MOD Replies to Service Complaints Commissioner's (SCC) Annual Report Recommendations
Today, the MOD has replied to the Service Complaints Commissioner's (SCC) Annual Report Recommendations, keeping a 'genuinely open mind' to the proposal that an Armed Forces Ombudsman should be established.
Dr Susan Atkins' report was published on 21 March 2013 making 15 recommendations and commented on the progress against the recommendations of her previous report and the 3- year goals set in her Annual Report for 2010. Whilst Dr Atkins acknowledges the changes made, she is still unable to say that the Service complaints system is working efficiently, effectively or fairly.
One of the SCC's recommendations is that an Armed Forces Ombudsman should be established as part of the Armed Forces Covenant and the MOD should consult on the powers and resources of the Ombudsman to best serve the UK Armed Forces. This recommendation is widely supported by MPs and the House of Commons Defence Committee in particular. In February 2013, the Chair of the Committee Rt Hon James Arbuthnnot MP said:
"There are too many reports of Service personnel being reluctant to raise genuine complaints and grievances. We are also concerned that complaints are not being raised when they implicate individuals above the complainant within the chain of command… The Government should change the role of the Commissioner to one of an Armed Forces Ombudsman. Our Servicemen and Servicewomen deserve a complaints system that is as good as it can be. Not to provide this would be a failure of the nation’s duty to them."
The MOD response published today was:
"MOD confirmed in its response to the HCDC’s report on “The Work of the Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces” that it is working with the SCC to consider how her role might be developed to further improve the complaints process. We are considering a proposal from the SCC with a genuinely open mind. Our priorities are to maintain the integrity of the chain of command given its importance for operational effectiveness, whilst also looking to benefit the timely conclusion of complaints business. It is important that we also continue to take best practice from the current system. Discussions continue to be constructive. They have raised some important matters that need to be addressed before final decisions can be made – that work is underway."
BAFF looks forward to seeing evidence of this 'genuinely open mind'...
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