Alcohol in the armed forces
Today the BBC has reported claims by a psychiatrist that the government’s strategy for combating alcohol abuse in the military is ineffective.
Drinking alcohol is a societal norm and the MOD believes it plays a part in social activities within the armed forces, a view which is supported by the government.
The culture in the military has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. For example the number of unit bars has reduced, opening hours are restricted, extensive policy and guidance for commanders has been introduced, and the MOD provides education on the dangers of misuse to help the armed forces make personal informed decisions.
Attitudes have changed towards excessive alcohol consumption but, as within wider society, there is no quick fix to reduce alcohol misuse in the armed forces. Alcohol misuse is being actively addressed though a package of measures, including education, training, treatment and discipline and a far harder line is taken on those who misuse alcohol. The MOD has rigorous processes in place to discipline personnel who make poor choices regarding alcohol consumption, and treatment mechanisms in place for those with genuine alcohol problems.
Significant advances have been made in altering the culture and reducing alcohol misuse, however there is still more that can be achieved. Last summer a working group was launched to identify what more can be done do to tackle alcohol misuse in the armed forces.
There is widespread coverage across the papers this morning of the confirmation from Public Health England that a second British military medic had been flown back to the UK for supervision after potentially coming into contact with a needle infected with the Ebola virus.
Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Francois said:
This is entirely a precautionary measure and our priority is the wellbeing of the individual involved. Their family has been informed and will receive all possible support from the government. Although we have had 2 similar incidents within a short space of time both appear to be unrelated. Our personnel receive the highest standard of training and briefing prior to deployment, including on the use of the specialised Ebola Personal Protective Equipment.
Military personnel police cautions
The Times today reports on the Service Complaints Bill Debate in the House yesterday evening in which Veterans Minister Anna Soubry announced that the 1,500 soldiers who received unfair punishments from the Army after being given police cautions will be allowed to appeal.
The full debate is available online here.
Military equipment production
The Sun this morning follows up from the weekend’s story that the MOD has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Justice which will see prison inmates manufacturing military equipment such as sandbags, fence posts and jacks. The story claims that the MOD has entered into the deal to save around £500,000 over the course of the 6-month trial period.
Minister for Defence Equipment, Support & Technology Philip Dunne visited HMP Coldingley prison last week and said:
I was pleased to visit HMP Coldingley prison today to see the workshops in action and speak to the prison workforce supporting our armed forces. During times of austerity we’re always looking at ways to be more efficient and this is a fantastic initiative. The pilot projects have been very successful, so signing the agreement here today is a great step in widening the benefits for both departments and society as it will offer prisoners more opportunities to develop skills and prepare for employment when released.
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