Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
― Mark Twain
Staffordshire Police is one of less than a small handful of forces which remain determined to abuse the ‘review’ provision contained within The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006.
Chief Constable Morgan, fresh from his experiences with attempting to run a mass review programme of injury pensions in Avon and Somerset, has committed Staffordshire to a similar enterprise.
Mr Morgan’s story in Avon and Somerset, which he has repeated in Staffordshire, is that there is a duty to review the degree of disablement of all former officers who are in receipt of an injury on duty pension. In an open letter dated 21st December 2017 CC Morgan writes,
On 26 April 2017 Staffordshire (sic) Police began a pension review of retired Injured on Duty (IOD) officers in accordance with Reg. 37 (1) of the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 which places a duty upon the Police Pension Authority (the Chief Constable) to review whether the degree of the pensioners’ disablement has altered.
There is a duty, which is subject to a discretionary process before being acted upon, which allows a Police Pension Authority (‘PPA’) to,
. . . consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered . . .
A PPA must, for each individual, first determine whether it is appropriate to consider whether their degree of disablement has altered. It must first identify a suitable interval has passed since the time of the last final decision was made on degree of disablement. In some instances, there may never be a suitable interval.
Let’s put this as simply as possible. Unless a PPA can show, with a record of its reasoning process, that there has passed a suitable interval then a PPA is not entitled to make any consideration on degree of disablement.
This aspect of the Regulations was settled way back in 2003, in the case of Crocker. The court opined,
I regard the review provision as the key. There is no need to speculate. As and when circumstances dictate, the pension is reviewed. The doctors, the Medical Referee, and Selected Medical Practitioner can, and here did, indicate when they thought that that should happen. Such a power is wholly inconsistent with a need to forecast the future and then to test the calculation of the forecast against the actual out turn on a number of occasions. The means by review of correcting the pension when circumstances change obviates the need not just to speculate, but to speculate and review as well.
That determination is not hard to understand, but in plainer English, the court decided that doctors, medical referees (now PMAB’s) and SMPs should not speculate about when any alteration in an individual’s degree of disablement might occur. A PPA should not use those speculations as reason to conduct a ‘review’.
Moreover, the court decided that any ‘review’ should be a reaction to a perceived change in circumstances of an individual.
Staffordshire Police, and others, should note well the deliberate use of the singular pronoun in regulation 37, which identifies – ‘the pensioner’. Not, ‘all pensioner’s degrees of disablement’ or even, ‘pensioner’s degrees of disablement‘.
When the Regulations speak of the singular person they intend a singular consideration, not a mass consideration.
The PPA should therefore conduct a full review only after having considered that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered.
We have to comment too, that a ‘consideration’ is a very different concept to a ‘review’. In fact, the word ‘review’ does not appear anywhere in the Regulations.
What Staffordshire Police mistakenly reads into the Regulations is a carte blanche duty to intrude into the lives of disabled former officers. They think that they can demand a range of sensitive medical and financial information to which they have no legal right. They think that they can task their HR or Occupational Health departments to collude with the doctor hired by the force to conduct medical assessments and examination with a view to influencing what should be an independent medical decision by the SMP.
Staffordshire Police set about their plans to conduct a mass review programme in the manner of a surgeon removing a leg to treat an ingrowing toenail.
The truth is, all Staffordshire Police are entitled to do is to make a polite enquiry of only those pensioners where there my be a strong indication of alteration. Their duty is discharged entirely once they get the answer that there has been no alteration.
We can for the moment leave aside well-founded suspicions that wherever a force has decided to hold mass reviews the decision to do so has been based entirely on an expectation of saving money.
Such expectations have proved to be illusory.
The facts are that over a ten year period, up to 2015, across the country, when most forces were conducting reviews, the vast majority resulted in a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement.
Even if Staffordshire Police’s intentions were entirely based on an altruistic desire to comply with the basic concept that a police pension authority needs to ensure the correct level of pension continues to be paid, should circumstances alter, then conducting a mass review is not the way to go about it.
So, what has happened so far? What progress has been made since Mr Morgan’s announcement in April 2017?
A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed some interesting facts.
A company called IMASS/Medigold was contracted to provide a doctor or doctors to conduct the medical aspects of the reviews. This company’s doctor commenced his work with Staffordshire in February 2018.
A doctor assessed 26 injury on duty pensioners. He made a decision there had been no alteration in degree of disablement in 6 cases. In the remaining 20 cases he decided he could not make any decision. No former officers were decided to have experienced any alteration in degree of disablement.
There is no option in the Regulations for a SMP to discharge his task by not deciding. Once a PPA has commenced a consideration it must ensure a decision is made. Staffordshire PPA is in breach of its duty in respect of those 20 pensioners who have no finality.
Surely, common sense should prevail in these circumstances. A PPA has only one realistic option, which is to record the SMP’s ‘no decision’ as a decision there has been no alteration. It is inhuman to leave pensioners up in the air with the uncertainty a failure to decide engenders.
Other evidence of what has resulted from reviews is contained in a Progress Report dated 22nd March 2018.
It states a total of 45 injury on duty pensioners had been reviewed, or were in the process of being reviewed. Of them, 13 were decided to have no alteration in degree of disablement. In 4 cases, the pension was reduced due to a decision there had been a substantial improvement in degree of disablement. Of the remaining 28 pensioners there was no news.
Each review will have cost at least £500 to £600 and if there are appeals and court cases resulting from unlawful application of the regulations the experience of Avon and Somerset will be repeated in Staffordshire. When Mr Morgan was DCC in Avon and Somerset he saw a bill which ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
IODPA finds it hard to understand why Staffordshire police pension authority is happy to waste so much public money in conducting ‘reviews’ as currently constructed, when it is open to it to devise a process which will allow it to comply with regulation 37 at minimal cost, and without visiting anxiety and real harm on vulnerable disabled former officers.
Staffordshire Police tell a good story, but just like those of Mark Twain, it is complete fiction. And not even slightly amusing.