Service Complaint Ombudsman (SCO) Crown Appointment

Body: Service Complaint Ombudsman (SCO) Crown Appointment, recommended by the Secretary of State for Defence
Appointing Department: Ministry of Defence
Sector: Defence
Location: Central London
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: £130,000 No pension
Time Requirements: 5 days a week. Appointed on a 5-year term


An announcement has been made on the outcome of this appointment.

The Ministry of Defence is pleased to announce the appointment of Mariette Hughes as the next Service Complaints Ombudsman for the UK Armed Forces.
Ms Hughes appointed from 12 January 2021, succeeds Nicola Williams who has carried out the role since 2015.
The role of the Service Complaints Ombudsman was established by the Armed Forces Act 2006, as part of the Service Complaints system which came into effect from 1 January 2016. The complaints system allows a member of the UK Armed Forces to make a complaint if they believe they have been wronged in a matter relating to their service.
The Ombudsman is responsible for providing independent assurance on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Service Complaints system to the Secretary of State for Defence by way of an annual report which is laid before Parliament.
Ms Hughes has been appointed following open competition and a rigorous selection process which was overseen by an Advisory Assessment Panel including an Independent Panel Member in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.

Date: 26/01/2021

View Announcement

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications


  • Panel Sift

    9 – 11 September

  • Final Interview Date

    W/C 28 September 2020

  • Announcement

    26/01/2021 at 16:00


Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

The Service Complaints Ombudsman (SCO) provides independent and impartial oversight of the handling of the Service Complaints system for UK Armed Forces. The Ombudsman achieves this through three main functions:

  • Helping Service personnel access the complaints system;
  • Investigating, including the reviewing decisions of admissibility;
  • Reporting to Parliament

The key responsibilities of the role are to:

  • provide strategic direction, for the Office of the SCO;
  • provide independent and impartial oversight of the handling of the Services Complaints system;
  • undertake public facing representation as the Ombudsman for the Service Complaints system;
  • engage with senior stakeholders in the Armed Forces on a strategic level, and to undertake engagement visits both in the UK and overseas with members of the Armed Forces community to raise awareness of the role of Ombudsman and the Service Complaints system;
  • act as first point of contact for those who feel unable to make their complaint through the chain of command;
  • review decisions made by the Specified Officer to not accept a complaint or the appeal of a complaint (review of admissibility);
  • investigate allegations of alleged undue delay in a Service matter or Service Complaint;
  • investigate allegations of alleged maladministration at the conclusion of the Service Complaints process;
  • investigate the substance of Service Complaints that have been finally determined where the Complainant does not agree with the outcome;
  • report to Parliament via the Secretary of Defence each calendar year on how the Service Complaints system is operating and whether it is efficient, effective and fair; and,
  • make recommendations to the Ministry of Defence for the improvement of the Service Complaints system.


Person Specification

We are looking to appoint a confident and dynamic individual who has a real interest in supporting our Service Personnel through the effective oversight of their complaints system.

Candidates must demonstrate all of the following essential criteria.

Essential criteria:

  • Excellent oral communication and inter-personal skills with an ability to communicate effectively with people at all levels including Ministers, the most junior to the most senior of those serving in the Armed Forces and other interested parties, such as MPs, the House of Commons Defence Committee, Service charities and families.
  • Excellent analytical skills with an ability to examine complex and detailed information and make sound, evidence-based judgements and recommendations.
  • Excellent written communication skills with ability to produce reports which include evidence-based recommendations.

Desirable criteria:

  • Proven ability to work in an environment of close parliamentary, media and public scrutiny.
  • Previous ability of working within and/or management of a grievance related environment.
  • Additional proven ability of financial accountability linked to management of a budget.
  • Previous experience of working within a legal environment or a role with a legislative background.

Additional Information

The position of the SCO is independent of the Ministry of Defence.  The Armed Forces Act 2006 states that the incumbent cannot be a serving member of the regular or reserve Armed Forces or employed in the Civil Service (section 365B(3)). This means that those with recent Armed Forces or Civil Service experience are also unlikely to be eligible. If you have any questions about your eligibility, please contact Defence Business Services in the first instance.

A pre-appointment hearing between the selected candidate and the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (HCDC) will take place on 3 Novemer 2020.  Pre-appointment hearings are in public and involve the HCDC taking evidence from the preferred candidate. Questions are likely to focus on professional competence and personal independence. The candidate will receive a briefing on what to expect from the session. Following the pre-appointment hearing, the Committee will normally publish a report setting out their views on the suitability of the candidate and submit to the Secretary of State for Defence. Whilst non-binding, Ministers will consider any relevant comments made by the Committee before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment. The report and candidate’s CV may be released into the public domain by the Committee.

How to Apply

Candidates should provide a CV (maximum two sides A4, minimum font 12) setting out your career history and including details of any professional qualifications. Candidates should also complete the Expression of Interest form including a supporting statement; contact details for two referees and any conflict of interest.

Completed applications should be emailed to

32307_SCO Campaign information pack final
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