22nd July 2020

Environment MoD announces measures to tackle ‘unacceptable’ discrimination

Environment MoD announces measures to tackle ‘unacceptable’ discrimination


environment British soldiers marching in the rainImage copyright
PA Media

The Ministry of Defence has announced a raft of measures to tackle “unacceptable levels” of bullying and discrimination in the armed forces.

These include setting up a 24-hour helpline staffed by counsellors outside the chain of command.

Personnel will also undergo training to ensure they have the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour.

It comes after Britain’s most senior military officer said “laddish behaviour” had to be stamped out.

Gen Sir Nick Carter, the chief of the defence staff, said it was driving out talented female and ethnic minority personnel as he told MPs this week the culture within the armed forces was worrying and said the pace of change was unacceptable.

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Andrew Parsons/10 Downing St

Figures published by the independent Service Complaints Ombudsman show that women and black, Asian and other ethnic minority ethnic (BAME) personnel are more likely to complain about bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Last year, 23% of complaints about discrimination were made by women even though they make up just 12% of the regular armed forces.

BAME personnel also made a disproportionate number of complaints. They make up 8% of the regular armed forces but lodged 11% of complaints about bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has already described the record of the armed forces on diversity as woeful. Of the top 150 military officers only three are women.

Announcing the new measures Mr Wallace said: “There is simply no place for bullying or harassment in our armed forces and I am determined to stamp this out.

“Our anti-bullying helpline is an important next step and I will continue to seek the change in behaviour we need to see across defence.”

Defence minister Johnny Mercer said the helpline would “allow personnel to report incidents in a safe and secure environment” and would ensure that concerns were dealt with quickly and professionally.

The MoD said it would also conduct a wider review of its anti-bullying measures to ensure progress is being made.

Inoke Momonakaya, a Fijian soldier, served with the 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment from 2005-2012, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In January 2019 he was awarded £490,000 from the MoD for racial discrimination.

He told BBC Three’s Racism in the Ranks documentary last month that he and fellow Fijian soldiers were ordered to dress as Taliban insurgents for an Army training video, with white soldiers playing friendly forces.

White soldiers also wrote his name on a black troll doll, which a senior officer displayed in his office, which he said made him feel “like a second-class soldier”.

Asked about his reaction to the new measures, such as the 24-hour hotline, Mr Momonakaya, who lives in in the town of Kirkham, in Lancashire, said he was “happy” because it showed the MoD is “taking steps” against racism and things were going in a “positive direction”.

He welcomed the helpline being private and outside the chain of command, but questioned “what further steps” would be taken once a person has made a phone call and how the issue might be dealt with afterwards.

He said that, as well as racism, sexual harassment and bullying also still go on in the Army, and that all soldiers should be educated about these issues so they can be dealt with.

The new measures are being introduced one year after the publication of a report by the current head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshall Mike Wigston, which found a significant number within the armed forces had experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination, but had felt unwilling or unable to report it.

He also highlighted a perception among some that the armed forces were led by a “pack of white middle-aged men”.


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