21 April 20172016 Annual Report of the Service Complaints Ombudsman

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The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces has formally launched her Annual Report for 2016. The Ombudsman provides an independent and impartial oversight of the Service complaints system which received a total of 890 complaints during 2016.

The Service complaints process changed on 1 January 2016, making it simpler and more streamlined with one, instead of two levels of appeal. The latest Annual Report and Summary Report reflects the work of the internal process and was recently formally launched in London.


The Ombudsman, Nicola Williams with Dr Julian Lewis MP who graciously sponsored the launch at Portcullis House as chair of the Defence Select Committee © OSCO 2017

There is also a summary breakdown sheet specifically for the RAF (click on the image to bring up a downloadable PDF version):


The Powers of the Ombudsman

The primary way in which the Ombudsman does her work is through her powers of referral and investigation. Using these powers the Ombudsman can:

  • Refer a Service person’s intention to make a Service complaint to their chain of command
  • Review a decision by the chain of command to not accept a complaint for investigation or to not allow a complaint to proceed to appeal for a further decision
  • Investigate allegations of undue delay in the handling of a Service complaint or Service matter
  • Investigate allegations that there was maladministration in the handling of a Service complaint which has completed the internal system
  • Investigate the substance (merits) of a Service complaint which has completed the internal system.


The Ombudsman addressing launch attendees © OSCO 2017

The Ombudsman shares in her message laid out in the Annual Report:

"The objective shared by myself, the Ministry of Defence and the individual Services remains a complaints system in which all Service personnel have confidence and in which timely outcomes are achieved. I will continue to work constructively with the Services. I will hold them to account where I feel that they fall short, but where there have been real improvements I will be the first to publicly acknowledge this. Above all I am committed to ensuring I play my part, ably assisted by the entire OSCO team, in developing that confidence by delivering thorough and timely decisions for our investigations, transparency of action, and supporting the education of Service personnel about the Service complaints system."

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