Who are the Enquiries and Referrals Team and what do they do?
As Enquiries and Referrals Officers, we are the operational frontline of the office of the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF). When you first contact our office, you will likely speak and correspond with us! We are a small team of two, who act as the first point of contact for anyone seeking information in the form of an enquiry, or who are seeking to submit an application to SCOAF. We are supported by the Investigations Team.
Our role requires us to do a range of tasks such as responding to enquiries, monitoring incoming calls, process applications, and sending referrals. But the working day can vary a great deal, and it can change rapidly from quiet to very busy in a moment, especially if we receive a surge in contacts. As we deal with a wide range of enquiries, we have to ready to think on our feet, work at pace, and have a good knowledge of the Ombudsman’s powers and the Service Complaints system.
One of the first things we do each day is to check and read all new correspondence received, whether by post; email or phone. We log all contacts and allocate a SCOAF reference before we break to have a short daily meeting to plan out the work for the day.
Part of what we do is to listen and understand the enquiry that is brought to us. These enquiries are never the same – some are simple, and others can be more complex – but the subject matters to the person who is contacting us, which is equally important to us. Therefore, we try to provide a timely reply with information that is clear and easy to understand. If we do not understand, we will always ask! Where appropriate, we will explain the Ombudsman’s powers, and inform which powers are open based on the information that is provided. Sometimes we may need to manage people’s exceptions and explain what we can and can’t do, like provide advice, but we will always explain the reasons why.
We monitor the phone line daily and aim to respond to any voicemail messages within two working days. We receive calls from Serving personnel and veterans to family members who are worried about their loved ones. We even receive calls from support organisations, solicitors, and the public. Sometimes these calls are not within the Ombudsman’s powers, but we will provide information if we can or signpost to other agencies that may be of help.
One of our main jobs is to ensure all correspondence and applications received are dealt with within a timely manner. When we receive applications requesting either a referral or an investigation. The first step we do is to check if the application is complete. This means we look for consent, any missing information, and if required, that all the correct documentation have been provided. As Enquiry and Referrals Officers, we take no view on the information that been provided in an application, our job is to simply write a letter to the Single Services requesting for a referral to be made, or to pass applications on to the Head of Investigations to request an investigation.
We hope this has given you an idea of the work that we do. If you ever need to contact us, you can do this by phone or email, and we will be more than welcome to speak with you.