Conservatives defend recruiting 16 years olds to army after Welsh Children’s Commissioner criticism
The Welsh Conservatives have hit back at a suggestion by Wales’ Children Commissioner that the British Army should stop recruiting 16-18-year-olds.
According to the Children’s Commissioner of Wales, Sally Holland, it was a matter of “human rights and children’s rights”.
The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe and within NATO that recruits 16-year-olds.
“For me, the evidence is clear, there are too many risks for young people when they join the army at 16 or 17 years old,” Sally Holland told S4C’s current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar.
“Unfortunately, they are more likely to be killed in their career and are more likely to have problems with mental and physical health.”
However Welsh Conservative and Shadow Social Justice Minister Mark Isherwood MS said that being able to join the Army at 16 or 17 years-old provided advantages for recruits.
“16-year-olds should be given a range of credible career options, which have the potential to enhance their lives and help them to contribute to society. Joining the army is one such option and joining early gives them a head-start,” he said.
“It teaches discipline, respect, and stability to many who may not find them in any other context, in addition to invaluable skills for a fulfilling career.
“This comes hand-in-hand with safeguards like not being deployed to the frontline until they’re 18, break points where people can drop out if the Army is not for them, the need for parental consent, and comprehensive mental health support.
“I am proud to live in a country where the Armed Forces look after their troops, encourage and mould talented individuals, teach sound values and principles, and attract new recruits through persuasion rather than coercion. A career in the British Armed Forces can be a great privilege.”
The British Army said they have comprehensive mental health support and treatment for those recruited at the age of 16.
However, figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by Y Byd ar Bedwar found that between 2017 and 2020, of the 7,949 recruits under 18 that completed the first phase of training, 2189 (28%) left before completing the second phase.
The full Y Byd ar Bedwar programme on S4C will be broadcast at 8.25pm.