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My first three months as the Ombudsman

Mariette Hughes, Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces
Mariette Hughes, Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces

I officially took up my post on 8 February, and I can hardly believe we are already two months on from that point. The end of the financial year is now upon us – a time when many organisations are looking to the future, and making plans for what the coming months will bring. SCOAF is no different, and it felt like a good point for me to reflect on my first few months in post and what the future will hold.

Prior to taking this role, my predecessor Nicola Williams told me that I would be inheriting a team of which I could be justifiably proud – and my experience to date supports this assessment completely. I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend time speaking to each member of SCOAF individually, and I have been absolutely struck by the dedication and enthusiasm which is rife across the organisation. The team have proved themselves to be unfailingly helpful, knowledgeable and welcoming – something which is very much appreciated given the current circumstances.

It has certainly been strange to change role, organisation and sector – all whilst working remotely in the same location! As we move towards a return to normality and the gradual easing of restrictions, I am very much looking forward to being able to meet my team face to face rather than through a screen.

My first two months in role have been fast paced and varied. I have had introductory meetings with a number of key personnel from across the Services and the wider stakeholder landscape.  These meetings have been hugely valuable in understanding some of the issues facing the Service Complaints system, and also in understanding the nature of interactions with this office, and how we might work together in the future towards a common goal.

Within SCOAF, work is underway to prepare the Annual Report for publication. This report covers the work completed in Nicola’s fifth and final year as the Ombudsman, and marks the starting point for my tenure. I look forward to being able to share the findings and discussing these in detail with the Services and wider stakeholders.

We are also in the process of finalising our new Strategic Objectives. These are being built on the basis of a question that was asked of me during my pre-appointment hearing – what does success look like? What will I want to have achieved at the end of my tenure? For me, this will focus on building on the excellent work done so far, and taking the next step to ensure we are delivering our mission and vision.

Key themes within our plans for the coming years will be a renewed focus on our own performance, and ensuring SCOAF is operating as well as it possibly can, along with an increased emphasis on sharing insights, data and learning from our investigations. We will also be looking to maximize engagements with other departments on potential changes to the Service Complaints & Justice system as a whole.

I do not underestimate the scale of the challenges the future may hold – however I am hugely excited by the opportunities for making a real difference in pursuit of our mission – that all service personnel have access to, and confidence in, a Service Complaints systems that is efficient, effective and fair.

Further details on the new Strategic Objectives will be published later in the year via SCOAF’s 2021-22 Business Plan.