What do you do and how long have you been at SCOAF?
I started as Chief Operating Officer at SCOAF in June 2022. I have had a really exciting and enjoyable first nine months in the role, learning lots about a different sector.
As Chief Operating Officer I oversee both the Business and Investigation Teams across the organisation, working closely with the Ombudsman.
What did you do before?
My background is in investigations, having always worked in the Ombudsman and regulatory arena. I started my investigative career at the Legal Ombudsman, moving on to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and then to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales where I headed up the Investigation Team.
How does SCOAF compare and how are you finding it here?
Immediately on taking up my new role at SCOAF, I could see the very different jurisdiction and size of organisation here in comparison to my previous organisations. SCOAF has a different jurisdiction, and the team is smaller, which I have found to bring real benefits. As we make changes and improvements, it is great to be able to get everyone involved relatively easily and make things happen swiftly with clear communication.
I have found everyone to be really welcoming. There is a great culture here at SCOAF which I am looking forward to build and develop further with the staff.
It has been a huge learning curve coming into this sector, having never worked with the Armed Forces. SCOAF’s work is really important, and I can see the hard work that our staff put in to ensure that investigations are carried out at high quality and at pace. I have learnt a lot from our staff, and I am also encouraged by the work of the Service Complaint Teams at each of the Services. I have visited each of them and can see that there is a desire by all to make a difference and to improve the Service Complaints system in a collaborative way, aligning with the values of SCOAF.
What have you been involved in so far?
I have got involved with both sides of SCOAF, the Business and Investigation Teams. The Investigation Team deal with complaints from enquiry through to closure, carrying out our investigations. The Business Team play a big part in supporting and ensuring the tools and systems are in place to effectively investigate.
One of my initial priorities is to observe and review processes internally and to work with staff to look at how we can work better with the resources that we have, while providing an excellent customer experience. This work is well underway, and I am holding regular workshops with staff with different workstreams. If we find something we can resolve or make better quickly, we will implement it straight away, while some other work will take a little longer to do. What is most exciting to me is that with any improvements we make, it means that SCOAF is contributing to making sure the Service Complaints system overall is more effective, efficient and fair.
I have attended Service Complaints conferences at the Services but have also attended the International Conference for Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF) and the Ombudsman Association (OA) Annual Conference. ICOAF was fascinating to see the different jurisdictions and journeys that comparable Armed Forces Ombudsman schemes are on. I am keen to bring my experience from different Ombudsman schemes and share the great learning that is available through the wider OA network. I think there is more we can do to engage with the OA community, and this is one of the things that I will be focusing on in the coming months.
What are your plans looking ahead over the next few months and years?
As I move forward at SCOAF, I am excited to contribute to delivering a better Service Complaints system. This is by working and engaging with each of the Services, but also to make sure that the work of SCOAF is being done in the best way possible.
I want to help lead SCOAF to develop and look at what more can be done to achieve our Strategic Objectives and Business Plan, and to continue being a well performing Ombudsman that all stakeholders have great confidence in. I want to work closely with staff to ensure development of individuals and as an Ombudsman. As part of that organisational development, I am keen to assist with exploring what more SCOAF could do to enhance the Service Complaints system. I am really looking forward to the coming months and years!