“There’s no going back, and there’s no hiding the information. So let everyone have it.”
― Andrew Kantor
An often-asked question is, ‘How many former police officers have injury awards?’
The Home Office claims it doesn’t have a clue about numbers. Whether you believe that or not is up to you.
So, unfortunately there is no central database, and with 43 police forces in England and Wales, one in Northern Ireland and one in Scotland, gathering in the information is something of a chore. We at IODPA are pleased to say that for us it was a task worth undertaking. And the results of our enquiry are revealing.
IODPA has been busy. Using the Freedom of Information Act, all police forces except Police Scotland* were asked the question of how many injury award recipients they have. They were also asked how many reviews of injury pensions have been conducted by year since 2005.
* We didn’t ask Police Scotland because we get no enquiries from north of the border, and we also understand that having recently combined eight forces into one some record systems are in a mess.
First, the facts. The results are set out below in graphical form. Then the comment. We have added some observations on what the figures might indicate to conclude this post.
Not all forces have provided the information requested. South Wales Police and Lancashire Police both advise that they have handed over all their files concerning police injury pensions to commercial companies, who are now, it seems, administering these pensions. Cumbria Constabulary and Surrey Police are experiencing delays in providing the information.
From the data we have received we know there are 15,543 disabled former officers in receipt of injury pensions. By looking at some previous research, undertaken in 2011, we are able to estimate that the true figure is in excess of 16,500.
At the end of 2010, there were 13,872 IOD pensioners in England and Wales. If we remove the PSNI figure of 2,566 IOD pensioners from our current estimated total, we see that in England and Wales, there are around currently 14,000 IOD pensioners on the books.
Plot 1 shows the ratio as a percent of IODs to serving officers by each force. Those forces without a bar (at the bottom of the axis) have as yet not replied to the FOIA request
Unsurprisingly, Police Service of Northern Ireland, has the biggest proportion of IODs at almost 35%. Other forces with a high proportion of IODs are: Kent, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, Northumbria, North Wales and Avon & Somerset.
Plot number 2 is a bar chart showing the actual number of IODs of each force.
Avon & Somerset, Greater Manchester, Kent, Merseyside, the Met, Northumbria, Northern Ireland and West Yorkshire all have 500 or over current IODs.
Plot 3 displays the percentage of IOD pensions of each force which have been reviewed over the past 5 years. No blue bar means no reviews. Only 12 forces have instigated any reviews over the past 5 years.
Now we start to see patterns appear. The names of forces with either a high proportion of IODs to serving officers or/and over 500 IODs reappear as forces that have also reviewed post the Home Office suspension in 2010. Avon & Somerset, Merseyside, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and West Yorkshire are visible again.
Could it be that the greater number or higher proportion of IODs, the greater the incentive to attempt to reduce their financial burden?
Plot 4 shows us the distribution for the total count of reviews of each force by the two 5 year periods: 2005 to 2010 (blue) and 2011 to 2015 (pink).
A simplified description of plot 4 is that there is a lot of blue. Most of the pink is in the first column – the range of counts at zero. In other words in 2011-2015 most forces did not review anyone. The blue counts are asymmetrical. This means the blue stretches to the right (right skewed) and there are significantly more values of blue to the right as compared to pink. Something ‘happened’ in 2005 and this ‘something’ stopped in 2010.
That something was the 2004 guidance contained in Annex C to Home Office circular 46/2004. The guidance contained the remarkable assertion that at age 65 all former officers suddenly lost all capacity to work and thus earn. The guidance also contained some illogical mumbo-jumbo about needing to revise injury pensions at what would be normal force retirement age.
The Home Office suspended all reviews in 2010 because the guidance was finally, after much pointless resistance by the Home Office, agreed to be unlawful. Police Authorities and Chief Constables had been shown to have been abusing the police pension Regulations, with the encouragement of the Home Office.
Plot 5 dramatically displays the initial enthusiasm, from 2005, for reviewing with a pre-ordained intention to reduce everyone no matter what the medical circumstances of the individual. This came to a crashing halt in 2010.
Plot 5 shows the flat-lining of reviews post 2010 with only a few forces daring to raise their heads. Merseyside in 2015 is a massive outlier – to be able to hold so many reviews in just one year their processes will have had to been changed dramatically from the norm of the past decade.
The data shows that a sudden enthusiasm for holding reviews of injury pensions, triggered by the Home Office guidance, was not universal, and that it rapidly tailed off once pensioners brought grievances to the attention of the High Court and the Pensions Ombudsman. The Home Office retreated and withdrew its guidance, but the damage was done.
The year on year reduction of reviews over the past decade is backed up with data published by the Home Office in relation to the decisions made in Police Medical Appeal Boards. Plot 6 shows the numbers of PMAB decisions by the type of hearing: reviews (degree of disablement) or original decisions (permanency, whether it is an IOD, disablement).
There has been a visible decline in all PMABs with a flat lining of hearings in the 12 months between Nov 13-Oct14.
Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that some Police Pension Authorities are solving their own ‘review’ conundrum by not awarding any injury on duty pensions (and deviantly leaving the officer on both no pay and indefinite sick leave). Or if an award is given the force uses, in the words of NAMF, the ‘neither lawful or unlawful’ method of the PEAM to only award band one to the former officer.
Plot 7 shows that over the past 7 years there has been an overall 2% increase in the total number of former officers with an Injury Award.
What is striking is the massive variation between forces.
Some Forces have doubled their number of IOD awards (Kent) whilst others have seen their number halved (Norfolk). Has Kent become twice as dangerous? These figures in isolation may seen trivial to the casual observer but by quantifying the figures now we have a baseline that will be the enabler to show future trends. This will mean that no force can hide their actions from IODPA and other interested parties.
What can not be displayed graphically is the fact that those who have caused so damage to so many medically retired officers by unlawfully conducting reviews are still in their jobs. They have destroyed what little trust existed but still they hold meetings and discuss alternative methods to undermine the Regulations. It is as though they were shown a glimpse of a golden future, where they were promised that what has been described by more than one mercenary member of HR as ‘the burden’ of police injury pension payments could be dramatically reduced. Having seen the illusion of pots of money flowing from the pockets of disabled former officers, to be spent on flashy new cars and computer systems and hiring more and more ‘Heads of People’ or other equally ridiculously-titled poppinjays, it is hard for some people to abandon the dream.
We at IODPA are confident any such dream will turn into a nightmare if there are any further attempts to subvert the Regulations and rob IOD pensioners of their rights.
Looking at the numbers – around 14,000 disabled former officers – we have to wonder why neither NARPO nor the Police Federation apparently have no database of former officers who are in receipt of an injury pension. It is a mystery. Protecting the pension rights of disabled former officers would be made easier if these two representative organisations made the effort to compile a database. Interestingly, we understand that NARPO does not even ask the question, ‘Do you have an injury pension?’ when former officers apply to join.
We mentioned the Police Service of Northern Ireland in relation to chart one. The biggest force, with the largest number of IOD pensioners. We are glad to say that this force has taken major steps to put right the iniquities of maladministration which resulted from abuse of the Regulations. This force commissioned an eminent QC, David Scoffield, to enquire into everything, and to produce recommendations. Which he did. And which the PSNI are currently busy implementing.
But, are forces on the mainland watching and listening to events in Northern Ireland? As always, the picture is divided. We can see from the data above that the vast majority of forces in England and Wales either have not held any reviews since 2010, or have held only a handful. However, Avon and Somerset, Merseyside and Nottinghamshire are still in cloud-cuckoo land and have been busy trying to mass review.
Either these forces have lost all touch with reality, or they are an axis of evil. Why would any decent, ethical, humanitarian organisation want to continue holding reviews when all the evidence is that no force has the structure in place, the experience, the training, or the knowledge to do so without continuing to make glaring errors and causing much distress and inconvenience to disabled former officers and their families? That’s not just IODPA’s opinion, it is the facts, as set out in a recent report of an enquiry by the College of Policing. (Which we reported on in an earlier blog).
So, should we be pleased that so few reviews have been held over the last five years? When we see that of the 806 reviews held there were 55 pensioners who had their pensions increased, but 83 who suffered a decrease we have to reserve judgement. We think it entirely possible that the forces who have held reviews may be ‘cherry-picking’ – selecting the pensioners on the higher bandings for review, whilst leaving everyone who is on band one alone. That is certainly the case in Avon and Somerset.
We suspect that never holding reviews can be as bad, for some people as holding mass reviews. Those people who have experienced a worsening of their degree of disablement since 2010 and who should have been upped a band or more, have been denied their proper rate of pension.
We conclude that reviews are a necessary part of the provisions within the Regulations. We have often stated that we are not against reviews, per se, but we want to see all forces abandon their attitude where they think reviews are a means of saving money, and that all pensioners are scroungers or lead-swingers. We want to see forces set up proper systems to allow reviews to be conducted only when absolutely necessary and appropriate, and done so within the spirit and letter of the Regulations, and we want to see pensioners treated with dignity and respect. We want to see certain ‘hired-gun’ SMPs sacked, or better still, sacked and charged with corruption or fraud. We want to see certain incompetent HR managers employed at their true level of ability stacking shelves or collecting trolleys at Tescos. Only then will we rest content. Until that time we will continue to grow in strength, and in numbers, and our determination to see justice prevail will never waver.