Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces Annual Report 2019 published

The 2019 Annual Report of the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF) was laid in Parliament on Tuesday 12 May.

For the fourth year, the Ombudsman found that, despite continued improvements, the system is still not efficient, effective or fair. While the system is closer to achieving that aim than it ever has been in the past, the Ombudsman is still concerned about a number of issues, including the time taken to resolve complaints; the negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing; and the continued lack of confidence in the system across the Armed Forces.

In 2019:

·        766 Service complaints were deemed admissible across the Armed Forces

·        The 3 largest areas of complaint concerned: career management (37%), bullying, harassment and discrimination (25%), and, pay, pensions and allowances (15%)

·        SCOAF logged 754 contacts, made 144 referrals on behalf of current or former Service personnel and received 322 applications requesting an investigation.

·        82% of applications requesting an investigation were accepted by SCOAF

·        50% of all SCOAF investigations found in favour of the complainant: review of admissibility decisions 42%; undue delay 53%; substance 68%; and, maladministration 51%

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Nicola Williams, said:

The reformed Service Complaints system still needs fundamental structural changes to ensure that Armed Forces personnel have the confidence to raise a formal complaint, in a system that operates efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible. Currently, I am concerned that personnel are dissatisfied with the length of time taken to resolve a complaint; causing undue delay, including my office; which is having a significant impact on complainants’ wellbeing and mental health.  Further work in this area is needed to address these issues, and with the support of the Ministry of Defence and the single Services, I am confident that we can build a better system for all Service personnel.

Contact the SCOAF press office:

Beatrice Gaisey, Communications Manager – | 020 7877 3438 (number is diverted)

1.    The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces provides independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system – the internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces. The Ombudsman is required to report to Parliament annually on the work of her office and to make an assessment as to whether the Service complaints system is efficient, effective and fair.

2.    The Ombudsman has the power to:

·        Help current and former Service personnel access the Service complaints system by referring their intention to make a Service complaint to their chain of command

·        Review decisions made by the chain of command that an initial complaint or request for appeal are not eligible

·        Investigate:

–       Allegations of undue delay in the handling of an ongoing Service complaint or Service matter

–       The substance (merits) and/or alleged maladministration in the handling of, a Service complaint that has been finalised in the internal system

3.    Nicola Williams was appointed as the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces on 1 January 2016. This followed previous roles including Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Complaints Commissioner of the Cayman Islands, Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Board Member of the Police Complaints Authority as well as many years as a Barrister in private practice. Since 2009, Ms Williams has also been a part-time Crown Court Judge sitting on the London and South Eastern Circuit.

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