This is the time when we look back over the past year and its events and achievements and forward to the New Year and the challenges and successes which lay ahead.
2018 saw Essex Police commence reviews to a large number of injured pensioners, all, we believe, to be on band four. Letters were sent to them with the Regulation 33 paragraph enclosed. Sadly, someone from within Essex Police had disingenuously given the impression the quoted regulation allowed pensions to be reduced to band one if a questionnaire was not completed. The questionnaire required personal financial information and the pensioners’ signed permission for the force to access HMRC and DWP records, and consent for the force to access full medical records.
IODPA, along with Essex branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (‘NARPO’), wrote letters to the Chief Constable in his role of Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’), and we were pleased to blog his reply to us.
Reviews in Essex were soon halted and we still await their next move.
Staffordshire Police have continued with their review process, bringing a number of pensioners in front of various Selected Medical Practitioners (‘SMP’). All three SMPs used have all subsequently ended their contract with Staffordshire for various reasons. We believe that a new SMP is currently being sought to take up what must be regarded in the medical profession as a poisoned chalice.
2018 ended, as many of you will recall, with seventeen pensioners having their injury pensions reduced summarily by Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, acting as PPA. The reason cited was that failure by IOD pensioners to allow access to their medical records amounted to a failure to attend a medical interview or examination. This was another example of an abuse of regulation 33.
All seventeen had willingly attended their review appointments, many of whom attended twice. IODPA solicitors acting for the seventeen pensioners immediately sought clarification from the police pension authority of its use of regulation 33.
Mr Morgan then promised to give his individual reasons for each decision to reduce and has meanwhile postponed the reductions.
We await the next stage in this legal fight but suffice to say, we wish everyone the very best of luck. You have one of the best legal teams behind you.
2018 has been a year of continuing growth for IODPA, We now have members from every one of the forty three forces in England and Wales plus Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
We are very proud to say that our membership has increased over the last twelve months by a third from the previous year. We will continue to welcome new members on board, after all, there are over 13,000 IODs out there!!
We are still a small charity, but we exert an influence and achieve results that are well above what might be expected. IODPA is uniquely placed to provide a quality of service to our members which cannot be found elsewhere. We focus entirely on the needs of former officers with varying degrees of disablement resulting from duty injury, and officers still serving but about to be retired because of ill health or injury on duty.
With our tight focus, IODPA provides moral and practical support in the most effective manner. Members have the facility to be in easy contact with each other, no matter where they live. Through that contact they reach out to anyone who needs comfort. They help each other. They exchange experiences and knowledge – and we have some very knowledgeable members. Together our membership can call on hundreds of years of experience and skills for the benefit of all. Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone, that someone else is there to talk to is enough. When more is needed, we provide extensive in-depth advice and guidance on all aspects of police injury pensions.
IODPA has continued to hold regular meetings throughout 2018, all over the UK. We recognise the need to support those who are undergoing reviews. It is a highly anxious and stressful time, but particular so for those with mental health injuries.
IODPA campaigns to raise awareness and promote understanding of the correct application of The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 so that those retired with injury awards receive fair and lawful treatment, respect, equality and inclusion. Our core aims are to:
Expose and challenge all aspects of illegality, unfair practices and improper conduct at all levels of injury award administration.
Share information about good practices and support individuals to effect actions for themselves to achieve lawful and fair outcomes.
To develop a wider awareness and acceptance that the continued use of unlawful policies and frameworks for the administration of injury on duty awards is failing everyone.
Provision of unconditional confidentiality and our promise of keeping everything between us. It is fundamental to our core aims that no-one outside of IODPA will know what members have confided.
To provide a secure support network and forum for retired injured officers.
Time was devoted to developing a deep working understanding of the new General Data Protection Regulations, which came into force in April 2018. IODPA had become aware that many forces have been lax to the point of illegality in their retention and processing of personal information concerning former police officers. We report below on an example of how the GDPR has been used to protect the legal rights of members.
Our excellent legal team have been kept busy too. We thank them all for their efforts, and congratulate them on their many successes. IODPA would prefer that police pension authorities never gave us cause to go to litigation, but it remains a sad fact that in some areas there is an unfortunate confluence of insufficient knowledge and understanding of the various pension regulations, a lack of training, and sometimes even a certain amount of ill-will towards disabled former officers. Perhaps worse of all though is the almost universal inability in some forces of anyone at any level to admit mistakes or to show any degree of willingness to work towards ensuring the lawful rights of pensioners.
Over the past year, we have continued to maintain our excellent professional relationships with Ron Thompson and Mark Lake.
We also have been working with Lawrence Davies, a solicitor who specialises in Equality Law, and whom is based in London. He has been instrumental in leading Employment Tribunal test cases involving pensioners.
The public face of IODPA is presented via our own web site, and through Facebook and Twitter, where we post news, provide a portal to obtaining membership, present information and discussion on aspects of pension administration, and in so doing hopefully help to inform and educate employees in HR and Occupational Health departments how to avoid falling into error. The web site underwent a complete renovation early in the past year, with a new look, new and enlarged content and a new dynamic. It has been met with approval by hundreds of people, and is now a point of reference for Federation reps.
We published twenty four blogs on our web site over the year which highlighted questionable tactics of various police forces around the UK in their treatment of injured officers. The blogs have been met with good interaction from the public, who are able to post their own comments on the site. As is the way of things, the comments were generally not at all complimentary to certain forces. However, IODPA firmly believes that the vast majority of employees who are involved in police pension administration are honest, decent and well intentioned. We applaud them and are sorry to see their reputations tarnished by the wrongdoings of the minority.
A most important responsibility for the lawful administration of police injury pensions rests in the hands of the doctors employed by forces to make certain vital decisions required by the regulations. Medicine is a profession which demands high ethical standards. Acting as the SMP for a police pension authority requires not only a wide medical knowledge but also a deep understanding of the police pension regulations and other aspects of law. Sadly, some SMPs have shown themselves to be deficient in some or all areas.
IODPA looks to police pension authorities to correct this situation by ensuring that SMPs are all allowed to perform their task without influence or interference. Their decisions and opinions should be free of bias, arrived at from only relevant facts and be fully in compliance with the regulations and other law.
We have accompanied a number of pensioners to their reviews during the past year. We feel that this has had a positive impact, not only on the individuals subject to SMP decisions but on the SMPs themselves. When SMPs have been subjected to misleading information and training the presence of someone knowledgeable can help the SMP to avoid making mistakes which could result in damage to reputation, complaint or an appearance as a respondent in the Administrative Court.
In early spring of 2017, we championed the way for submitting complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office, regarding breaches of data protection law.
In 2018 we concentrated particularly on pushing forward with a complaint regarding Avon and Somerset Police holding on to medical records indefinitely. This was pursued over a number of months and eventually the ICO give compelling advice that A & S should give back medical notes.
The ICO has also issued a decision concerning Essex Police which clearly sets out the limited amount of personal information any force is entitled to retain in respect of discharging its duties under the police injury benefit regulations.
This was in addition to a previous decision concerning Northumbria Police which advised them that asking for medical records from birth is excessive and in breach of the DPA.
These three decisions, together, were a huge achievement, as they open the way for many other pensioners to start pursuing the same issue with their own former forces, and believe they will provide some much needed clarity for data protection managers within all forces.
We have had over seventy letters of thanks during our first year, which means a great deal to us. It’s endorsing that we are doing a satisfactory job and that we are having a significant impact on people’s lives.
During 2018 we made contact with a number of organisations and we intend on building those links over the coming years.
We met with the Executive board of NARPO in their HQ at Wakefield. Chief Executive Steve Edwards was present as was Alan Lees the Deputy Chief Executive, Brian Bardus, President, and Richard Critchley, Deputy President.
We shared honest views with each other and agreed we were all able to work together in the future for the benefit of all members of both organisations.
IODPA also attended the NARPO conference in September, which was over an enjoyable two days.
We will continue to work harmoniously with NARPO branches and look to doing similar with any others who wish to form links with IODPA.
We are also working together with some local Federation branches, which again, is excellent for all our members. We are stronger working together and welcome contact from other branches if we can assist you to advise your members.
Another connection we made during our first year, was with a Social Enterprise called Upledger UK. They specialise in treatment called Cranial Sacral Therapy and which is used successfully to treat people with PTSD and physical injuries,. The treatment originates from America and has been used on hundreds of army veterans.
Between Upledger and IODPA, we managed to facilitate a week’s therapy exclusively for our members in November 2017. It was gratis for our members to attend because of funds raised. All members who attended reported that the week’s treatment was life changing. One member who attended the course vowed to raise funds so that others could have the chance of such brilliant treatment. He announced he was going to raise money by doing, ‘a little bike ride’ – from John O’Groats to Lands End.
In May 2018, after months of training, he set off from John O’Groats together with a large support team plus his son and another pensioner, who would do parts of the journey with him.
On Sat 9th June 2018, he cycled into Lands End, having pedalled over 920 miles. He raised £12,000 for the charity – a magnificent achievement which is applauded with gratitude by all members and Trustees.
Fundraising is now firmly on the agenda. Various initiatives throughout the year, always well supported by our members and their families and friends, brought in a steady stream of funds. IODPA also benefited from individual donations.
We are very proud and delighted to announce that in June of 2018 we welcomed our first patron of the charity.
Pete Conway, better known as father of Robbie Williams, agreed to be our patron. He is a big supporter of injured police officers, having been a police officer In Staffordshire in a previous life. He has been active in supporting the charity and its aims, he has lent his support to us throughout the year by attending functions where he can, he also advertises our fundraisers on his Twitter account, which is helpful as he reaches a large audience around the world. Pete is a kind, generous, approachable and big hearted man and we look forward to working alongside him in the coming year.
Since IODPA became a registered charity it has achieved a huge amount of success throughout the past year.
We anticipate some pivotal legal challenges in the New Year, not least with Staffordshire’s police pension authority which seems intent on testing its own peculiar interpretation of an important aspect of the injury benefit regulations. We are more than prepared for that contest and are fully supportive of our members.
So, to all our members, friends and supporters, and to all people of good will we wish a very Happy New Year.