Month: April 2015

Fishy Business or When a Review Should Stop

Fishy Business or When  a Review Should Stop

Fishing Expedition
· Examples· Word Origin

noun, Informal.

1. a legal proceeding mainly for the purpose of interrogating an adversary, or of examining his or her property and documents, in order to gain useful information.

2. any inquiry carried on without any clearly defined plan or purpose in the hope of discovering useful information.

So, imagine you are a well paid, supposedly professional and experienced HR manager, (let’s say you have the initials of CJ), who knows the difference between a haddock and a kipper, who has been given orders from your Business Manager (with perhaps the initials of CW), who in turn has had instruction from the Chief Finance Officer and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

You have been tasked to send review notifications out to disabled former officers who have had no contact from the force since retiring due to injury on duty for at least a minimum of 12 years ago and some, in fact most, who have been out of the job for 15 to 20 years. You’ve been told to start a programme of reviewing injury pensions, beginning with those which have the potential to cost the most over the long term. According to the bean counters, who have less knowledge than even you of the Regulations governing police injury pensions, these are the pensions which offer the tempting best prospect of providing the greatest savings – if only a way can be found to reduce the payments. It might take a bit of imagination, but let’s say, for instance, that you could get a patsy in the form of a ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ who would be prepared, in return for a fat fee of around £500 a time, to find a way around the ethics of the medical profession and the Regulations and declare that this person and that person has had a miraculous substantial improvement in their disability. Bingo! Kerching! Three cherries in a row! Done up like a kipper!

You know nothing about these disabled former officers, as in many instances no personnel records exist, having been destroyed due to the force’s retention policy. And there’s no way you are allowed to view the occupational health records due to an irritating little impediment called the Data Protection Act. You can’t quite understand why anyone would object to letting you read all about their private personal medical history. Patient confidentiality – it’s a bugger, (shame that). You only know these people are on band four so are severely disabled in regards to earning capacity. The fact that some may have mental illness such that that the stress of a review could send them into a catastrophic life changing adverse reaction. Tough, you think, much as did the train driver to Belsen-Bergen, I’ve got a job to do, and by golly I’ll do it no matter who objects.

Do you pause for a moment and think that it might be appropriate to ask the force medical officer to review the medical notes the force does have, to see if a review is in fact appropriate? No, that would be the right thing to do, but you’ve got targets imposed on you by the higher powers. The train is in motion and you can’t stop it – more than your job is worth – someone else’s responsibility. You may have even been told that everyone retired with an injury on duty award are earning 6 figure salaries and driving Porche Cayennes and ought to be reviewed – how dare they be retired on an ‘award’ you might think.

So you send the letters out. But not before you spice the letters up and say you are reviewing the recipient due to the financial constraints to the force is under. Nothing like telling them your agenda from the start. As an added incentive to make the pensioners take your cunning plan seriously, you throw in a questionnaire which asks them how many cars they drive and how much they earn and threatens them with either prosecution if they make an error with their answers or reduction or suspension of their injury award if they mess you about. Never mind there is no lawful way of doing that – they won’t know as they are just dumb ex-cops. And, oh, while I am at it, can I have your signed permission to contact the DHS and HMRC so I can get to see how much money you have?

You realise that you might be onto a sticky wicket when the former officers start asking questions. Like, why are we being reviewed now? You have ignored me and my welfare for the last twenty years so why the sudden interest? Where is the individual case by case objectivity? You give out some baloney about a SMP will look at your medical records and decide whether a review is actually required (whilst crossing your fingers behind your back), fully aware that your pet stooge SMP fully intends to interrogate every single one of them without exception no matter what they say.

Despite having no circumstances to justify a review, no evidence to indicate whether there has been any improvement in any individual’s degree of disablement, no evidence of the substantial alteration needed by law before an injury pension can be revised, you know that your SMP will find the ‘evidence’ by hook or by crook. He’ll even try to con his way into getting agreement to let him look at medical records that date from birth to see if he can give his expert opinion that the back injury was given by the midwife’s forceps, not during the reported polacc.

But you come across a problem. You’ve made someone extremely ill as a direct response of your actions. Someone who has just been trying to survive for the past 15 years, barely hanging on to life by their fingernails and who can’t deal with the process. If you’d got the force medical officer to read the notes beforehand you would had known that this person’s health is in such a delicate state that he is unreviewable. Nevertheless, you think that what you haven’t bothered to look into you can’t be blamed for, so you demand he attends the occupational health unit and you get your SMP to grill him like a turbot for 90 minutes anyway.

The mental anguish of someone already suffering from PTSD means they are unable to deal with abnormal events such as a review. The experience is so traumatic that after the grilling by the SMP they have to go to the community mental health crisis team. The relapse is huge and his clinicians write to you to say this person is no better this year than he was last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. In fact, the duty injury ruined his life and his health and your review is making things worse. But you wouldn’t know, because you and your predecessors have not bothered to enquire after him or to ask him how he is coping. This person is borderline suicidal. Clinicians write to you some more, pleading for you to back off. But you and your tame SMP are adamant that just because an expert psychologist says someone has deteriorated there is no reason to believe it.

So you’ve waited a year since first notifying the intention to review and 6 months since dragging this person before the SMP. He must be stewed enough now you think. You have a brainwave. Send him a letter saying he is too ill to be reviewed now but you’ll postpone the review for 3 months until there is some improvement. Yes that’ll do it. If these people aren’t better then we will wait until they are better! Brilliant! No matter how long that takes I’ll keep the review open until I get the result I want. Why ever end a review with a decision when we can keep a review going for infinity? Don’t have to bother with a suitable interval or a PMAB appeal this way, I will surely get my bonus this year, you think, and maybe some recognition from the HR professional associations. Sheer HR genius – I ought to write up a presentation on this to give to the next meeting of the NAMF. Nothing fishy about that.

Note: This is a true story and the protagonist HR professional is employed by Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

NB: The sassy gallows humour tone of this post is a front to cope with the true fiendish actions of HR. It is no way intended to lessen, or be disrespectful of, the horrendous affect it is all having on the former officer mentioned.

More bad maths

More bad maths

Dateline: 24th April 2015.

A response by Staffordshire Police to a freedom of information request.

Staffordshire are proud to reveal exactly how they calculate the degree of disablement for the purpose of grant of a police injury pension. The same method is used when they review an injury pension.

One small problem. Staffordshire are acting unlawfully. Their method is intended to provide a way of subverting the purpose and scope of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 so that they can get away with paying disabled former officers less than their due by way of injury pension. Staffordshire takes what is a medical decision on how much remains of a disabled former officer’s capacity to work, and thus earn, puts it through a calculation which has no basis in the Regulations, compares a police wage with a nominal wage and doubly reduces the degree of disablement.

People who should be paid a band four injury pension are finding that under the magic of this slight of hand they are hardly disabled at all and thus get paid only a band one pension. The savings to the force are considerable.

Let’s look at this in detail. The percentage of degree of disablement is a medical question. It says so in the Regulations. The police pension authority is required, by law, to hand the decision on degree of disablement to a duly qualified medical practitioner. Reason being that disablement is a medical matter. It is all about twisted or missing limbs, constant pain and medication, or mental injury. Damage to body and/or mind so bad you would not wish it on your worst enemy. An independent medical person makes a decision which is binding on all concerned. Apart from Staffordshire police pension authority, that is.

The Regulations tell us how an injury pension is to be calculated. For example, a pensioner is given a degree of disablement figure of 66% by the ‘duly qualified medical practitioner’ selected by the police pension authority (the SMP). That is the final figure, and there is no need, and no legal authority for further calculation or decision. As the percentage is between 50% and 75% it falls within band 3 of the Schedule 3, as set out in the Regulations. In our example, that means a former officer with more than 15 years service but less than 25 would be paid an injury pension calculated as 75% of his former police salary.

Staffs can punch in a few figures plucked out of thin air into a calculator and turn that 75% into a lowly 45%.

Staffordshire and some other forces use what is known as the PEAM system (Police Earnings Assessment Matrix), which is a system not specified or sanctioned anywhere in the Regulations, to set aside the SMP’s decision and come to another perverse conclusion which artificially reduces an IOD award to the minimum.

The Regulations do not permit this, yet Staffordshire seem oblivious to that fact. Or, is it the case that they know full well they are breaking the law but just don’t care? Has someone in high authority calculated that disabled former officers are very unlikely to a) realise that they have been screwed and b) if they do cotton on, are too crocked up to do much about it?

Staffordshire was asked a simple question in the freedom of information request. If a SMP gives a degree of disablement of 75%, can a Band 1 be awarded? Think on this – the SMP has awarded a 75% degree of disablement. To award 75% the SMP has judged the disablement caused by the duty injury has caused a reduced amount of earning capacity and has given what the Regulations very clearly state is a final decision on the matter. That’s it. Over and done with. But not in Staffordshire.

Let’s take a look at that:

Regulation 30-(6) ‘The decision of the selected medical practitioner on the question or questions referred to him under this regulation shall be expressed in the form of a report and shall . . . be final.’

But not final in the twisted world of PEAM.

Here’s what Staffordshire said:


To break this down, Staffordshire has admitted that a 75% degree of disablement, which the Regulations name as ‘major disablement’ and which is but one degree short of ‘very severe disablement’, can be turned into an 18% degree of disablement – ‘slight disablement’.

Here is the warped logic:

  1. A SMP gives a percentage of 75%
  1. Despite the finality of the 75%, Staffordshire thinks that any retired police officer can earn £28389, no matter what the degree of disablement decided by the qualified medical practitioner. Moreover, they describe this as ‘potential earnings’. It is nothing more than a wage picked out from a job advert – a job some functionary in HR, with no medical qualifications, no understanding of disability, and no right to do so, ‘thinks’ the individual ought to be able to earn. And ex-pigs might fly.
  1. Staffordshire work out that a maximum salary for a PC is £37500. So the ‘loss of earnings’ is the difference between what they would be earning as a PC and what they say the person could be earning outside the job: £37500 minus £28389 equals £9102.

Note: Remember that the 75% is a final decision and this extra calculation is post-decision and thus extraneous and unlawful. Note also: An injury pension is compensation for duty injury and is not compensation for loss of earnings.

In fact, the Regulations do not mention loss of earnings at all. They do speak of earning capacity however, of which regulation 7-(5) tell us this: ‘Where it is necessary to determine the degree of a person’s disablement it shall be determined by reference to the degree to which his earning capacity has been affected as a result of an injury received without his own default in the execution of his duty as a member of a police force.’

Earning capacity has been determined in the Administrative Court to be a measure of a person’s capacity to work and thus earn. No mention of wages or loss of earnings. It’s the CAPACITY stupid! Not what that capacity might produce in terms of earnings.

  1. So where were we? Oh yes, Staffordshire had worked out that £9102 is 24% of £37500. (Which you and I can readily see makes a ‘loss of earnings’ of 24%, which, if that was a legal way of calculating degree of disablement, which it isn’t, would already place the pensioner on band one.)
  1. That’s not good enough for Staffordshire. They want a lower percentage, more firmly down in band one and thus less likely to see a future SMP move it up into a band two. So, now they calculate a percentage of a percentage. They bring the 75% back into it and calculate 75% of 24%. This gives 18% and a band 1 award.
  1. Taking the poor mathematical logic further, just say the SMP decides the person is totally incapable of any work and so awards a degree of disablement of 100%. Staffordshire will then still award a band 1. The calculation for ‘loss of earnings’ remains the same, but 100% of 24% is 24% and a band 1.
  1. The fallacy is the double jeopardy of calculating a percentage of a percentage to factor down the SMP’s ‘final’ given degree of disablement.
  1. The unlawfulness is that Staffordshire have overruled the final decision of the SMP.

Is it a coincidence that the majority of those injured out in Staffordshire with an on duty injury are band 1s?

Here is how it should happen:

  1. SMP awards 75%
  2. Look for where 75% sits in the following table for a PC retired with service between 15 and 25 years
  3. Degree of disablement Gratuity expressed as % of average pensionable pay Minimum income guarantee expressed as % of average pensionable pay
    Less than 5 years’ service 5 or more but less than 15 years’ service 15 or more but less than 25 years’ service. 25 or more years’ service.
    (1)       (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
    25% or less (slight disablement)         12.5% 15% 30% 45% 60%
    More than 25% but not more than 50% (minor disablement)         25% 40% 50% 60% 70%
    More than 50% but not more than 75% (major disablement)        37.5% 65% 70% 75% 80%
    More than 75% (very severe disablement)          50% 85% 85% 85% 85%
  4. It is band 3.
  5. The % is still 75%75% of the final salary is due as the IOD award

The insight into Staffordshire’s calculations given by their response to the freedom of information request is scarily enlightening. Staffordshire has given us a clear understanding of the perverse ploys that they, and some other forces, use to go against the Regulations.

Needless to say, use of PEAM to make calculations after the SMP has announced a final decision is blatantly unlawful and needs to be taken to Judicial Review.

Now, if only there was an organisation, say a federated organisation created by statute, which could support retired officers and fight their cause . . . .

What they know …

What they know …

Do you know what is in your occupational health?  Could there be a memo. a letter or some handwritten notes that show that the force did not act within their lawful duty when they made the decision to retire you?

It is foolhardy to attend a review they have instigated upon you without knowing what information they have on you beforehand.  A Subject Access Request (SAR) under the Data Protection Act is a method to get full disclosure of personnel records and occupational health files and should be the first action if ever called to a review of your injury on  duty award

Once submitted with a form of identification (such as a photocopy of a passport)  and a £10 cheque, you should receive within 40 days the required information. Then you will not be entering the process blind.  Indeed there may be something within the file that indicates that any previous decisions were unsound.

A template letter can be found here:

There is nothing stopping you from putting in a SAR once notified they are starting a review process and then another SAR once the review has completed.  The second request should specify all handwritten notes made by SMP during the assessment.

You might also discover that they have destroyed your personnel file under some internal  retention policy.  If so it can be argued how they are going to compare your skill set when they have no record of what skills you gained during your service.