Stakeholder Symposium 2024 - Change is Possible

2 Jul 2024

This year’s symposium was opened by the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Mariette Hughes. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the role and work of SCOAF, to present and discuss the SCOAF Annual Report 2023 and offer a forum for discussion and networking.

The event built upon the successes and feedback from last year with a packed half-day programme, including workshops and a panel discussion, as well as presentations from SCOAF personnel and a keynote speaker.

The Ombudsman presented on the Service Complaints System, highlighting the best results on record for the Services to date with 74% of cases closed within 24 weeks. This was achieved despite an increase in Service Complaints of 31%. She also congratulated the Royal Air Force as the first arm of Service to achieve the KPI of 90% of investigations completed within the 24-week target.

Attendees were welcomed from a wide range of stakeholders, including the Services, Service charities, the Ombudsman Association, and other support and complaint resolution organisations. Feedback received from delegates throughout the day indicated that improvements in the system have arisen as a result of an improved level of collaboration, with all parties working together for the same aims. It was noted that complaint management within the Services had improved, access to complaints has improved for all, and there had been “buy-in” at the most senior levels of the Ministry of Defence

SCOAF Stakeholder Symposium 2024

Panellists at the session on the inevitable factors of Service Complaints and how procedures can be improved.

SCOAF’s Chief Operating Officer, Tariq Khan provided an overview of the organisation’s’ successes throughout 2023 and reported outstanding results, including exceeding its’ KPIs and achieving an overall timeliness figure of 100%. This was attributed to the refining and streamlining of processes, consistency of approach and the dedication and enthusiasm of all SCOAF staff.  

The keynote speaker this year, Lieutenant Colonel Susie Hines, spoke about Mental Health in the Military. She recognised the challenges of needing military personnel to have mental toughness but noted excessive stress and pressure can cause long-term psychological injury and encouraged personnel to make people the priority, make time to talk, and remember that looking after our people is a core function of leadership.

Following the presentations, attendees then opted to attend one of two workshop sessions delivered by Mariette Hughes and Tariq Khan. These were designed to offer the opportunity for stakeholders to engage on specific areas of interest, and to enable SCOAF to gather a wide range of insights and contributions. This year’s workshop sessions focused on:

  • The impact of complaints on individuals
  • The potential extended powers of the Ombudsman role

Feedback from these sessions was very positive, engaging with a broad range of knowledge, experience and useful insights. This feedback was recorded and will be reviewed with actions for SCOAF to take forward.

The day concluded with a panel discussion and Q&A led by Mariette Hughes who was joined by the heads of the Service Complaint Teams. This invited questions from the stakeholders and reflected on the Service’s desire to be able to build further on the improvements delivered to date. 

Noting the theme that ‘Change is Possible', the symposium ended with hope from the Ombudsman that in her last year of tenure, she may be able to say that the system is efficient, effective and fair.