Human resources expert Susan Atkins has been appointed as the Armed Force’s first anti-bullying chief.
The role of Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC) has been introduced following recommendations made by the House of Commons Select Committee’s report into trainee welfare, and a review by Nicholas Blake QC into events surrounding the deaths of four young soldiers at the Deepcut army barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002.
The SCC will provide an alternative route for service personnel, their families or third parties to make complaints about the Armed Forces. Atkins will refer any complaints to commanding officers, and receive regular progress updates on each complaint and its final outcome.
However, the commissioner does not have the power to conduct investigations herself, or to challenge their outcome. But she does have a statutory right to raise any concerns directly with ministers.
Atkins is a former deputy chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, an equal opportunities officer at the Home Office, and director of the Women and Equality Unit within the Cabinet Office. She was also the first chief executive of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“I believe strongly that everyone has the right to a working and living environment free from harassment, bullying and discrimination,” she said. “I also know the importance of ensuring that where complaints of any sort are made, they are dealt with speedily, fairly, and in a way that maintains public confidence.
The government said Atkins will undergo a “comprehensive induction process” prior to taking up her post on 1 January 2008.