAT OUR SUCCESSOR COMMITTEE WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SCRUTINISE THE ISSUE OF CHILDREN SERVING IN THE ARMED FORCES IN THE LIGHT OF THE UN COMMITTEE'S CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS WHICH WILL BE DELIVERED IN 2016.

October 2014

A nationwide poll conducted in July 2014 by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd found that 78 per cent of respondents who expressed a view thought the minimum enlistment age for the Army should be 18 or above. Just 14 per cent of respondents thought the minimum age should be 16 (as it currently is) or less.

An identically worded poll conducted in April 2013 by ICM found 70 per cent of respondents who expressed a view thought the minimum enlistment age should be 18 or above, with 20 per cent supporting 16 or younger.

recruitment age
September 2014

This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, shows that the taxpayer would save approximately £50 million per annum if the minimum age of recruitment were raised to 18; it would also result in the army needing to find about 211 fewer new recruits annually, based on current numbers joining the trained strength.

The paper concludes that the case to cease recruiting from age 16 is now overwhelming and urges a full, independent review of the policy, with a view to phasing out the recruitment of minors as an unnecessary, cost-ineffective, and fundamentally unethical practice.

June 2014

 

A short film made by Headliners and ForcesWatch, 2014

 

Why does the military have a 'youth engagement' policy and why is the government promoting 'military ethos' within education? What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools? ForcesWatch have been working with the charity Headliners and a group of young people in London to produce this short film which explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

The film focuses on military activities in schools, including presentations and other visits by the armed forces and the Department for Education's 'Military Ethos in Schools' policy - as well as community cadet forces. It looks at young people's experiences and views and ask questions about the agenda behind the 'youth engagement' policy and the reluctance of the Department for Education and Ministry of Defence to discuss it with young people themselves.

This film will encourage young people to reflect on and debate military-related activities aimed at them.