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COMMENT: Recruitment And Retention To 'Blame' For Military Staffing Shortfall

Ahmed Al-Nahhas, a Military Lawyer says retention and recruitment are to 'blame' for staffing shortages in the Armed Forces...

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By Ahmed Al-Nahhas, Partner in the Military Claims Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp

The National Audit Office has released a report highlighting how the Armed Forces is short of more than 8,000 military personnel, the biggest deficit in a decade, with retention and recruitment of troops being blamed as the key cause in many quarters.

The report also identifies specialist areas that are most affected by the shortfall, including intelligence, engineering and pilots.

In fact, we know that recruitment within the services was 24% less than the target in 2016-17.

But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has spent £664 million on recruitment in the past five years.

The reality is, the military has been facing a recruitment and retention crisis for some time.

I suspect that this is the beginning of a far bigger problem, with the long-term prognosis looking bleak.

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So why are we failing to recruit and retain service personnel?

We know that the military has seen historic cuts in numbers, job satisfaction has fallen and benefits have been slashed.

According to figures released in 2017, 58% of service personnel are either ‘neutral’ or ‘unsatisfied’ with service life in general.

This does not bode well, and any workforce which is not happy invariably ends up looking elsewhere.

There are also problems well known in the public sphere which may influence potential recruits, for example, the horrendous levels of harassment in the Army; research showed in 2015 that 4 out of 10 women in the service had experienced unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature.

There are many high profile stories in the press, such as that of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, which would cause any potential recruit real concern.

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There are also many concerns about the welfare of veterans.

Service personnel are much more likely to suffer mental health disorders than civilian.

Perhaps not surprising, given the trauma that they endure - but the figures are worrying.

There was a 90% increase in medical discharges relating to mental health over the period 2012 to 2017.

Many military charities, as well as the NHS, have been struggling to find the resources to tackle the problem.

If we combine these statistics with the fact that specially trained military personnel are often able to earn far more in the private sector, then I’m not surprised that potential recruits are being put off applying for a career in the military and that those who are serving are deciding against serving a full career.

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