subscribe: Posts | Comments

Military report on inappropriate behaviour out


Ministry of Defence, report, Inappropriate Behviours, bullying, sexual harassment, complaints, OmbudsmanThe challenge of inappropriate behaviour can only be addressed through a determined effort by the whole force.

A series of new measures have been announced to address inappropriate behaviour in the British military.

This follows a report on ‘Inappropriate Behaviours’ released by the Ministry of Defence and which outlined 36 recommendations for tackling the issue.

The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence in April 2019.

The head of the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, led the review and made the 36 recommendations which outline how to investigate and deal with inappropriate behaviour within the armed services.

Some are about improving the complaints system and processes, and the majority are about preventing instances of inappropriate behaviour occurring in the first place.

Writing in the report’s summary, he said: ‘We must do more to stop instances of inappropriate behaviour occurring.

This is principally a chain of command issue for the Naval Service, Army and Royal Air Force, and for Civil Service line management.

It is about leadership at every level in the organisation, setting the culture and standards, and ensuring people meet those standards consistently.

It is also about effective and resourced training, and a focused system of governance which we recommend should include centralised assurance and the compilation of a single set of data and statistics relating to inappropriate behaviour.

We have to do better when instances of inappropriate behaviour have occurred or are alleged to have occurred. Our own surveys and external stakeholders highlight repeatedly the short comings of the current system for raising complaints about inappropriate behaviour, with complainants citing a fear of retribution or lack of faith that anything would be done.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman judges our Service Complaints system is neither efficient, effective or fair.

Furthermore, the disproportionate overrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities – and a lack of data on other minority groups – in the  Service Complaints system is of widespread concern.’

There is, he continued, ‘a pressing need to reform the Service Complaints system including: anonymous reporting of inappropriate behaviours; a helpline; a parallel channel for raising Service Complaints outwith the chain of command; and a  dedicated central Service Complaints team equipped to deal with the most complex allegations of bullying, harassment including sexual harassment, and discrimination.

We should establish a Defence  Authority working to the Chief of Defence People as Senior  Responsible Owner on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and Permanent Secretary.

The Authority would interalia be responsible for: pan-Defence policy and governance; holding all management information on inappropriate behaviours; conducting assurance activity across the Armed Forces; sharing leading practice across Defence; and housing the central Service Complaints team, operating in support of and with respect to the single Services’ chain of command.

Evidence reflected in this report indicates a significant number of our people have experienced bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual, but have not felt able or been able to come forward to report it;  we recommend consideration of a call for evidence from people affected, coincident with the establishment of the Defence Authority.

Encouraging and enabling more complaints – and dealing with them better – should lead to greater trust in the organisation and help signal he leadership’s determination to stamp out inappropriate behaviour.

Ultimately, however, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour can only be addressed through a determined effort across the whole force to change the culture, driven persistently from the top and at every level of leadership and line management below that.

It requires authentic leadership; relentless engagement; and consistent communication, with everybody playing their part.’

Some recommendations, he concluded, ‘should have an immediate impact but, to change embedded cultures and behaviours, a much longer view is necessary; experience among allied armed forces is of a five-to ten-year programme of concerted activity to make a measurable difference and we should be prepared for the same.’

The Secretary of State for Defence accepted all the recommendations.

The Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces (SCOAF), which was set up to provide independent and impartial scrutiny of the handling of service-related complaints made by members of the UK armed forces is required to produce an Annual Report to the Secretary of State for Defence on the fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of the Service complaints system.

It has, to date – as Air Chief Marshal Wigston said – never judged the Service complaints system to be efficient, effective and fair.

It is headed by Nicola Williams.

Remarking on the Air Chief Marshal’s report, she said: “Bullying, harassment and discrimination, and particularly sexual harassment, have been a problem for all the Armed Forces for several years.

“Their proposal of a new authority to specially deal with these, with specially trained people, is a new way to approach this and, hopefully, to tackle it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *