Call for shake-up in treatment of armed forces recruits

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The Independent Online

Britain's Armed Forces should carry out a root and branch reform of the way they train and care for young recruits, a Government-backed investigation stated today.

Britain's Armed Forces should carry out a root and branch reform of the way they train and care for young recruits, a Government-backed investigation stated today.

Recruits face bullying, harassment, self-harm, injury and early dropout because initial training and care practices are not better managed, organised and controlled.

Policies to tackle the problems are made ineffective because of a "disconnection" between strategy and practice, the independent Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) said.

Recruits are living in barracks that are "little better" than slums and the understanding of quality and diversity is out of step with society.

Inspectors also found a "laxity in safety storing weapons and accounting for ammunition, which poses an unnecessary risk to the safety of recruits".

In the most comprehensive survey yet into the treatment of recruits, the ALI states that the training of servicemen and women of the future is simply not being given the priority it deserves.

It warns that the Armed Forces will suffer because insufficient numbers of high quality personnel will complete their training.

There is also the cost to the public purse of high dropout rates.

David Sherlock, chief inspector of Adult Learning, said: "The armed services have much to be proud of but the risks to young recruits, many of whom are away from home for the first time, are too high.

"These risks are compounded by a complex and bureaucratic system and poor management.

"There is a lack of connection and coherence among the three services, among establishments and sometimes even within establishments."

The ALI probe was commissioned last year by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram in response to the deaths at the Deepcut Army barracks of four young privates between 1995 and 2002.

James Collinson, 17, Geoff Gray, 17, Sean Benton, 20, and Cheryl James, 18, all died from gunshot wounds in unexplained incidents at the Surrey base.

A Surrey Police investigation uncovered a culture of bullying at Deepcut and a failure to learn lessons of the past.

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