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Armed Forces: Young People

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 21261, tabled on 23 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the finding of (a) the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and (b) the University of Glasgow that enlisting in the armed forces before 18 years of age can adversely impact on mental health outcomes, what plans he has to ensure that service personnel who enlist in the armed forces before 18 years of age do not experience poorer mental health outcomes than (i) service personnel who enlist in the armed forces as adults and (ii) civilians of the same age and socioeconomic background.

Answered on

28 June 2021

The recent studies conducted by the King's Centre for Military Health Research and the University of Glasgow on the health outcomes of junior entrants to the UK Armed Forces have found there is little evidence that early recruitment is associated with an adverse impact on long-term mental health. Findings from these studies indicate that those who enter service as junior entrants have a lower risk of long-term mental health disorder than those recruited at older ages.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is committed to maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of all our Armed Forces personnel, regardless of age, and recognises that Service life can cause stress. All Armed Forces personnel are supported by dedicated and comprehensive medical services including mental health support. MOD is working with the single Services, Defence Medical Services, and other stakeholders to promote mental fitness and reduce associated stigma.

The MOD is clear that the duty of care of all our recruits, and in particular those aged under 18, is of the utmost importance and that those aged under 18 should be treated with special consideration. All Phase 1 and Phase 2 training organisations are subject to Ofsted inspection on a routine basis. Ofsted's last inspection of the Army Foundation College Harrogate in May 2018 awarded 'Outstanding' in all three assessment categories (outcomes for recruits and trainees; quality of welfare and duty of care; effectiveness of leadership and management).

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