Your responsibilities as a complainant

28 Feb 2019

We often talk about the responsibilities of our office and the Services have to ensure the complaints system works properly. But, did you know that complainants also have responsibilities?

We often talk about the responsibilities of our office and the Services have to ensure the complaints system works properly. But, did you know that complainants also have responsibilities? 

It is the right of every member of the Armed Forces to make a Service complaint if they believe they have been wronged in their Service life. It is also their right to come to our office if they want the Ombudsman to use her powers of investigation. However, those rights come with responsibilities that need to be met. This helps the process run smoothly and more efficiently.

Some of those responsibilities are:

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Know the time limits

There are time limits for:




Making a Service complaint Within 3 months of the date of the alleged wrong (longer if it is something that could go to an Employment Tribunal)
Asking for a review of an admissibility decision Within 4 weeks and 2 days of the date the decision is emailed or posted
Asking for an investigation into the substance (merits) or alleged maladministration in the handling of a Service complaint Within 6 weeks and 2 days of the date the decision is emailed or posted


The time limits are set down in legislation and are publicised by our office, MOD and the single Services. It is your responsibility to make your complaint or application within those time limits.

The amount of time allowed covers the time it might take to consider what you want to do and to complete the necessary paperwork, while still carrying on with your work and the rest of your life. It won’t take you 3 months to complete an Annex F, or 6 weeks to complete one of our applications, so the time limits shouldn’t be too restrictive.

Of course, there will be times when it isn’t possible for someone to meet the time limits. This is why late complaints and applications can be accepted. However, these are exceptions and there need to be strong reasons for it to be just and equitable to accept a matter out of time.

Time limits are put in place not to discourage people from complaining, but to give fairness and certainty to the system.


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 Provide the information requested



Whether it is an Annex F, one of our application forms, or a request at a later stage of the process – if you have been asked for information, you need to provide it.

Using our forms as an example, it might look like we are asking for a lot of information, but it is all necessary. Every tick box we ask you to complete, the question we ask you to answer and document we ask you to attach is something we need so that we can log your application and progress your matter.

When something is missing, this can cause delays or create confusion about what you are asking the Ombudsman to do and why.

It is also important to limit the information provided to what has been requested. While you might think it is helpful to send in everything you have, this can actually slow things down. If you have extra information that you want us to see, but which we haven’t asked for, don’t send it in – tell us about it. E.g. “I also have an A4 binder of correspondence on this issue that might be helpful”. We will then be aware of it and can ask you to send it in if it is something that is needed.

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 Update your details if they change



If you move, change your email address or phone number – you need to inform the person who is handling your complaint.

This ensures that documents aren’t sent to the wrong place and you can be kept updated on the progress of your complaint.


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Make your needs known



One size does not fit all. If you need adjustments made to the process because you have a disability or health condition, or another legitimate reason, you need to let the person handling your complaint know.

The earlier you raise these issues, the better as it helps to get things right from the start of the process. If your needs change during the process, you should let someone know as soon as possible.

If you want some more information on this topic, read our blog on Reasonable Adjustment.


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 If you aren't sure, ask!



If you aren’t sure how to make a complaint, ask for information.

If you don’t understand the Ombudsman’s powers and processes, contact us and we can explain it.

If you aren’t sure what is happening with your complaint or why there has been a delay, ask for information.

Don’t make assumptions or spend time worrying unnecessarily – just ask someone. You will often find that this relieves anxiety and helps to avoid unnecessary delays.

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Take ownership of your complaint



Each and every one of the responsibilities listed above is about taking ownership of your complaint – the biggest responsibility of all.

You have the right to make a complaint, but you still have a part of play after you submit your Annex F or application to the Ombudsman.

Taking ownership of your complaint means you need to:

  • Engage with the process at all stages
  • Act in good faith – including providing truthful information and documents that have not been tampered with
  • Make all reasonable efforts to meet deadlines

Sometimes people will need or want assistance in order to take ownership of their complaint. This could include a family member, support worker or even a legal representative that might assist with correspondence or managing the process. But it is important that you do as much as you can – it is your complaint.

There are a lot of other responsibilities you have when you make a complaint, but those above are the key ones. If you meet these responsibilities you can be assured that you are playing your part in the process and helping your complaint to be handled efficiently.

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