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What can’t I make a Service Complaint about?

The Service Complaints system is a workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces. In broad terms, if a Service person has been wronged in their Service life, while they were subject to Service law, they can make a Service complaint. But there are limits to what can be the subject of a Service Complaint.

Sometimes, a Service Complaint can’t be made about an issue because the person has the right to come to the Ombudsman instead. For example, when someone doesn’t agree with a decision that their Service Complaint or appeal is inadmissible. It also happens when someone thinks there has been undue delay in the handling of their Service Complaint.

But, other complaints processes exist alongside the Service Complaints system. Although the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces does not have oversight of those processes, we often signpost people to them.

Below are some of the most common issues that fall outside of the Service Complaints system.

Pre-2008 issues




If an issue occurred before 2008, it can’t be the basis of a Service Complaint under the new system. The reason for this is that a Service person not only has to be wronged in their Service life, but it also has to happen while the person is subject to Service law.

Service law only commenced in 2008. Before this, personnel were subject to the laws of the individual Services. These were: Army Act 1955, Air Force Act 1955 and the Navy Discipline Act 1957.

The amended legislation gave personnel until the 31 December 2015 to make a Service Complaint about an issue that happened before 2008. Current or former Service personnel can still potentially raise an old complaint, but if and how will depend on the subject matter and when the issue occurred.



Criminal offences



The criminal justice system, whether military or civilian, is responsible for the investigation and adjudication of criminal offences. These are not issues that the Service Complaints system can handle.

If a Service person is the victim of a criminal act, for example, assault, sexual assault or robbery, this needs to be reported to the appropriate authorities.

While there may be issues related to the offence that could be the subject of a Service Complaint, the crime itself cannot.

Special-to-Type matters



Many other procedures exist to resolve certain types of complaints. These are known as ‘Special-to-Type’ or STT.

Examples of these include:

  • Housing complaints. A review panel established by DIO and housing contractors decides these types of matters in the first instance.
  • Pay and allowances. The Pay and Allowances Casework and Complaints Cell (PACCC) within the Joint Personnel Administration Centres look at these complaints.

These are just two examples, but there are many more. In some instances, once the STT process is exhausted, a Service Complaint can be made. But this will depend on what the issue is.

It might seem confusing to have so many different processes. However, different types of complaints require different skillsets and resources to resolve.

JSP 831 provides detailed guidance about what can and can’t be the subject of a Service Complaint and provides a comprehensive list of excluded matters. If you still aren’t sure whether you can make a Service Complaint about a particular issue, speak to your CO or EDA for more advice.

More information about general MOD complaints procedures can be found on gov.uk