Service personnel putting up tent illustrating Guide to Armed Forces Covenant Duty

Friday 1st July 2022

New Service Complaints system launched: DIN01-058 A range of significant reforms and improvements to the existing Service Complaints system for personnel came into effect from Wednesday 15 June 2022.

Every year the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF) has reported that the Service Complaints system is, in their view, still not efficient, effective and fair. The Wigston Review into Inappropriate Behaviours in Defence (2019) found that a significant proportion of Defence people felt the same, especially women, people from minority communities and junior ranks. Defence wants to improve the experience for anyone who uses the Service Complaints system. This includes building people’s confidence that action is being taken in response to a complaint and making the process quicker for complainants and respondents. There is also a desire to provide more consistency in the way complaints are handled across Defence, and to draw from best practice in the civilian public sector. The changes are linked to recommendations from the Wigston Review and wider work to tackle and prevent unacceptable behaviour in Defence. This is to be achieved by creating clear processes to address this type of behaviour as and when it happens.

The aim of the changes, as set out in the new Service Complaints system JSP 831 are to:

    • Increase the efficiency of the system
    • Make the system more independent
    • Improve the support available for those who engage with the process
    • Increase trust and confidence in the system and its decision makers.​​​​​​​

Some of the key reforms are:

1. Service Complaints will no longer be submitted through the Chain of Command, but instead through single Service Central Admissibility teams. These teams will undertake the functions of the Specified Officer, including the decision as to whether the Service Complaint can proceed or not. This will mean greater independence in the system, consistency in approach and swifter decision making.

2. From today, all applications to appeal a Decision Body decision will need to be submitted within two weeks from the date the Complainant was deemed to have received their Decision Letter, instead of the six weeks window that applied previously. This brings the system in line with best practice in other public and private sector organisations.

These changes have been shaped by continued engagement with stakeholders, including Service women’s networks, Service personnel and Commanding Officers.

If you have an existing Service Complaint that is already in the system, don’t worry. You don’t need to take any further action until told otherwise by your decision maker or the relevant single Service Secretariat. Are you serving and want more information? Read JSP 831 or on Read the Service Complaints easy read guide for more information about the new process. Contact your single Service Secretariat or D&I advisor if you have any other queries.

See also: Ombudsman publishes Sixth Annual Report

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