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September 2016 – Statistics and the Service Complaints Ombudsman

Statistics Annual Report 2015

A key part of my role as the Service Complaints Ombudsman is to provide oversight of the Service complaints (SC) system in order to assess how efficient, effective and fair the process is. At the crux of this is a need for reliable, accurate and timely evidence.  This blog entry will be looking at how we use statistics to underpin all of our work and steps we are taking to ensure this evidence is as robust as it can be.

Since the establishment of the Service Complaints Commissioner in 2008, statistics have been a key component of the reporting of the office. As the office has developed and transitioned to a Service Complaints Ombudsman (SCO), our need for robust data and an understanding of how to better use it has increased.

Following the appointment of a dedicated statistician in early 2015 we’ve made great strides in improving the way we treat statistics, putting evidence at the centre of our decision making and I’m more confident than ever in the evidence we’re using.

Currently we are collecting information on many aspects of the SC process, including:

  • Contacts to the SCO, this helps identify trends and flag up problem areas;
  • Outcomes of contacts (e.g. referrals and investigations);
  • Feedback from our users to ensure we’re providing the best service we can;
  • Casework levels across the entire SC system;
  • Cases which are open beyond the 24-week target.

We monitor and report regularly on trends within the SCO and the wider SC system as a whole. Our Quarterly Statistical Factsheets help provide a snapshot of activity and increase the relevance of the evidence we use, both to hold the Services to account and to inform and engage the public. We are continuously looking to improve the circulation of our data and have worked hard to develop our reports to make them more easily understood.

As well as our own data collections, we are heavy users of the statistics that the Ministry of Defence statistics teams publish. Where possible my statistics team is proactively working to ensure that my office are fully up to date with the latest trends and findings across the wider defence backdrop –  be it personnel’s experience of bullying and harassment , Service families experience of Service Accommodation  or trends in recruitment or retention.

Not only does this work broaden our understanding of what is happening across MOD, it provides key insight into what is happening for Service personnel. This insight is crucial in trying to fill gaps in our understanding, adding context that the statistics alone cannot provide – a key part of understanding your data is understanding its limitations!

To this end, I have greatly welcomed the collaborative approach of the Services and the MOD in working with our statistics team to improve understanding of the statistics, share best practice and encourage a joined-up approach across the SC system – this will enable more resource to be put to use where it really matters, helping complainants and respondents.

We are continuing to drive improvements in the way statistics are used across the SC process and work is underway  to establish the SCO as an example of good statistical practice.

We are making more use of statistics than ever before in evidencing our policies, holding the Services to account and working to ensure that awareness of our work is high and information is available. I look forward to seeing us push on and continue to develop our evidence base.