When your injury pension has been abused by maladministration you need to know two things.
How to recognise maladministration and who can put things right.
Let’s look at what maladministration is and how we can recognise it. This Google search clarifies how many times the Pensions Ombudsman has had to make determinations against police pension authorities specifically concerning injury awards:
Given the relatively small number in receipt of an injury award, the number of results is mind boggling and it demonstrates the simple fact that police pension authorities are not competent custodians of our injury awards. Remember these are only those that have complained – many, many more are too ill, elderly or restricted by the injuries to pursue a complaint. There are also a number of decisions not returned by the search link, in other words, this result is just the tip of the iceberg.
Maladministration covers the following:
- Incorrect action or failure to take any action
- Failure to follow procedures or the law
- Failure to provide information
- Inadequate record-keeping
- Failure to investigate
- Failure to reply
- Misleading or inaccurate statements
- Inadequate liaison
- Inadequate consultation
- Broken promises
One thing to be mindful of is that so far as police injury pensions are concerned, it seems to be the case that little will result from any form of challenge or complaint unless the maladministration has resulted in what is termed an unremedied injustice. In other words, unless you have lost out financially, then forget about the Pensions Ombudsman.
Instead make a formal complaint against the individual or individuals concerned. Again, probably not much will result, as Chief Constables have a highly-tuned sense of self preservation and will never willingly admit that they, or anyone else has ever done anything wrong. The point is, to make the complaint and get it on record.
If you have good reason to believe your injury pension is being paid at less a rate than the circumstances would seem to dictate, or that the SMP or HR have done you over by mangling the Regulations, then please do something about it. You don’t necessarily need a solicitor, or extensive knowledge of the case law concerning injury pensions, but you do need to make yourself familiar with something which your police pension authority may well not be open about.
Hands up all those who have heard of an Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure?
Before accepting assurances from HR that if you are dissatisfied with any decision made about your injury pension you can appeal to a Police Medical Appeal Board – a daunting prospect – ask them to tell you all about the force’s IDRP.
Every pension scheme has to have an IDRP system built in to enable members of that scheme to complain about matters concerning the administration of their pension (section 50 of the Pensions Act 1995). Injury awards are no exception.
An IDRP can be a one or two part process. One part may settle the matter, but if not on it goes to part two. Be very aware though that the ‘I’ in IDRP does not stand for Independent. In part one a senior person is asked to consider your submission. If there is no resolution, then someone else is appointed to take a look. That person may be another force employee, or, more often will be someone with no close connection to the force who is deemed to have some relevant expertise. We have no data on how many IDRPs produce an acceptable solution at either stage. The process can take several months.
But if you don’t initiate an IDRP you will find that the Pensions Ombudsman – who is the person who can really do something about maladministration – will not be able to accept your complaint. He likes to see himself as a mediator, a settler of differences, and an arbiter of the law. He wants to see the parties to a dispute make efforts to resolve it before he is asked to get involved.
From anecdotal evidence we believe that more often than not a police pension authority does nothing positive to resolve a dispute or deal with a complaint on the stage one and stage two parts of the dispute. We know that quite often they have no idea what an IDRP is and thus the complainant may be faced with glib meaningless waffle or, after an interminable wait, will have to conclude the file is lost in the bowels of bureaucracy.
Bear with it. There is a time limit. OK, it is only a guideline, but if you have faced unreasonable delay with no conclusion, the PO will look kindly on you and accept your complaint.
It is worth mentioning here that an IDRP, as a route to the PO, is often the only avenue of redress open. There are stricter time limits on when an appeal to a PMAB should be made, and also with taking matters to the Administrative Court for judicial review. One avenue does remain open, without limit of time, and that is a ‘reconsideration’ of a decision, under regulation 32-(2) of the Police (Injury Benefits) Regulations 2006. Of which route, more in another article.
If you are not satisfied with the result of an IDRP, then it can be useful to speak to The Pension Advisory Service. Once you have hit a brick wall with attempts to get matters resolved TPAS should be able give you advice on how to raise the matter to the Pension Ombudsman for a decision.
The Pension Ombudsman has made some very useful, helpful, decisions on injury pension issues in recent years. If you can get your complaint on his desk for investigation, and you have a good case, set out well, then in all probability you will have the pleasure of seeing him tell your PPA to put things right.