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My midterm update: What we have achieved so far and the work still to come

As the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, I am appointed by the Crown for a single term of 5 years. Having started the role in January 2016, this month marks the halfway point in my term. In my blog this month, I reflect on what we have achieved so far and what I hope to achieve before the end of my term.

It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first blog as Ombudsman. It was a reflection on the first 30 days of our new office and what I hoped to achieve in that first year. Yet almost suddenly, here I find myself halfway through my 5 year appointment.

While the time has gone quickly, a lot has been achieved and it is a good juncture to stop and take stock. My office and the reformed Service complaints are still in their early stages of development however, they are going from strength to strength.

Since 1 January 2016 we have:

  • Handled over 2,000 enquiries
  • Made over 400 referrals
  • Received over 700 applications for investigation
  • Made 22 recommendations for improvement to the Service complaints system by way of my Annual Reports

But what we have achieved is more than what can be measured in numbers.

Through the working relationships we have established and our independent and impartial investigations and oversight, we are working to help build a better Service complaints system for all members of the UK Armed Forces.

There is still work to be done, which is to be expected, but everyone is committed to doing it.

In the final 2.5yrs of my appointment as Service Complaints Ombudsman, I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve.

First and foremost, I want to ensure that my office has all of the resources it needs to conduct our work efficiently, and against the time targets we have set. This includes work that we will continue to do internally, refining and improving our processes based on feedback and experience. It is essential that we have all of the staff and infrastructure required to deliver a quality service.

I want to continue to raise awareness of my role and what my office can do for Service personnel.  The Armed Forces Continuous Attitudes Survey has shown for the last two years that roughly 69% of personnel tri-Service know, at least to some extent, about what my office can do if they are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination. However, it concerns me that 14% report not knowing and a further 18% report never having heard of my office[1].

We need to get the percentage of personnel who know about our office as close to 100 as possible.  We will be working hard to change this through greater advertising and new communications. Even if they never need to use my office, it is important that all Service personnel know who we are and what we do. Raising awareness of our office is an important part of improving confidence in the system as a whole.

And finally, I want to ensure that through the decisions made and actions taken by my office, that I leave a legacy of unwavering commitment to helping deliver a Service complaints system that is efficient, effective and fair for all Service personnel.

[1] I recognise that these percentages add up to 101%, however it is to do with decimal rounding.  As the numbers are taken directly from AFCAS 18, it would not be appropriate for me to try and round them in any way to get the numbers to come to 100%.