On 1st January 2016, a fully reformed Service Complaints process was implemented, bringing with it the Crown Appointment of Service Complaints Ombudsman whose powers will be significantly greater than those of the now abolished Office of Service Complaints Commissioner.

The Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015 creating the legislative framework for the implementation of a system which endeavours to be fair, efficient and effective.

The new process seeks to support serving members of the Armed Forces and former Service personnel, who feel they have been wronged in a matter relating to their Service to raise a statement of complaint and to have confidence that their Chain of Command will handle it seriously and in a timely manner.

From two levels of appeal to one

In the detail, the internal Service Complaints process is radically changing, reducing from two levels of appeal to one. The Chain of Command will receive delegated powers by the Defence Council to investigate the complaint and to grant appropriate redress, thus enabling each complaint to be dealt with at the lowest possible level, and with the aim to create open communication within the command.

The Ombudsman, Nicola Williams, will use her newly established powers to consider the merits of a complaint; review whether an individual’s complaint was handled correctly; investigate whether maladministration, including undue delay took place during the handling of a Service Complaint; examine the substance of a complaint; and hold the Service to account. She will also provide annual reports to parliament in which she will evaluate whether the Armed Forces are delivering a fair, efficient and effective Service Complaints system.

The policy for all Armed Forces personnel to refer to is JSP 831 Redress of Individual Grievance: Service Complaints, which is now split into two parts: ‘Guidance’ and ‘Directive’. It provides comprehensive guidance for all parties who are implicated in a Service Complaint.

It is paramount that Naval Service personnel receive the treatment they deserve and we will strive to ensure that any proven wrongdoing is appropriately addressed and, where a wrong is to be rectified, we will do so in a timely manner. We will continue to work hard to make the new process reliable, resilient, and one in which our people will trust.

Further information

Further information on the new Service Complaints process can be found on the Gov.uk website: www.gov.uk/guidance/armed-forces-service-complaints-process

Information and contact details for the Service Complaints Ombudsman can be found here: www.servicecomplaintsombudsman.org.uk