I'm disappointed with progress made so far, complaints ombudsman says

The Service Complaints system is still "not operating in a way that is efficient, effective or fair", according to its ombudsman's report.

The 2021 Annual Report by the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF) evidenced that there were 749 complaints ruled admissible into the system, with the three largest areas encompassing career management (34%), bullying, harassment or discrimination (31%), and pay, pensions and allowances (11%).

Female personnel were twice as likely to raise a Service Complaint in 2021, the report found.

"I am disappointed with the overall progress made to date on Service Complaints reform," the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces said.

SCOAF Mariette Hughes added that "trust and confidence remains low" and that personnel are "not yet comfortable" when it comes to engaging with the system.

"To that end, further work is needed before the system can be reported to be efficient, effective, and fair."

The SCOAF made four additional recommendations to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to deliver change to the system.

According to the ombudsman, the MOD should engage with SCOAF to amend the Joint Service Publication 831, particularly the Annex F form, which should be a single point of entry for all grievances.

Another recommendation suggests that the services should submit a quarterly progress report to SCOAF, explaining what is being done to reduce delays and progress older cases.

Finally, the ombudsman has recommended the MOD should commit to concluding all open and accepted recommendations made by the Ombudsman prior to the Annual Report 2020.

The SCOAF said she is "confident" that "significant improvements can be made to the Service Complaints system".

Watch: Ombudsman Mariette Hughes spoke to Forces News in January 2021 about "delays" and lack of trust" in complaints system.