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OA's Outstanding Contribution Award – 2024 Winner Announced

OCA 2024 Winner
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The OA are delighted to announce that Mariette Hughes, Ombudsman from the Service Complaints Ombudsman for Armed Forces (SCOAF), is the 2024 winner of the OA’s Outstanding Contribution Award.

The OA’s Outstanding Contribution Award (OCA), which was established in Caroline Mitchell’s memory to recognise and celebrate the outstanding work that so many in the ombudsman community do, was awarded to Mariette for the transformative impact she has had on the UK Armed Forces Service Complaints sector.

The Chair of the OA, Richard Blakeway, presented the award to Mariette at the OA’s Conference, which took place at The Bristol, in Bristol.

Richard said:

“I’m delighted to present Mariette with the OA’s Outstanding Contribution Award. The panel was impressed by the impact her work has had both at SCOAF and more broadly across the landscape. I’d like to highlight an excerpt from the nomination form submitted by SCOAF colleagues which underscores the high regard she is held in”:

“Mariette’s leadership has been instrumental in driving transformative changes within the UK Armed Forces Service Complaints sector throughout her tenure as Ombudsman. Under her guidance, SCOAF achieved its highest performance to date, surpassing timeliness KPIs being exceeded and eliminating SCOAF’s backlog. In 2022, SCOAF achieved 94% timeliness rate, followed by a perfect 100% in 2023. 

Mariette’s innovative approach to this work, including the impact made on empowering service personnel through an extensive outreach and education programme has led to enhancing awareness of the Ombudsman’s role. Through a refreshed communications strategy, she has excelled in significantly improving SCOAF’s image and perception. She has demonstrated how to improve the Complaints system considerably and change the previously negative perception of the process. 

Mariette’s positive and interpersonal approach to her work, combined with her willingness to challenge conventional practices, has not only dispelled myths but also fostered an environment where individuals feel comfortable. This approach has facilitated the resolution of individual grievances and the identification and improvement of wider systemic issues. The SCOAF People Survey results have markedly improved under her leadership in the last two years, fostering a happier and more empowered workforce, resulting in a more efficient and better performing Ombudsman organisation. While SCOAF is one of the smaller Ombudsman schemes, she does not shy away from making a huge impact.

On receiving the award, Mariette spoke about the importance of impact:

“I am extremely proud of the performance achieved by SCOAF over this last year. Our operational performance represents a much improved experience for users of our service, and lends credibility to our voice in the sector. People are at the heart of everything we do, so it has been a privilege to lead our extensive outreach programme, and I really value the opportunity to speak to so many Service personnel and help build trust and confidence in the system.

I feel very honoured to receive this award, and would like to thank every member of the team at SCOAF for their trust, enthusiasm and dedication to improving the system for all Service personnel, and for coming with me on this journey.”

In the image above, Richard, Chair of the OA, is seen presenting Mariette with the award during the opening ceremony of the OA conference themed 'Impact and Value' on 12 June 2024, at The Bristol.

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