Written evidence from Daniels Trust |
1. Daniels Trust was formed in 2005 in responses
to requests for help from parents of soldiers who were experiencing
problems in the Army. From that we endeavour to support the parents
and family and by liaising with the Adjutant Generals office to
resolve the difficulties that have arisen.
2. Members from the Trust in the past have given
evidence at "Blakes Review" and previous Defence Select
Committees "Duty of Care 2005" and the last "Armed
Forces Bill in 2006" from which various recommendations where
made. We were also founder members of Deepcut & Beyond and
the All Party Group on Army Deaths in the last government.
3. One of the recommendations was the appointment
and setting up of the Service Complaints Commissioner.
4. Daniels Trust receives calls from both serving
soldiers and veterans. The calls range from being AWOL, bullying,
dismissal from the army, pensions or how some veterans have never
got their lives back on track since leaving the army.
5. We have met with the Commissioner and speak
to her or her office on regular occasions. If we get a complaint
of bullying, discrimination, harassment from a soldier and we
have had similar complaints in the past form the same regiments
we will call the Commissioner this helps her identify any hot
spots that may occur if she has had similar complaints, we also
recommend that the soldier or their family lodge a formal complaint
through the correct processes ie chain of command however, in
some cases this is not possible, as we have found requests through
chain of command sometimes get stopped before it reaches the correct
6. The setting up of the Commissioner has been
for the better in ensuring the effective handling and fairness
of a complaint. However, we do not feel her remit goes far enough
and that the time it takes for a complaint to be dealt with can
take a considerable time even though it has now been condensed
to three levels instead of five. Some of the cases we have spoken
to Dr Atkins about we have dealt with our selves as we can get
them sorted a lot quicker but have also asked the soldier or their
family to submit a complaint at the end of our process.
We feel that:
7. Dr Atkins should be able to make effective
recommendations in some cases where complaints are being picked
up by the Service as being significantly wrong.
8. Rather than having separate complaints system
for welfare issues it would simplify the systems if there were
only one oversight.
9. Daniels Trust receive complaints from veterans
who have suffered whilst in the Armed Forces and that it has affected
their lives when the have come out. There is nowhere for them
to lodge a complaint as it is not within the three month time
frame to enable them to do so. The Service should be able to look
at these complaints.
10. The recommendation of a Service Complaints
Commissioner was born out of the Blake inquiry and the Duty of
Care which looked at the deaths of Deepcut soldiers. These deaths
were non operational as a long with many others Catterick for
instance and Overseas deaths in non operational countries. So
you would have thought that this would be a conduit for those
families to have their grievances heard. Ironically the parents
of these soldiers and who gave evidence are still failed by the
11. In 2009 Daniels Trust went on a visit to
Catterick with Kevan Jones MP and General Rollo the then Adjutant
General (AG) it was at this visit that the Trust was given a direct
telephone number to the AGs office for any cases of bullying or
where soldiers were AWOL and where the Trust was finding it difficult
to speak to the commanding officers. This has worked extremely
well over the past few years in getting soldiers either back to
their regiments to sort out the problems or in obtaining transfers
from one regiment to another.
12. Since November we have passed nine cases
to the new Harassment and Bullying Helpline which has recently
been set up in the AGs office.
- ¾ Four
cases from the Mercian Regiment,
- ¾ Four
soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment, and
- ¾ One
soldier that was AWOL from his regiment.
13. The four soldiers from the RIR are AWOL in
southern Ireland and have suffered discrimination because they
are Catholic in a mainly protestant regiment.
14. This again is another complaints system within
the Armed Forces outside the jurisdiction of the Service Complaints
15. Some of the complaints the Trust receive
are from parents of young soldier who have enlisted under the
age of 18. I personally feel that the enlistment age of 16 is
too young. They even had to be 17 to enlist in WW1. It was also
a recommendation of the 2005 Select Committee on Duty of Care
to look at the recruitment of under 18s.
16. "Thinking of joining the armed forces.
BEFORE YOU SIGN UP".
17. "Still under 18? If you are under 18
and are genuinely unhappy in the army, you may apply for special
permission to leave and this is normally granted, although it
is at the discretion of the army and is not a legal right. To
take this option you must apply to your commanding officer before
you turn 18. Your CO can delay departure if he or she is unconvinced
that you are permanently unhappy in the army but normally you
will be allowed to leave."
18. Again the above depend on going through chain
of command and is some cases the CO may never receive that request.
19. In particular quite recent a young soldier
that knew he had made a wrong decision went through all legal
process of asking to leave and was denied all requests. He went
AWOL as a lot of them do. In the end out of desperation he had
his friend run over his leg with a car. By the time all this went
to court martial the soldier turned 18. Last December he was sentenced
to 12 months in Colchester for malingering then to be dismissed.
At his appeal the 12 month sentence was squashed and he was dismissed.
This should never have gone that far.
20. Another young soldier that enlisted at 16
was finally dismissed on medical grounds from Catterick after
an horrendous ordeal. He never got his life back on track, he
self harmed his arms were a mess. He was dead before his 21st
birthday of Drug and Alcohol abuse.
21. Another young man aged 16 saw an advert in
the job centre for an armourer but after his basic training was
told he did not have the necessary qualifications for this job
and was allocated the infantry.
22. One young man aged 17 when he joined wanted
to join the Anglian Regiment but after his basic training was
put into the Mercian Regiment and has had a terrible time he is
now 20 and as been AWOL more than he has been with his regiment
because of the treatment he has received in the Regiment. He asked
for transfer on more than one occasion and would have been happy
to transfer to another regiment two years ago and has been refused
even a transfer. He is now in Colchester awaiting court martial
and dismissal. This is one of the cases that we recommended the
parents and the soldier concerned to submit to Dr Atkins.
23. These are just a few of the cases whose parents
have contacted us. Under 18s have to be signed into the armed
forces by their parents or next of kin and that their engagement
doesn't start until there 18th birthday so if their CO refuses
to let them leave they will be 22 before this is possible.
24. The young people who go in under 18 that
we are aware of usually have no or very poor qualifications so
the only option opened to them is logistics or Infantry as a front
line soldier once they reach 18. Over a third of under 18s are
in the infantry. The average reading age at Catterick at one time
was 11. Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, 24% of British
fatalities have been aged 18 to 21. Many of them will have enlisted
25. Some argue that they have opportunities of
furthering their education if enlisting under 18 continues surely
this should be mandatory especially with the school leaving age
being raised to 18 and the Armed Forces being seen as a training
26. Some of the comments that parents make to
us of under 18s is that "he didn't do very well at school",
"the army was his last resort", "he is dyslexic".
27. Parents sign their children in to the army
expecting them to uphold a duty of care. Where the army fails
on this surely it should not be just a right to ask for special
permission to leave but a right to leave if under 18 especially
if these two years do not count towards Service and when there
have been cases of bullying. Also with the parent giving permission
for them to join the armed forces why should it be the COs decision
whether they can leave or not surely the parent that signed them
in should be able to rescind their permission if they feel that
the army have failed and be able to sign them out. In civilian
life they are still classed as children until the age of 18.
28. There is a very strong case against enlistment
of under 18s. We are the only country in Europe to do so and have
ratified the treaty on the use of child soldiers in 2003 but retain
the right of enlistment.
14 February 2011