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Armed Forces Recruits and Trainees

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

Today I welcome publication of the first report by Ofsted on the quality of welfare and duty of care for recruits and trainees in the armed forces. Following up on the work previously undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate, Ofsted has been engaged in inspecting the recruit journey from armed forces recruitment and careers offices through the selection process and into training.

Having implemented a number of policy and process changes designed to improve the training environment and the support provided to individuals and to reduce the risk to recruits and trainees, the armed forces are committed to a programme of continuous improvement which is supported by external inspection. This report, the first by Ofsted, draws on the evidence gathered by inspectors over a 15-month period of visits. It includes judgements on the provision of welfare and duty of care; on the capacity to improve; and on how well the armed forces are undertaking self-assessment activity. Self-assessment is a relatively new concept for much of the armed forces and, while the majority of units visited are progressing well, there remains more work to be done.

I am pleased that Ofsted concludes the overall effectiveness of the welfare and duty of care provision for recruits and trainees is ‘Satisfactory’. The report is largely positive and shows progress on a wide range of issues. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is further room for development in a number of areas in terms of the pace of improvement and the application of consistent practice. We should not be surprised that the pressures of conducting challenging and sustained operations at a level of intensity and commitment we have not experienced for some time are manifest in some of our training establishments. We are not complacent, however, and remain committed to continuing to improve the way in which our recruits are trained.

The initial training environment is dynamic and we must be sure that the impact of change is fully understood, which is why we will continue to place emphasis on self- assessment. Ofsted make a number of recommendations which, together with the findings from internal audit work, will feed into the overall continuous improvement programme.

I have today placed copies of the report: “The quality of welfare and duty of care for recruits and trainees in the Armed Forces”, in the Library of the House.

External inspection provides the armed forces with the opportunity to consider good practice from outside of the Ministry of Defence and I am grateful to the Chief Inspector Ofsted for this report and the contribution it makes to ensure that the care and welfare of recruits and trainees in the armed forces continues to improve.