Once we receive your application, we will acknowledge it within 2 working days. How long the rest of the process will take will depend on what you are asking the Ombudsman to do. The time frames outlined below run from the time that you provide a complete application form to our office.

A complete form means that you have provided all of the information requested, including consent and any additional documents required for that type of application, and answered any additional questions asked by the Referrals and Enquiries Team.


Type of Application Timeframe to process an application (once acknowledged)
Referral 7 working days (1.5 weeks)
Type of Application Timeframe for a final decision to be issued (once allocated to an investigator)
Review of an admissibility decision 17 working days (3.5 weeks)
Undue delay 17 working days (3.5 weeks)
Maladministration 100 working days (20 weeks)
Substance (Merits) 100 working days (20 weeks)


Once an application has been acknowledged, an investigator would normally be allocated to the complaint within 5 working days. Where the office is experiencing a high volume of applications and/or there are vacancies in the investigations team, this could take up to 10 working days. Acknowledgement emails from the Referrals and Enquiries team will provide information on the current timeframes.


How to help the process run smoothly

 To try and minimise any delay in the handling of your application it is important that you:

  • Let us know the best way to contact you and the best time to contact you. There is space to include this information on all the application forms. It is particularly important if you know that you won’t be available on certain dates or times due to deployment or any other reason.
  • Provide all the information you are asked for as soon as you can. We understand that everyone is busy and you may not always have the information we ask for right in front of you. But we can’t help you without it, so it is important to provide it as soon as you can.
  •  If you want the Ombudsman to do more than one thing, you need to make a separate application for each. Each request is logged as a separate case in our office, even if they are handled by the same member of our team. This isn’t just to help our statistics, it is to help us understand what you are asking for and ensure we apply the right time frame and process to each request. So if you want the Ombudsman to refer your intention to make a Service complaint and investigate undue delay in a Service matter (or any other combination of her powers) you need to fill out the right application form for each.


We understand that it is a bit of extra work at the beginning, but it will make the process run more quickly once we have your applications. We tried to have just one form and it didn’t work so we have changed that part of our application process. 

Investigation timelines- A chart showing the timelines for the different investigations carried out by the Service Complaints Ombudsman