THE CHILDREN’S COMMISSIONER OF WALES is calling on the army to stop recruiting 16 and 17 year olds. According to Sally Holland, it is an issue of “human rights and children’s rights” – a suggestion which has been rebuked by Welsh Conservative politicians.

The Commissioner’s Office is one of twenty human rights bodies that has sent a letter to the UK Government urging them to reconsider the recruitment system.

The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe and within NATO that recruits 16-year-olds.

The British Army said they have comprehensive mental health support and treatment, while the Defence

Secretary recently said that under-eighteen recruitment is not a legal issue. He added that protecting all recruits, including those who are under 18, is a priority.

Senedd Conservatives have countered the call to cease recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Social Justice Minister Mark Isherwood MS said: “Although I believe the Commissioner’s view is sincere and this is an issue many will wrestle with, being able to join the Army at 16 or 17 years-old provides advantages for recruits who will also benefit from extra safeguards established to protect the welfare of young personnel.

“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.

“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.”