'Still Work To Be Done' On Military Complaints System

Issues over career management and bullying, harassment and discrimination accounted for 58% of complaints in 2018.

A report into the Armed Forces complaint system has concluded the system is "not efficient, effective or fair" and that improvement is needed.

The 2018 Annual Report of the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF) was released on Thursday.

It found that for the second year, there have been "continued improvements" but concerns remains around a number of issues.

Issues included the lack of confidence in the system across the Armed Forces and the time taken to resolve complaints.

Anonymous Special Forces Support Group
The report found the complaints system is not efficient, fair or effective (Picture: MOD).

The report found that in 2018: 

  • 763 Service complaints were investigated across the Armed Forces
  • The three largest areas of complaint concerned: career management (which formed 33% of complaints), bullying, harassment and discrimination (25%), and pay, pensions and allowances (15%).
  • SCOAF made 168 referrals on behalf of current or former personnel and received 346 requests for an investigation.
  • 87% of applications requesting an investigation were accepted by SCOAF.
  • 56% of all SCOAF investigations found in favour of the complainant. 34% were review of admissibility decisions; 61% undue delay; substance 27%; and, maladministration 71%.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces, Nicola Williams, said the reformed system introduced in 2016 is "lightyears ahead of its predecessor".

However, she conceded "there is still work to be done" to ensure complaints are handled without "undue delay" and that all personnel have confidence in the system.

Ms Williams said she is "positive that this can be achieved".

The Ombudsman, who is halfway through the four-year post, has made nine recommendations in her the annual report – urging action from the MOD, Single Services and her own office which she hopes will bring further improvements to the system.

Anon troops
The Service Complaints Ombudsman gives impartial oversight of the service complaints system (Picture: PA).

In February, Ms Williams said the number of complaints from Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) service personnel was disproportionately higher when compared to their representation.

The figures showed BAME personnel in the military were more than twice as likely to complain of bullying, harassment and discrimination, compared to white personnel.

It was found that 57% of complaints from BAME personnel were about bullying, harassment and discrimination.

In comparison, 21% of complaints from white personnel were over the same issue.

An MOD spokesperson said: "We take the concerns and complaints of our personnel incredibly seriously, and we thank the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the report, which recognises the continued improvements in the complaints system.

"We are committed to further improving the complaints system and will carefully consider the recommendations in this report."