September 2016 – Meet our Referrals and Enquiries Team
Have you ever wondered what happens when you make contact with the Ombudsman’s office? Who deals with your enquiry? What do they need to know? How long will it take? Well never fear, our Referrals and Enquiries Team is taking over the Ombudsman’s blog to tell you all about what they do!
Hi! We are the Referrals and Enquiries Team and we are the frontline of the Office of the Service Complaints Ombudsman. We are a small team of 3 who are the first point of contact for anyone making an application to the Ombudsman or simply seeking more information about Service complaints. It is our job to process all applications that are received in our office and any applications for referrals are dealt with exclusively by our team.
As you can imagine, our days are exceptionally busy. So far this year we have dealt with more cases than we did in the whole of last year. We are happy to help as much as we can, but there are some things we need you to know about so that the process runs more smoothly for you.
We can’t give advice
A lot of the enquiries we get are from people who want us to tell them whether or not they should make a complaint. We can give information about the Service complaints process and the Ombudsman’s powers and processes, but we can’t tell you what you should do.
If you feel you have been wronged in your Service life you have the right to make a complaint. You are the only person who can decide to make a complaint – no one else can do that for you.
Just making contact doesn’t stop the clock
There are strict time limits for a lot of what our office does. Just sending an email or making a phone call won’t make your application “in time”. For our internal processes the clock only stops when we receive your completed application.
If you are asking the Ombudsman to refer your intention to make a Service complaint to your chain of command, it is important to know that neither contacting our office or the Ombudsman making a referral will stop the clock on the time limit for making a Service complaint. The time limit, usually 3 months, runs from the date of the wrong (or the date you discovered you were wronged). If you are coming close to that time we recommend you submit your complaint in writing (signed and dated) to your chain of command without delay. If you make a complaint directly to your chain of command the Ombudsman won’t then be able to make a referral as there is nothing to refer. However you can come back to our office at a later point if you want her to use her powers of investigation.
We can’t process your application unless it is complete
Our applications have been designed so that we get all of the information we need to process your application – no more, no less! Please take time to read through the application form and guidance. This will help you to understand what we need to know and why.
Only attach the documents we have asked for on the application. This is what we need to process your application. Sending more than that will only slow the process down and if we don’t need it we will have to return it to you or destroy it. If we need more information we will let you know.
Please make sure you sign your application form. This is your consent for our office to take the action requested. If you are signing electronically you will need to send the form from your personal or work role email account in order for the consent to be valid.
Once we have a completed application we can process it. The timescales for referral or investigation will run from this date.
If you have any suggestions to improve our forms let us know and we will pass this on to our Communications Team.
We aren’t a 24hr service
Although we deal with some very sensitive issues we are not a crisis service. This means that our office isn’t staffed 24hrs a day and with only 3 people in the team it can take up to 48hrs to get back to you.
Our office is open Mon-Fri and there is someone available to answer the phone between 9am-4pm. We understand that these times aren’t always suitable, that is why we accept enquiries and application by email and post. If there is something you need to talk about, let us know the best times (within reason!) to contact you and we will do everything we can to call you back at that time.
We will treat you with respect and ask that you return the favour
We understand that by the time people contact the Ombudsman they are likely to have been through a great deal of stress and that the subject of many complaints are very upsetting.
We are here to help, but it is important that you understand there are limits to what the Ombudsman can do. We can’t change that. Wherever we can do more, we will. When we can’t it isn’t because we don’t want to – please don’t get angry with us or threaten us as a result.
We will always treat you with respect and simply ask that you return the favour.
If you ever need to contact us you can:
Phone – 020 7877 3450
Write – SCO PO Box 72252, London SW1P 9ZZ
If you get in touch we will be happy to help in any way that we can.