Army Rumour Service

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

The Times - MPs call for new ombudsman to stop Armed Forces abuse

Lorax

Clanker
As the SCC and the MoD get stuck into negotiations as to the form of Armed Forces Ombudsman, we should celebrate that at least the argument as to the need for change has been won. But what arrangements will be made for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) personnel in the new style procedures to handle Service Complaints (SC)?

There are three things that impact WIS personnel who wish to bring an SC.

First, this group has priorities for their health. They are typically simultaneously navigating medical care pathways, treatment, a Medical Discharge, or some life-changing event. The commitment and speed needed to bring an SC are the last things they are practically and medically capable of dealing with.


“My son was advised on more than one occasion by several people to complain about his treatment, or lack of it, by the Army. He never did because of his medical condition and being too nervous in case things got even worse as he was still
serving. Later he had so many health issues to deal with and appeals against the DWP and MOD, Social Services etc that there was no energy left for the years it would take for a complaint to go through. When he was in a position to complain he did it through our MP but all he got back was a letter saying they would not look into things for our MP as my son himself hadn't made an official complaint!”

Second, most institutional complaints systems aim to resolve complaints at the lowest level. This often brings with it a propensity to dismiss complaints quickly without a full investigation in order to test the resolve of the complainant. This disadvantages the WIS complainant who has struggled in the first instance and may well be tempted to give up with little discouragement. Energies and resources must be carefully applied, especially where the complainant is dealing with serious medical conditions.

“Alex was in his twenties when he and some of his mates presented with the same symptoms, which turned out to be serious and life threatening. It later emerged that they had been exposed over a long period to hazardous chemicals. Alex nearly died but his family, with the help of the Red Cross took action that most probably saved his life. However, he complaint Alex submitted was immediately dismissed, making the family question whether a proper investigation had in fact even taken place. They were in no condition to pursue the matter.”

Third, staying the course of a complaint is a test in itself that WIS personnel are only able to pass at the expense of their health. The system is so overloaded and under resourced it can take an age for a complaint to even begin to be investigated, Coupled with this is the posting/redundancy cycle, which often sees witnesses, Assisting Officers, Deciding Officers and other key players leave. While on the one hand people are told, "put it behind you, move on", on the other they are invited to rip the plaster off again and expose old wounds. Keeping everyone in the picture places not unsubstantial emotional pressure on the WIS complainant, because ultimately the complainant is the only one who is capable of telling his/her story.

“My husband submitted his complaint in four years ago. It’s still waiting to be investigated! To be honest, I don’t expect anything to come of it; it’s been so long and they can’t even find half the people they need to talk to anymore. He can’t get any ‘closure’ and will never be able to address his mental health problems until this has been sorted out”

The system is overwhelmed, and the hurdles presented to WIS personnel are just too high. When the MoD and the SCC come to the table, I sincerely hope they will tailor the system to accommodate this particular group of individuals, or else the real victim becomes one of natural justice. And these people deserve so much better.
 
As the SCC and the MoD get stuck into negotiations as to the form of Armed Forces Ombudsman, we should celebrate that at least the argument as to the need for change has been won. But what arrangements will be made for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) personnel in the new style procedures to handle Service Complaints (SC)?

You should speak to these people Independent professional staff association - - British Armed Forces Federation | BAFF, run by people who know the system and care about the individual.
 

Lorax

Clanker
Thanks MT. From the looks of things BAFF are very familiar with the arguments for the need of an AFO. But my objective here is to raise the profile of WIS personnel. There is no one who speaks up for them. I know these families and others but have shifted around details in the examples so they cannot be identified. Those still serving are not represented by anyone independent and AOs are not representatives, they are merely there to assist, unless you get lucky and get someone who is ready to champion your cause. The WIS need representation, not just assistance, in bringing SCs. THis is where BAFF could indeed play a role, but I would imagine it would need the backing of the MoD to help it form into such a body able to provide such representation.

What are your views on this?
 

Lorax

Clanker
The SCC has said for the last 5 years that the Service Complaints system is unfair and ineffective and subsequently recommended the appointment of an Armed Forces Ombudsman. The MoD say they take what she says very seriously and their formally recorded discussions can be seen here:

House of Commons - The work of the Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces: Government's and Commissioner's Responses to the Committee's Eighth Report of Session 2012-13 - Defence Committee

You can argue semantics of what these discussions are, but I personally view them as a logical and sensible step forward, after all, the SCC is in the final year of her post and there is no clear path as to what will happen beyond this. The SCC grew from the Deepcut tragedies, and I hope the MoD are taking take what she says seriously.

Lorax
 

Joker

War Hero
WIS personnel have all the same rights of any individual in a unit to submit a Service Complaint. Indeed I am familiar with one such case running at the moment. Equally, should a WIS SP be on a unit assist, then the appointed PRU can advise (and often does). A good PRO often digs in to the detail of a WIS SP and acts as their POC for all matters. So in short, the SP has every opportunity and support from PRU/PRO to submit a SC if they wish.


Posted from the ARRSE Mobile app (iOS or Android)
 

Lorax

Clanker
Thank you for that Joker.

As you say, WIS SP are offered the same opportunity as other SPs to bring a complaint, however, I raised the issue of the particular circumstances that affect them (see original post) that are unlikely to affect non WIS personnel. I am certainly glad that the example you refer to is supported by their PRO, and I am sure that the those PROs who support WIS complainants are in general able professionals, however, not all WIS SPs come under PRUs. Further, what if the complaint is against the PRU? Or indeed, what if the complaint is against the Regiment who control whether or not that individual is transferred to a PRU in the first place.

Point is, the needs of WIS personnel demand a tailored approach.

I wonder if there are any Arrse members who have been wounded, injured or sick and have attempted to bring complaints. I think it is an important debate but a difficult one to draw people on, because of its nature.
 

Joker

War Hero
It is the ARCAB that allocates WIS to a PRU, I am not familiar with anyone bringing a complaint against the ARCAB and to be honest I think the ARCAB process is pretty clear.

You are right that not all WIS go to a PRU, some return to work. Until that point they are administered by their regional Brigade if away from unit location, or they continue to be administered by the unit until a slot becomes available at a PRU.

I may be missing something, but if a soldier is appropriately managed on the WISMIS, then I cannot see an area where they are unable to submit a complaint like any other SP. They can submit a complaint directly to the SCC via civvy email.

However, if there is an area then please let me know because I will be able to take advice and try and get something done about it.

If a SP complains against a PRU that they are appointed to as WIS, and if it implicates the CO of the PRU it will be referred to one star level, then interviews and investigation takes place. I am really not sure of an area that it is not working, but as said please do let me know.


Posted from the ARRSE Mobile app (iOS or Android)
 
Irrespective of whether or not a soldier is assigned to a PRU, I fail to see why there would be a need to create a new complaints system specifically for WIS.
 

Lorax

Clanker
Thank you for that Joker. The administrative process you describe might seem clear on paper, but the reality is often less so if you are wounded injured or sick.

Two points:

One - The issue I raise is not about the entitlement/right to bring a complaint; it is about the ability to do so. Wounded injured or sick personnel may have the same rights as their healthy, fit compatriots but the obstacles they must overcome to exercise those rights can be considerable, especially in a system with its recognised failures and weaknesses. The findings of the SCC over the last five years are taken as read – and the ARC/PRUs are not exempt from this. Whether we are talking about those on the WISMIS, or those SPs who are wounded injured or sick but who remain in their unit, their ability, as opposed to administrative entitlement, to submit a complaint, is not dependent on which command chain they fall under.

Two - You say,
“if a soldier is appropriately managed on the WISMIS, then I cannot see an area where they are unable to submit a complaint like any other SP”.
I would extend this to include all Service personnel. If they are appropriately managed it is unlikely that they would need to bring a complaint in the first place. I know of a case where an individual wished to bring a complaint about his unit, but was simultaneously waiting for them to transfer him to a PRU, pending possible MD. This would put anyone in an awkward position, but this individual was scared, racked with pain, and was watching his life going down the tubes. Fast. He was trying to get a proper diagnosis before his leaving date but the speed at which his MD came, made anything but surviving day-to-day, impossible. It was clear, each time he was denied a place at the PRU, and hence the entitlements this brought, that, no one cared and no one was prepared to step up and help. He is out now and never did bring a complaint, simply because he couldn’t manage it.

I am not suggesting the creation of "a new complaints system specifically for WIS" but it is good of CBO to bring it up. The point I have tried to make is that wounded, injured and sick personnel have particular difficulty in submitting, and then following through complaints because of the their physical or mental conditions, and because of the systemic problems within the Service Complaints system itself.
 
Top