What can the Ombudsman do for me?

The Ombudsman can

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The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces provides independent and impartial oversight of the Service Complaints system. The Ombudsman has the power to:

Help Service personnel access the Service Complaints system

The Service Complaints system is an internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces. Personnel can make a Service Complaint if:

  • They believe they were wronged in a matter relating to their Service life.
  • The wrong happened while they were subject to Service Law.

In most cases personnel will go to their Service Secretariat Central Admissibility Team (CAT) directly to make a Service complaint.

If you would not like to approach the CAT, you can ask the Ombudsman to make a Referral. This will inform the CAT of your intention to make a Service Complaint. 

No reason needs be given for going to the Ombudsman instead of the Service Secretariat Central Admissibility Team (CAT) in the first instance.

Apply for a Referral


The Ombudsman has the power to:

  1. Review decisions to not accept a complaint or appeal for investigation (Admissibility Decisions)
  2. Investigate allegations of Undue Delay.
  3. Investigate allegations of Maladministration in a Service Complaint that has been finally determined
  4. Investigate the Substance (merits) of a Service Complaint that has been finally determined

The Ombudsman is not a second level of appeal and does not accept all Substance (merits) and Maladministration cases for investigation. The role of the Ombudsman is to consider whether the investigation of a Service complaint was reasonable. That means whether the:

  • Correct process was followed
  • The decision reached was reasonable, fair, proportionate and justified based on the evidence available

Any new applications for an investigation into alleged Maladministration and/or the Substance of a Service Complaint will be assessed prior to being accepted. If your application is not accepted, because it is out of time or the Ombudsman is unable to make a material difference to the outcome, you will be informed of this and the reasons for that decision.

Apply for a Review of an Admissibility Decision

Apply for an Investigation of Undue Delay

Apply for an Investigation into Substance and/or Maladministration

Report to Parliament

The Ombudsman oversees the Service Complaints process. This means they must report to the Secretary of State of Defence each year on:

  • How the Service complaints system is operating,
  • The work undertaken by the Ombudsman, and
  • Any other issues the Ombudsman believes it is appropriate to report on.

See our Annual Reports

The Ombudsman cannot

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The jurisdiction of the Ombudsman is limited to the functions outlined above. The Ombudsman cannot:

Deal with enquiries or complaints that fall outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction

This includes complaints from members of the public, MOD Civil Servants or family members of Service personnel.

Monitor ongoing Service Complaints or intervene in the handling of ongoing complaints

The only exception to this is when the Ombudsman investigates potential Undue Delay.

Investigate alleged Maladministration before a complaint is determined

The service complaint must be finally determined beforehand.

Investigate Substance before a complaint is determined

The service complaint must be finally determined beforehand.

Accept an application made by a third party e.g. a family member or friend

The only exception to this is where the third party has the legal power to act on behalf of the Service person.