Nottinghamshire

We’ve Come a Long Way…

We’ve Come a Long Way…

“Bottom line is, even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”
Joss Whedon

On the last Friday in the month of May three years ago, in the undoubtedly swanky splendour of his official residence in the Portishead headquarters of Avon & Somerset Police, Julian Kern the newly titled Director of Resources must have given a good impression of a coiled snake preparing to leap.  Eager to dig his fangs into the seemingly juicy and succulent meat of a defenceless prey, Julian had seized on Police and Crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens’s decision to reduce what she saw as the unproductive cost of honouring the force’s obligation to pay injury awards to disabled former police officers.

Kern was a finance director before he was given the dual responsibility of HR. Thus Mountstevens’s plan made perfect sense to his pounds and pence mind. Pay pensioners less, and use the money elsewhere.  To Kern it must have seemed to be a no-brainer. In the event it was, but not in the way he anticipated. Kern as a snake bared his fangs and leaped, only to strike not soft yielding flesh but concrete, ‘honey badger-like’ resolve.

Sixteen former officers were selected to have their injury pensions reviewed. The selection was made on the basis they were all in receipt of the highest level of injury pension and were all relatively young. In the warped minds of Kern and Mountstevens, the sixteen represented a long term drain on the force budget. They were a carefully chosen sample whose injury awards stood to be paid for the greatest number of years unless they could be reduced. As they were on the highest band there was no danger of their pensions being increased by a review – they could, however, with a fair wind and a compliant SMP be reduced.

Let us just remind ourselves what Mountstevens wrote to the then Policing Minister in August 2013. She wrote:

I have recently been looking into the area of “injured on duty” (IOD)  police officer pension enhancements and found that a significant part of my budget is consumed every year on these payments which generate no benefit to the people of Avon & Somerset.’

Let’s  also just remind ourselves what Mountstevens put on record at a HR Portfolio Update meeting, minuted at page 6.

Injury on Duty – The OCC have over 300 ex-officers receiving IOD enhancements costing c£6m in total per annum. This is very high compared to other forces.  There is a duty to review these and OCC are now conducting a “test” review of 16 cases – stating with the youngest/highest bands.’

So, the sixteen were selected not for any reason to believe their disablement had improved. They were to be guinea pigs to test the plan to reduce the cost of paying injury pensions.

Moreover, disabled former officers were seen as nothing more than a worthless burden.

Mountstevens even made the odious and crassly inappropriate comparison of those former officers who had been injured on duty through no fault of their own with a fleet of high mileage cars.

The annual cost of these lOD’s to the force is in excess of £5.5m (2% of our annual budget). This is more than it costs us to run our fleet . . .

It was against this money-grabbing background that Kern considered it highly likely that he, and his Z-team of HR minions and doctors (cough) Bulpitt and Johnson, could whizz through reviews of the injury pensions of all 500 disabled former officers in nine months.

Supernintendo Markay & Peter Owens of Merseyside, Stephen Mitchell of Nottinghamshire and Lesley Ann Knowles of Northumbria all squawked a tuneless wail from the same accountant’s hymn-sheet.

Reality dawned soon enough. What seemed like a walk in the park, resulting in some handy savings, turned into a slog in thigh deep mud.  Pensioners pointed out to the PCC and to HR and Kern that the reviews were being conducted unlawfully. The promise of a swift conclusion of a mass review program dissipated rapidly as the realisation dawned that pensioners were well organised and would fight for their rights. Of the sixteen original reviews, a significant portion of those sixteen still haven’t received closure from the unlawful review process. Four of the sixteen are still awaiting conclusion – three years later; a further two are still undergoing appeals to PMAB. As to the remaining 486 IOD pensioners – they have had to live with the uncertainty generated by the prospect of a review for three years now.

To date, Mountstevens and Kern have cost ‘the people of Avon & Somerset‘ ™ ~ Sue Mountstevens hundreds of thousands of pounds (yes, you read that correctly, that’s six figure numbers we’re talking) in their fruitless attempt to abuse the police pension regulations. Most of the money pocketed by the SMP, Dr Philip Johnson.

Throughout the self-generated pandemonium of a team of incompetents doing something they don’t understand how to do it, when asked, Kern has always disingenuously stated that everything is to plan and he is doing it all correctly and lawfully.  How much longer can Kern continue to claim the sun goes around the earth, or that the Emperor is wearing fine clothing? The clock is still ticking.

So back to the last weekday, a Friday, in the month of May – three years ago exactly – when, with characteristic oppressive malevolence, letters announcing the intention to review were sent out, timed to hit the letterbox of the recipients on a Saturday.  Saturday 31st May 2014 to be exact.

The weekend receipt of such nasty letters is a practice still favoured by such forces as Merseyside, Staffordshire and Northumbria.

You see, it gives the disabled person shocked and worried by the very obvious threat to their pension a full 48 hours in which to suffer anxiety and have any mental health symptoms exacerbated before they can seek help – help which is only available on the following Monday at the earliest.

This can not go unnoticed as it is beyond the realms of chance that a Saturday is when this sort of letter always hits the mat.  This abuse has a descriptive term: “white torture” – it is a form of sensory deprivation through isolation favoured by North Korea and those who administer police injury pensions.

Speaking of Merseyside, with the coordination of a bloat of hippopotamus performing synchronised swimming, that force joined the fray by reviewing 502 IOD pensioners in a space of only 9 months. They achieved this purely by getting their resident medical retirement ‘officer‘, Peter Owens, to demand, with threats, that IOD pensioners tell him their earnings. On that irrelevant scrap of information Owens decided who might have experienced a substantial alteration in their degree of disablement, and who had probably not. He conveniently ignored the little legal requirement of having only a duly qualified medical practitioner decide the medical question of substantial alteration. He also chose to ignore the small legal point that an individual’s uninjured earning capacity could be higher than their former police salary.

Nottinghamshire mirrored Merseyside but, with flash of misplaced egotism, felt the need to get Stephen Mitchel (HR manager/NWEF deputy chair) and Dr Ralph Sampson to gloat to the national attendance management forum in a powerpoint presentation that’s it is all about the money and used twisted examples of dubiously reduced injury awards but conveniently left out that a proportion of those reduced won their award back on appeal.

Without thought, Staffordshire has also jumped into the murky waters and started a mass review program. We in IODPA say to Staffordshire police pension authority, ‘Good luck with that, mate. See you in court.’

An independent observer might well think this sort of action by these forces was co-ordinated; possibly even sanctioned by the heady mix of nasties who attend NWEF conferences.

There is a lot going on behind the scenes that we can’t talk about publicly due to the ongoing legal cases, but in each of the forces listed here there are appeals ongoing.  Judicial reviews take time to get before a judge and pension ombudsman decisions take an age to get to an adjudicator – the lag is both frustrating and annoying but it’s clear that we have a better idea of the weather signs of the inevitable incoming storm than the forces themselves – where typically the left hand can’t see the jerking, dying twitches of the right hand.  Exampled in the Notts presentation, forces spin their dubious outcomes favourably and rarely confer the bad news to each other as not to lose face.

Perhaps if Northumbria or Avon & Somerset used the college of policing’s internal group chat system called POLKA to honestly tell of the real firestorm they find themselves in, instead of swapping notes between SMPs in how to subvert the Regulations, forces like Staffordshire wouldn’t blunder ponderously into the same pit of despair. www.college.police.uk/What-we-do/Research/polka/Pages/POLKA.aspx

POLKA (the Police OnLine Knowledge Area) is a secure online collaboration tool for the policing community to network, ask questions, share insights, discuss ideas and suggest new ways of working.

We are aware of HR drones and SMPs (the supposedly independent medical authority) forming POLKA groups as the means to build contacts and then immediately jumping into using WhatsApp to continue their heinous discussions.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has criticised the impressive security of WhatsApp by saying the police and intelligence agencies need to be given access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services to thwart future terror attacks.  Oh, the irony that those under her employ are using the same platform to swap their own devious recipies!

Why would honest public employees use an encrypted social media tool in an attempt to escape the open and honest disclosure of public decision making processes as demanded by the Freedom of Information Act?  Rhetorical question of course, honest employees would not.

The devil is also in the detail – in the way individual disabled former officers are treated by those in HR; we know of one retired officer who had their injury award removed on the fabricated charge of failing to attend a medical examination.  We should not have to remind pension authorities of the fact that an injury pension cannot be ceased in this way.

But this particular incident was quite a feat in the interpreted perversion of ‘failure to attend‘ when the SMP, a psychologist, the retired officer, spouse and Federation rep all sat in the same room for the best part of a day.

When the offending force was reminded of this fact by way of a letter from a solicitor offering to have the issue tested by way of judicial review, the force reinstated the pension a week later.

It was established that this medical examination of the former officer by the force’s tame SMP was nothing more than a sham.  The former officer did attend – with their partner and a Federation representative as mentioned above – the SMP just unilaterally decided the questions he asked had not been answered sufficiently.

The truth of it is that the SMP had made up his mind and refused to listen and so sent a missive to the shameless force that he thought the pensioner should be punished for his definition of non-compliance.  Totally unlawful but sadly a true story.  The ineptitude of police forces know know no bounds when it comes to “doing the legs” of those it medically retired.

So three years on, where are we? We have seen the formation of IODPA – and what a journey it’s been. IODPA was created in the chaos of 2014 when three forces who attended the National Attendance Management Forum thought they could ride roughshod over those injured and retired from the police.

From fortnightly informal meetings we have evolved to a national association which holds two conferences per year, attended by our members, lawyers and like-minded individuals. We are able to instigate training sessions, taught by legally qualified experts, attended by Federation and NARPO representatives.

Every second of every hour our presence serves to counter the misinformation spouted by the likes of Nicholas Wirz, the principle Solicitor of Northumbria and so-called legal advisor to the laughably recently re-branded National Welbeing and Engagement Forum.

Social media has helped us spread our message world-wide.  Our Facebook page, with short soundbites, has thousands of daily hits but tellingly people many continue to still take 5 to 10 minutes out of their hectic life to read our blogs.  This map shows the views by countries of this website.

We thank our constant readers and our supporters.

 

The likes of Wirz, Kern, Mounstevens, Owens, and all the corrupt SMPs who willingly follow their instructions are put on due notice that they will never succeed in continuing to abuse disabled former officers and their families. Nor will they ever succeed in their attempts to twist, evade or corrupt the Regulations. IODPA, and pensioners, have the resolve and the means to challenge and defeat them and we will do exactly that.

Nottinghamshire Injury On Duty Reassessment Program – Part 1

Nottinghamshire Injury On Duty Reassessment Program – Part 1
              A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”

Adlai E. Stevenson II

Another definition of a hypocrite is someone who uses PowerPoint slides to say one thing to others although they value and believe something else entirely.

Recently Dr Ralph Sampson and Stephen Mitchel of Nottinghamshire Police (Notts) gave a presentation (perhaps using PowerPoint – other presentation software is available) at a National Attendance Management Forum conference (NAMF) to fellow NAMF delegates.

They were talking about how they do things in Notts.  The bad news for them is the former officers reviewed by them inform us that, not only are they confused about their statutory duty, they are selective in their own rules and advice.  Notwithstanding the rules used in Notts by Sampson and Mitchel, those that they wax lyrically to the NAMF audience, are predominantly worthless.

The presentation concerned how Notts are reviewing those former officers they have medically retired and awarded Injury Awards.  We have obtained the slides for the presentation and have put it out into the public domain. The talk given by Sampson & Mitchel sets out their intention to conduct reviews because of concerns over their obligated cost of paying the awards until the former officer expires at an average of 83 years of age. It also says that reviews are intended to assess degree of disablement. Both premises are wrong.

Constant readers of these pages will not be surprised to hear the conflict of interest of having Dr Sampson as not only the reviewing SMP, but also as concerned with cost savings as his Notts paymasters. Notts-IOD-Presentation.pdf

Notts-IOD-Presentation

*click image & use arrows to view all pages

There are 17 pages to the presentation so we intend to spread the talk about the slides over a couple of blog posts.  But before will delve into the first few slides, let’s have a quick look at the words used by Sampson & Mitchel.

As expected with a NAMF presentation where the audience are eager to hear ways to reduce their financial commitments, ‘salary‘ is one of the most frequent words in the presentation.  This table shows the 6 words most prevalent:

programme salary medical band review smp
Word frequency count 6 6 7 8 10 10

The frequent use of ‘salary’ just shows what their real agenda is.

We can’t find fault with slide one.  It just contains the title of the presentation. [edit: A reader has found fault. The use of ‘reassessment’ (unlawful) in lieu of the correct term ‘review’ is indicative of a Freudian slip – thank you Whendie]

Slide two starts with the ‘background’ and mentions ‘earnings’.

2.Background

  • Reg 37(1) of Police (lnjury Benefit) Regulations 2006 Forces can undertake a review “at such intervals as may be suitable, to consider whether degree of …disablement has altered”
  •  SMP to make a determination if/ how much earnings capacity has been affected
    Band 1 (<25%)
    Band 2 (25% – 50%)
    Band 3 (50% to 75%)
    Band 4 (>75%)
  • Minimum = Band 1

The red highlighted text shows that either Sampson is ignorant of the Laws case (unlikely) or he is intentionally willing to review former officers contrary to it’s judgements.  They fail to explain how it is beyond all improbability that the interval is suitable to all the people they intend to review  by pure chance alone.

‘Earnings’ is a word synonymous with salary and has no place in a review. Use of salary as the only measure is a failure to  follow the judgement of Court of Appeal in Metropolitan Police Authority v Laws and can only amount to an unlawful reassessment where a former police officer could find his injury pension being reduced because of a difference of medical opinion on his capability for work rather than there being any real alteration in the officer’s degree of disablement.  Sampson can not just ‘assess’ the degree of disablement.

The finding of Laws is that the SMP (or board) is not allowed to consider the pensioner’s current degree of disablement and then compare it with the previous assessment. The duty – the only duty – is to decide whether, since then, there has been a substantially altered change.

The right question for the SMP is not “what jobs can this person do today” but the comparative exercise of “has the impact of the index injury on the jobs she/he can do today substantially changed from the position at the last review date”.

The Laws judgement was reaffirmed in the case of Simpson. The conclusion in Simpson is clear. There can be no new consideration of notional earning capacity (i.e. what the officer would have been capable of earning but for his injury) unless and until there has been a substantial alteration in his physical condition or his present job opportunities, that is to say that something has actually changed since the last review, other than the mere passage of time.

But this isn’t what the NAMF delegates want to hear so Sampson & Mitchel play to the desires of their captivated audience.

3.Numbers / cost

  • 380 + pensioners in receipt of an IOD award
  • £3.36 million per year
  • No programme of review for significant period of timetherefore no up to date medical information to ensure pension payments more accurately reflected up to date individual circumstances and ensure public money being spent wisely.
  • Notts Force Executive Board decision to commence programme of review – all Bands included; age under 70 for this programme of review

Slide three mentions the annual spend on injury awards (just to emphasis their mission to reduce this figure).  The point of ‘not having a reviewing program for a significant amount of time‘ is a non-sequitur. A decision not to review is as much an exercise of a discretional power as a decision to review.  Notts admit that they had consciously chosen not to review, and now they have changed their mind.  Not knowing the individual circumstances of any given former officer is down to them and them alone.  Never do these people think that once someone leaves the police service, they want to live their private life without the constant forensic examination and prying into their personal matters by their former force.  Not having a review program is no reason to justify a new programme – quite the opposite.

Not performing any reviews gives a legitimate expectation that is based on the principles of natural justice and fairness, a maxim that seeks to prevent authorities from abusing power.  A substantive legitimate expectation arises where an authority makes a lawful representation that an individual will receive or continue to receive some kind of expectation that they will be not have to undergo the trauma of a force reviewing them.  Not reviewing is as much a lawful representation as reviewing itself.

The last bullet point on slide 3 is revealing.  It was the force executive board that decided to start a review program, not the police pension authority.  In other words finance officers, estate directors and HR directors all decided it was a good idea.  The police pension authority is not a committee – it is the Chief Constable wearing a different hat.

4.Preliminaries

  • Letter sent to eligible pensioners Dec 2013 advising that a programme would commence
  • Tendering process for SMP (OJEU – with Derbyshire and Leicestershire) – SMP appointment Spring 2014
  • Process – Liaised with Federation; NARPO;
    Regional Legal Services
  • Retained HR Admin support identified
  • No Regional OHU involvement

Slide four talks about who Notts have liaised with. It also mentions that there has been no regional occupation health unit involvement.  Could this be because they have destroyed all the occupational information data they have and are reviewing people ‘blind’?  They have apparently briefed local NARPO as well as the local Federation.  This is mentioned in the slide as if such an action provides their review program with legitimacy.  There is no mention of how the liaison progressed or whether any objections were raised.

5.Process

  • Sequence of review – eligible former officers who saw SMP furthest ago
  • Batches of 15 – approx six weekly intervals
    Former officer sent (1) GP consent ; (2) OHU file consent; (3)questionnaire to complete
  • Letters – 3 stages – 28 days /14 days / 7 days
    Following receipt of consent form, GP records requested
  • With completed paper/work, SMP undertakes ‘paper review” to make a determination if there has been potential ‘substantial alteration’ since assessment / last review
  • If no substantial alteration – end of process
    lf substantial alteration indicated – former officer requested to attend meeting with SMP
  • Following assessment, SMP produces report and officer has 28 days to indicate whether they contest findings

Slide five exposes the process.  The bullet points allude to substantial change but here is where the hypocrisy lies.  There is no mention of change to the medical condition.  It is about salary and nothing else.

Note that Notts expect the whole procedure for the 3 stages to be completed in 49 days!  Notts also wants full medical records as well the notorious questionnaire to inaccurately condense decades of life into unrepresentative bite-sized chunks.  The true agenda here is to examine the smallest details: a minute examination to enable apportionment and to revisit the original decision.

How can a questionnaire determine the existence of substantial change when there is no previous questionnaire, completed back-in-the-day, that can be used as a base line? The closed questioning leads to answers being interpreted in such a way that you can accomplish much more on the good days than on the bad days, the HR functionary will ignore any detail concerning your bad days and focus ONLY on what you can achieve on a good day.

Be in no doubt that the SMP will not be the one to perform this paper shift. An health professional is too expensive to contemplate and  slide four stated that regional occupational health units will not be involved.  Using a SMP at this stage will cost at least £500 per person if a competent preliminary valuation of the former officer’s condition is conducted.  It is ludicrous to insinuate that for 380 former officers they will spend £190,000 just to consider whether there has been substantial change before they call the person to attend a face to face assessment with the SMP.

Mass reviews, blanket reviews, wholesale review programmes; they are all names for the same thing – always an attempt to reduce, never to increase an award.  They are a conveyor belt with a predetermined agenda.  For the former officer it is equivalent to entering a Mafia controlled casino where the dice man, pit boss and croupier all have complete control over the outcome.  The review casino is selling an illusion that they are paying due regard to the medical condition correctly and that they are abiding by the Regulations.

That’s it for part one.  Part two will follow in the next couple of weeks.