The Defence Select Committee has increased the pressure on the MoD to stop enlisting minors, in a report published today (6 March).
The report, which follows a major inquiry into the MoD’s Future Army 2020 plan, called on the MoD “to respond in detail to the argument that the Army could phase out the recruitment of minors without detriment to the Army 2020 plans”.
The Future Army 2020 report highlighted evidence presented by campaign groups Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch that raising the enlistment age to 18 would save around £94 million per year on training costs and increase the Army’s operational effectiveness.
The Committee’s challenge over enlistment age comes just a few months after church groups across the UK, including the Church of Scotland and the Bishops of the Church in Wales, wrote to the Minister for the Armed Forces calling for the enlistment age to be raised to 18. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19413)
Recent research has shown that those who enlist below this age are at higher risk of injury in training, suicide, bullying, sexual harassment, mental illness, alcoholism, long-term unemployment, and violent offending than recruits who enlist as adults.
Following the Defence Committee’s previous challenge over the recruitment of minors in its report on the Education of Service Personnel last year, the MoD instructed the Army to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the policy. Today’s report complained about the slow progress of this study, the lack of clarity over its terms of reference, and questioned how its findings would be independently verified.
“Once again, the MoD is being given a clear message that it needs to revise the minimum enlistment age. The Defence Committee, despite its concerns about current armed forces personnel figures, disputes the necessity and desirability of enlisting minors”, said Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International.
“Enlisting children is outdated and unnecessary. Raising the enlistment age to 18 is a simple and essential part of modernising the Army personnel structure for the 21st century.”