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Recent News
02/04/2014

Police and Firefighters' pension schemes-update number 14

Please refer to our previous updates for the background to these cases and an explanation of how we propose dealing with them. The present position is that we are nearing the final stages of the investigation into the lead complaint. We have received GAD's submissions in response to that complaint, the lead complainant has replied to these and further comments have been obtained. It is difficult at this stage to say when the matter will be finalised as this depends on a number of factors. Our current expectation is that a preliminary decision will be issued by the Ombudsman in about a month with his views on the likely outcome of the lead complaint. This is a confidential document which allows the parties to comment on the Ombudsman’s proposed decision before it is made final.
28/03/2014

Appeals to the High Court

Please note that as a result of a recent change in the rules governing proceedings in the High Court in England and Wales all appeals against determinations or directions of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman filed on or after 6 April 2014 require the permission of the High Court. This requirement does not at present affect appeals in Northern Ireland or Scotland.

These changes are contained in paragraph 21 of The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2014 and amend CPR Part 52 rule 52.20.

Further details are contained in the Guidance Notes for Determinations in our Publications section.
14/02/2014

Pension Liberation - update number 1

The Pensions Ombudsman has received a number of complaints about “pension liberation”. Here is some key information about our approach to such cases.

About pension liberation

Pension liberation schemes are bad for people. At the least pension liberation is not in their medium and long term interests and is likely to leave them with a significant penal tax bill. At worst the individual concerned will be participating in a fraud. The public should avoid “advisers” who say that they can arrange for pensions to be accessed before age 55. The people selling these schemes are taking advantage of people’s financial vulnerability in order to make large sums for themselves at the expense of their “customer’s” financial future.

The Pensions Regulator has more information about pension liberation.

What are people complaining to the Pensions Ombudsman about?

Most complaints are from people whose pension provider has not allowed a transfer because the provider believes that its purpose is pension liberation. We have just under 40 complaints in this category. The number has recently risen because of two groups of complaints about transfers to two different arrangements. It would not be right to describe this as a “flood”.

A very much smaller number are from people who did transfer - but into arrangements that were subsequently effectively “frozen” because of regulatory action. We have just a handful of these cases.

The people who complain to us insisting on their right to transfer will tend to be those who know what they are doing, and who believe that they are on the right side of the line. People who find they have been duped or are knowingly acting fraudulently are much less likely to complain that they should be allowed to transfer. So our cases will not represent a true cross section of those affected by pension liberation.

What are the key issues?

The Pensions Regulator has given guidance to pension schemes and pension providers about delaying transfers where it is believed that the destination is not a legitimate pension scheme.

What the pension scheme member is trying to do may be unwise and/or the consequence of exploitation, but the people who complain to us are likely to argue that what they are trying to do is not illegal or improper. They may also say that the pension scheme or provider is mistaken in their belief that the transfer was for the purpose of pension liberation.

What is the Pensions Ombudsman doing with these cases?

When we decide to investigate a complaint, that does not mean we think the person making it has a strong case. We look at almost all complaints that are within jurisdiction, without any view at the start about the chances of success.

We are some way into our investigation of a number of those that we received first. We are looking at them against the legal and regulatory background, being aware, of course, that our decisions may have wider implications for pension scheme members and the pensions industry.

When final decisions have been made, they will be published. The timescale is a little unpredictable because we have to make full enquiries and give the issues careful thought – and the parties have to be given a full opportunity to make their case. However, it is likely that the initial cases will be decided in April/May.
16/01/2014

Police and Firefighters' pension schemes-update number 13

Please refer to our previous updates for the background to these cases and an explanation of how we propose dealing with them. The present position is that we are nearing the final stages of the investigation into the lead complaint. We have received GAD's submissions in response to that complaint, the lead complainant has replied to these and further comments are being obtained. It is difficult at this stage to say when the matter will be finalised as this depends on a number of factors. However, we expect a final decision to be made sometime during the next few months.
24/10/2013

Police and Firefighters' pension schemes-update number 12

Please refer to our previous updates for the background to these cases and an explanation of how we propose dealing with them. The present position is that we have started the investigation into the lead complaint and have now received GAD's submissions in response to that complaint. The complainant will now have an opportunity to comment on GAD's submissions. It is difficult at this stage to say when the matter will be finalised as this depends on a number of factors. However, we expect a final decision to be made sometime during the first few months of next year.

News Archive
26/09/13

Kim Parsons appointed Deputy Pensions Ombudsman/Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has appointed Kim Parsons to be Deputy Pensions Ombudsman and Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman until 31 March 2014.

Kim is presently the Casework Director in the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman working 80% of full time. She is a solicitor who has worked at the Department for Work and Pensions, in private practice and with the Pensions Regulator. She is presently also a fee paid ombudsman for the Financial Ombudsman Service and a member of the panel of adjudicators of the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority.

The new appointment is additional to the existing appointment of Jane Irvine, made in 2009 and renewed in 2012. It has been made in order to accommodate a planned increased output of decisions in the current year and will allow greater flexibility, with Kim Parsons taking on cases as and when the office’s workload requires, on a fee paid basis.”
15/08/2013

Police and Firefighters’ pension schemes-update number 11

On 22 July 2013 the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in respect of the appeal made by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD), against the decision of the High Court last year that GAD is within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. The Court of Appeal dismissed GAD's appeal and also refused GAD leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against that decision. We have now been informed that GAD does not intend seeking permission to appeal directly from the Supreme Court. This brings the court proceedings to an end and means that the decision of the Court of Appeal now stands.

In our previous updates we explained that the judicial review instigated by GAD was heard in June 2012 and that the court had decided that GAD was within our jurisdiction in relation to this complaint. The Court of Appeal's recent decision has confirmed this and we can now commence our investigation into the merits of the complaint. This may take some time but when it is completed we expect to publish, on our website, our decision on the outcome of the complaint, including the reasons for that decision. We expect also to issue determinations on a small number of 'lead' cases.

We have received a number of complaints from both retired firefighters and police officers. There is no need at this time for any other individual complaining about this same issue to refer their complaint to us. We would not do anything with new complaints received until the lead complaints have been decided. So, for the purposes of our time limits it would be regarded as reasonable for other police or firefighters NOT to make new complaints at the moment. If it becomes necessary to do so later (for instance once the position on the lead complaints is clarified), then the "reasonable" delay will not be counted for the purpose of our time limits. We will issue further updates on this News page as and when we can to keep those interested in these cases aware of developments.
09/08/2013

Police and Firefighters’ pension schemes-update number 10

On 22 July 2013 the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in respect of the appeal made by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD), against the decision of the High Court last year that GAD is within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. The Court of Appeal dismissed GAD's appeal and has also now refused GAD leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against that decision. We are waiting to hear whether GAD intends seeking permission to appeal directly from the Supreme Court. We should know more by the end of the month.

In our previous updates (see News Archive) we explained that the judicial review instigated by GAD was heard in June 2012 and that the court had decided that GAD was within our jurisdiction in relation to this complaint. The Court of Appeal's recent decision has confirmed this. We have received a number of complaints from both retired fire fighters and police officers. There is no need at this time for any other individual complaining about this same issue to refer their complaint to us. We will issue further updates on this News page as and when we can to keep those interested in these cases aware of developments.
24/07/2013

Police and Firefighters’ pension schemes-update number 9

On 22 July 2013 the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in respect of the appeal made by the Government Actuary's Department (GAD), against the decision of the High Court last year that GAD is within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. The Court of Appeal dismissed GAD's appeal. GAD is now seeking leave to appeal that decision and we are awaiting the outcome of that.

In our previous updates (see News Archive) we explained that the judicial review instigated by GAD was heard in June 2012 and that the court had decided that GAD was within our jurisdiction in relation to this complaint. The Court of Appeal's recent decision has confirmed this.

We have received a number of complaints from both retired fire fighters and police officers. There is no need at this time for any other individual complaining about this same issue to refer their complaint to us. We will issue further updates on this News page as and when we can to keep those interested in these cases aware of developments.
12/07/2013

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 8

On 11 February 2013 the Court of Appeal gave permission for the Government Actuary's Department (GAD) to appeal against the decision of the High Court last year that GAD is within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. The case was heard by the Court of Appeal on 10 July 2013. Judgment has been reserved and at present we do not know when it will be issued. In the meantime we will not be taking any steps to progress the firefighter's case.



In our previous updates (see "News Archive") we explained that the judicial review instigated by GAD was heard in June 2012 and that the judge decided that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to this complaint. GAD subsequently applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and on 31 October the judge refused to grant permission. GAD then applied to the Court of Appeal appealing against the judge's decision refusing permission.



There is still no need for members of police or firefighters' schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as "lead" complaints.

04/07/2013

Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman Annual Report & Accounts published

The Annual Report and Accounts of the Pensions Ombudsman (and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman) were published today, 4 July.



Annual Report 2012-13.



Some key facts:



We completed 954 Pensions Ombudsman investigations, up from 888 last year, with continuing emphasis on dealing with cases proportionately and effectively, so that by comparison to last year the time that we took to deal with cases was reduced by a month on average.



Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman matters continued to represent a small part of our work – 21 completed investigations in the year.



Operating expenditure was £2.932m – below our budget – and the cost per investigation was lower than last year.



Contact:


Jane Carey
Tel: 020 7630 2211
Email: jane.carey@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

13/06/2013

Tony King reappointed as the Pensions Ombudsman

To see the press release click here
07/03/2013

Airways Pension Scheme


If you are a member of the Airways Pension Scheme, you may be one of the 850 members who have complained to the scheme about the way in which your pension has been increased. This is the change from calculating increases based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).


We are currently receiving a large number of individual complaints regarding this same issue. At present, we are investigating a "lead" case, because the issues raised in the other complaints already received are generally the same. We will complete this investigation as quickly as possible, whilst ensuring that we investigate the matter thoroughly.


We ask members who are contemplating submitting a complaint to us, to wait until the decision reached on this lead case is published on our website, before deciding how to proceed. Members have at least three years from the date of this change to complain to us. We will update our news page once the decision is published. If for any reason our investigation takes longer than expected, or we are delayed in being able to publish the decision, we will let members know about this via the news page on our website.


06/03/2013

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 7


On 11 February 2013 the Court of Appeal gave permission for the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) to appeal against the decision of the High Court last year that GAD is within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. The case is to be heard by the Court of Appeal on either 10 or 11 July 2013. One day has been allowed for the hearing. In the meantime we will not be taking any steps to progress the firefighter’s case.


In our previous updates (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by GAD was heard in June 2012 and that the judge decided that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to this complaint. GAD subsequently applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and on 31 October the judge refused to grant permission. GAD then applied to the Court of Appeal appealing against the judge’s decision refusing permission.


There is still no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as "lead" complaints.


If you would like to read the High Court judgment you can find it at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1796.html


23/11/2012

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 6


In our previous updates (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) was heard in June 2012 and that the judge decided that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors.


GAD subsequently applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and on 31 October the judge refused to grant permission. GAD has now made an application to the Court of Appeal appealing against the judge’s decision refusing permission. We cannot say how long these court proceedings will take. In the meantime we will not be proceeding with the firefighter’s case.


There is still no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as “lead” complaints.


If you would like to read the judgment you can find it at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1796.html


09/11/2012

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 5


In our previous updates (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) was heard in June 2012 and that the judge decided that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors.


GAD subsequently applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and on 31 October the judge refused permission to appeal. We do not yet know whether GAD will be appealing to the Court of Appeal against the judge’s decision refusing permission. This may take a few weeks. In the meantime we will not be proceeding with the firefighter’s case.


There is still no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as “lead” complaints.


If you would like to read the judgment you can find it at


http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1796.html


04/10/2012

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 4

In our update of 21 May 2012 (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) was due to be heard in June.


 


The hearing was on 14 June and the judge gave his judgment orally the following day. He said that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors.


 


 


However, the judge also said that GAD could wait to see the written version of his judgment before they had to decide whether to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The written judgment has been published and GAD have applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. We are unable to say how long it will be before the court decides whether or not to grant permission but understand that as the courts’ summer recess is now over it should not be too long before a decision is made. In the meantime we will not be proceeding with the firefighter’s case.


 


 


There is still no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as “lead” complaints.


 


If you would like to read the judgment you can find it at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1796.html

06/08/2012

Website survey 2011 - results

Thank you to those of you who took part in last year’s website survey.  To view the results please click here

17/07/2012

Corporate Plan 2012


We are pleased to present our 2012 Corporate Plan - you will find it on the Publications page


13/07/12

Police and firefighters' pension schemes - update number 3

 

In our update of 21 May 2012 (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) was due to be heard in June.


 


The hearing was on 14 June and the judge gave his judgment orally the following day. He said that GAD is fully within our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors.


 


However, the judge also said that GAD could wait to see the written version of his judgment before they had to decide whether to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The written judgment has now been published and GAD have applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. It is likely to take a few weeks before the court decides whether or not to grant permission. In the meantime we will not be proceeding with the firefighter’s case.


 


There is still no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action and as we have said in previous updates, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as “lead” complaints.


 


If you would like to read the judgment you can find it at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1796.html



 

28/06/2012

Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman Annual Report & Accounts published

The Annual Report and Accounts of the Pensions Ombudsman (and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman) was published today Annual Report 2011-12


 


Some key facts:


The number (939) and subject matter of new complaints in the year were broadly unchanged from recent years.


The office completed 888 investigations, with continuing emphasis on dealing with cases proportionately and effectively, so that the time that we took to deal with cases was within our targets and our “costs per case” were lower than in previous years.


We spent £2.676m, a little under the previous year’s spend – and below our budget.


Full report


 


For more information please contact:


Jane Carey 
Tel: 020 7630 2211 
Email: jane.carey@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

18/06/2012

Police and firefighters’ pension schemes – update number 2


In our update of 21 May 20102 (see “News Archive”) we explained that the judicial review instigated by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) was due to be heard in June.


The hearing was on 14 June and the judge gave his judgment orally the following day.  He said that GAD is fully with in our jurisdiction in relation to the complaint made by a firefighter about commutation factors. 


However, the judge also said that GAD could wait to see the written version of his judgment before they had to decide whether to appeal to the Court of Appeal.  As this should not take much longer (perhaps a few weeks) we will wait until we know whether GAD intend to appeal before proceeding with the firefighter’s case.


There is no need for members of police or firefighters’ schemes to take any further action at the moment.  As we said in our last update, we plan to use complaints from the ones we have already received as “ lead” complaints.” 



 



 


 


  


 


 

21/05/2012

Police and firefighters’ pension schemes – an update

If you are a retired member of either the firefighters’ or police pension schemes you may be aware of an issue concerning the past factors used to convert pension into lump sums at retirement and whether they should have been reviewed earlier than they were.




We have received a large number of individual complaints about the matter. At present the question of to what extent we can deal with a complaint from a firefighter against the Government Actuary’s Department is the subject of judicial review proceedings. All the other complaints are currently “parked" awaiting the outcome.




The judicial review is due to be heard in mid June. Although it deals with the firefighters’ scheme, a similar issue would arise under the police scheme. If you are a member of either the police of firefighter’s schemes who has not written to us, there is no need to do so. If we are able to investigate, then we will use complaints from the ones we have already received as “ lead” complaints. We plan to provide a further update when the court has dealt with the judicial review application. This may not be immediately after the hearing as it sometimes takes time for judgment to be handed down.

19/12/11

Notice of Hearing

There will be a hearing on 13 January 2012  at 11 Belgrave Road London SW1V 1RB as part of the Pensions Ombudsman's investigation of complaints made by Mr Harris and Mr Hancock against Calder Group Pension (Trustees) Limited and Calder Group Industrial Materials Limited regarding the Calder Group (2001) Pension Scheme.



The hearing will be held in public. However, it would be helpful if any member of the public wishing to attend could contact the Pensions Ombudsman's office at least a week in advance so that the necessary security and other arrangements can be made. Attendance may not be possible otherwise.



Requests or enquiries in relation to this hearing should be made to 0207 630 2200 or to enquiries@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk
12 July 2011

Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman Annual Report & Accounts published



20 years of the Pensions Ombudsman … 



The 2010/11 joint Annual Report and Accounts of the Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman was published on 12 July. 2010/11 was the twentieth year of the Pensions Ombudsman's Office's operation. 



In his introduction, current Pensions Ombudsman Tony King noted that the first ombudsman's description of the office's opening year as “challenging and difficult” could equally be applied to the twentieth. But he went on to say: 



“Though the year may have been challenging and difficult, we rose to the challenges. Overall our productivity exceeded expectations set at the start of the year and our completion times remained much shorter than in years gone by.” 



He offered a note of caution for the future. Observing the future pressures on the office's relatively small expenditure (£2.68m in 2010/11), he said: 



“With resources inevitably stretched, avoiding harm to our ability to perform our function will take a great deal of commitment from us, and support and understanding from our stakeholders.” 







Key points from the report 







Subject Matter 





  • As in previous years ill-health early retirement was the source of the largest number of complaints completed in the year (13%).

  • There were no new areas of complaint. It is too early for complaints resulting from incentivised transfers or changes in the public sector to come through. 





Workload





  • There was a slight decrease against the previous year in the numbers of enquiries (3066, down 16%) and cases taken on for investigation (915, down 4%). The previous year's figures had been unusually high, however, so 2010/11 was a shift back to the normal levels. 

  • Over 40% of cases were dealt with by investigators without needing to be referred to the Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman, demonstrating continuing efforts to resolve cases early and proportionately.

  • Over a third of complaints decided by an ombudsman were upheld in whole or part. 





Financial and productivity 





  • Expenditure was £2.68m, a budget underspend of 12%, largely due to public sector financial constraints introduced in 2010.

  • Productivity was maintained notwithstanding a shortage of staff. There was a 5% improvement in the expenditure/all case closure ratio (£832) against target and an 8% improvement in the expenditure/investigation closure ratio (£3,162) against target. 







Full report 








Contact:



Jane Carey 

Tel: 020 7630 2211 








Notes: 




  1. The Pensions Ombudsman and Deputy Pensions Ombudsman are appointed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under Part X of the Pension Schemes Act 1993. Their decisions are final and binding (subject to appeal to the courts on a point of law) and enforceable in the courts. 

  2. The present Pensions Ombudsman is Tony King, appointed with effect from 1 September 2010 for a second three year term. The Deputy Pensions Ombudsman is Jane Irvine. She was appointed on 18 November 2009 also for a three year term. 

  3. The present holders of the posts of Pensions Ombudsman and Deputy Pensions Ombudsman have also been appointed Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman (PPFO) and Deputy PPFO. In this capacity they deal with complaints and “reviewable matters” connected with the Pension Protection Fund (a statutory corporation) and appeals against decisions of the Financial Assistance Scheme (operated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)). The PPFO's functions are carried out by staff of the Pensions Ombudsman's office. 

  4. The office is funded by grant-in-aid paid by DWP. The grant-in-aid is substantially recovered from the general levy on pension schemes that is invoiced and collected by the Pensions Regulator. 



22 June 2011

2011 Corporate Plan

We are pleased to present our 2011 Corporate Plan - you will find it on the Publications page

28th February 2011

Three Invitations to Tender

The Pensions Ombudsman has today issued 3 Invitations to Tender. These are for an IT Solution, a Case and Document Management System and a combined Managed Service including a Case and Document Management System. Under Government spending restrictions these have been published on the Buying Solutions Website and the Business Link Contracts Finder website. The closing date for receiving bids is 1 April 2011. 

14 October 2010

Public Bodies Review Programme

 




The Government today announced its proposals for reform of public bodies.  Amongst them is the merger of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Pensions Protection Fund Ombudsman, currently separate statutory offices but run as one body with the same person holding both posts.


Press enquiries should be directed to the Department for Work and Pensions press office: Katie Martin on 0203 267 5130.


 


Why is the merger of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman being proposed?


 


Ministers believe that maintaining two distinct arms length bodies to carry out these roles is no longer necessary. The roles of the Pensions Ombudsman and the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman, whilst distinct, have been undertaken by one person with support provided by a single office. This arrangement has worked well and it is now sensible to unify both bodies. This will deliver a more coherent and streamlined approach, simplifying the pensions institutional landscape. 


 


Why are the two bodies currently separate?


 


The Pensions Ombudsman was established in the Social Security Act 1990. When the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman was created in 2005 it was not known how its workload would develop and whether it was feasible to have one person and one office carrying out both functions in the longer term.


 


Maintaining both bodies as distinct entities has provided flexibility but this is no longer needed.


 


Is the substance of either role being changed?


 


There is no intention to make any change in the substance of either role. The policy and legislative framework for both functions is being carried forward but the merging statutory roles will provide for simpler operational management.


 


Will the merger result in any staff surpluses or job losses?


 


Like every other public sector organisation, the Pensions Ombudsman is currently looking at ways of delivering his services more efficiently. Currently, Pensions Ombudsman staff carry out Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman work.  The latter forms a very small proportion of the total casework, which will not reduce overall as a result of the merger. There are no staff dedicated to the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman. So it is not envisaged that the merger will of itself affect the number of staff.


 


What savings are anticipated from this merger?


 


There should be savings of up to £10,000 per annum in those administrative areas where separate identities for the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman are currently maintained, in particular auditing costs but also website maintenance and record keeping. Although this change will generate small savings, it does simplify the pensions landscape overall.



 


 

26 July 2010

Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Annual Report & Accounts published




The 2009/10 Annual Report and Accounts of the Pensions Ombudsman (and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman) was published on 26 July. 


Highlights are:


 


Subject Matter



  • As in previous years the single matter giving rise to more complaints than any other was ill-health pensions (11% of resolved complaints). 



Workload


  • There were increases over 2008/9 in the number of enquiries (3632, up 18%) and cases taken on for investigation (950, up 22% after adjustment for anomalies).  There was no obvious single reason.  The numbers, though significantly higher than the year before, are not without precedent from previous years.  It is too early to say whether this has just been a single unusual year or alternatively is the start of an upward trend.

  • The office resolved 11% more than the target of 800 cases.

  • There was continuing emphasis on proportionate and early resolution – with an 8% increase in the number of cases resolved without needing formal determination by an ombudsman. 




Financial



  • Expenditure was £2.86m, within budget.  Target cost to case closure ratios were comfortably met.




In his introduction, commenting on the subject matter the Pensions Ombudsman, Tony King, described it as "very much business as usual".


Referring to the workload he noted that the target number of resolved cases had been exceeded:


"But an increase in workload when future resources will be tight is bound to put us under pressure.  We wait to see, sou’westers at the ready, if this is just a temporary fluctuation in the weather or a warning of long term climate change."




2 February 2010

Pensions Ombudsman addresses Occupational Pensions Defence Union AGM

Tony King, the Pensions Ombudsman, addressed the Annual General Meeting of the Occupational Pensions Defence Union on 27 January 2010.  His speech is available here

22 October 2009

New Deputy Pensions Ombudsman

Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has appointed Jane Irvine to be Deputy Pensions Ombudsman (and Deputy Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman). Jane has a background in arbitration and dispute resolution and is Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. From 2006 to 2008 she was the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman (which was abolished in favour of the commission she now chairs). She also sits on the disciplinary board of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries and from January 2010 she will be its Chair. Jane is expected to take up her new duties in mid-November. This part time appointment follows the splitting of the previous job into two roles: Deputy Pensions Ombudsman, dealing with determining complaints, and Casework Director, dealing with the management of investigations and staff.

25th September 2009

Freedom of Information Publication Scheme

The Information Commissioner has prepared and approved a model Freedom of Information Publication Scheme to be used by all public authorities. We have therefore updated our scheme to comply with this guidance

20 July 2009

Pensions Ombudsman reports on a good year


The Pensions Ombudsman, Tony King today (20 July) published his Annual Report and Accounts, covering the period 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009.  In his introduction he said:


“Without doubt the year under report has been a good year.  We have effectively disposed of the office’s long-standing backlog and have substantially met our other targets for the year.”

The number of new cases needing investigation during the year was 742, very much in line with previous years.  The report notes that the economic downturn and its impact on pension funds is unlikely to have more than a delayed and indirect effect on complaint numbers.

1,196 cases were closed. Only 30% needed a formal determination by the Pensions Ombudsman or the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman (Charlie Gordon), down from 39% the previous year, indicating that renewed efforts to resolve cases early and proportionately may be bearing fruit.

The number of unresolved cases at the end of the year was 476.  Three years before there had been almost three times as many (1,413).  And the number of unresolved cases over a year old fell from 450 at the start of the year to 46 at the end.

Pension transfers and ill-health pensions were the most common causes for complaints.  As the report notes, applications for ill-health pensions involve “difficult medical judgements and, often, the exercise of a discretion; and the outcome for the scheme member may be fundamental to their financial security for many years to come.”

Commenting on the office’s roles, Tony King said:


“What matters to us is that we play our proper part in ensuring that redress is available where it is justified and providing finality where it is not. I am delighted that we have been able to do that so effectively this year.”

 Full report: http://www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/Publications/docs/AnnualReport2008-09.pdf 

Contact:  Jane Carey 020 7630 2211: jane.carey@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk


11 May 2009

Corporate Plan 2009

We are pleased to present the Corporate Plan for 2009.  You will find it on the Publications Page.

5 February 2009

Overpayment of public sector pensions

You may have seen recent publicity about the overpayment of some public sector pensions. The Pensions Advisory Service has a section on their website dedicated to this which you might find useful if you think you may be affected by this.

View the Overpayment of Public Sector Pensions information here.

27 October 2008

Notice of Hearing

There will be a hearing on 26 (and possibly 27) November 2008 at 11 Belgrave Road London SW1V 1RB as part of the Pensions Ombudsman's investigation of complaints made by Mr R Adams and others against the trustees and the administrators of the ES Group Pension Scheme.

The hearing will be held in public. However, it would be helpful if any member of the public wishing to attend could contact the Pensions Ombudsman's office at least a week in advance so that the necessary security and other arrangements can be made. Attendance may not be possible otherwise.

Requests or enquiries in relation to this hearing should be made to 0207 630 2220 or to enquiries@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

17 July 2008

Pensions Ombudsman publishes Annual Report & Accounts 17 July 2008

New Pensions Ombudsman reports solid progress

The new Pensions Ombudsman, Tony King today (17 July) published his first Annual Report and Accounts, covering the period 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. Tony King took up office in September 2007, so for the first five months of the year covered by the report his predecessor David Laverick was in post.

The Pensions Ombudsman’s office has made solid progress in reducing the age of cases in hand. Commenting in his introduction to the report, Tony King described the trend as “highly positive”. For the third consecutive year more cases were closed than were taken on.

The number of new cases during the year was (after adjustment for a distorting group of over 250 identical cases) marginally up on the previous year’s 702. But the report notes that there is nothing statistically significant in the change. If anything the underlying trend has been slightly downward in previous years.

1,039 cases were closed, many by informal resolution, although over 600 needed a binding determination by the Pensions Ombudsman or the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman (Charlie Gordon).

The most common single source of complaints against pension schemes was decisions not to award ill-health pensions. As the report records, this is unsurprising “because the scheme member’s income for the rest of their life is at issue at a time of stress, and there are difficult matters of judgment and assessment of medical evidence involved, rather than clear cut facts.”

The report also covers the presently very small amount of work done as the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman.

Tony King says: “The report shows the work of the Pensions Ombudsman’s office as playing an effective and necessary part in protecting and promoting confidence in private pensions”

View the full report here

7 May 2008

Disability Equality Scheme

We are pleased to launch the Disability Equality Scheme for the Office. Our staff have a commitment to equal opportunities and diversity and the Disability Equality Scheme is part of this overall approach. You can find it on the Publications page.
6 May 2008

2008/09 Business Plan

We are pleased to present our 2008/09 Business Plan. You will find it in the publications page

24 January 2008

Welsh Language Scheme approved

We are pleased to announce that following the consultation period our Welsh Language Scheme was approved by the Welsh Board on December 18, 2007. You will find it listed in our Publications page.
25 October 2007

Pensions Ombudsman publishes draft Welsh language scheme

Ombudsmon Pensiynau yn cyhoeddi cynllun iaith Gymraeg drafft

Mae’r Ombwdsmon Pensiynau wedi cyhoeddi cynllun iaith Gymraeg drafft, o dan Deddf yr Iaith Gymraeg 1993, yn esbonio sut y bydd am gynnig gwasanaethu i’r cyhoedd drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Maent bellach yn ymgynghori’n gyhoeddus ar gynnwys y cynllun – a gellir ei weld yma:

cyswllt url

Gellir anfon sylwadau am y cynllun, erbyn 7/12/2007, at: Jane Carey, Rheolwr Busnes, Ombwdsmon Pensiynau, 11 Belgrave Road, Llundain SW1V 1RB

* * * *

Pensions Ombudsman publishes a draft Welsh language scheme
The Pensions Ombudsman has published a draft Welsh language scheme under the Welsh Language Act 1993, setting out how it will provide services to the public through the medium of Welsh. That scheme is now out for public consultation and may be viewed here:

url link

Comments on the draft scheme may be sent, by 7/12/2007, to: Jane Carey, Business Manager, Pensions Ombudsman, 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB

16 July 2007

PENSIONS OMBUDSMAN SAYS ADMINISTRATION OF PENSION SCHEMES IS IMPROVING

Pensions Ombudsman David Laverick completes his six-year term on 31 August. In his final Annual Report he points to improvements which have been made to pensions’ administration particularly in handling applications for ill health retirement. These follow his insistence that pension schemes should give reasons for their decisions. In his report he notes that these kinds of decision can have a very significant impact on the lives of pension scheme members and their families, going on to say that by comparison with six years ago “procedures are fairer and more transparent with better quality decisions being made.”

Although there have also been improvements in the way Death Benefits are distributed, he remains concerned that such decisions are taken at the discretion of the Trustees or Managers of Schemes. He feels such benefits should be distributed in accordance with the expressed wish of the scheme members.

The Ombudsman also refers to his continued concern at the lack of effective regulation of Independent Trustees and the application to them of exoneration or exclusion clauses which mean that the Professional Trustee has no liability to provide redress if mistakes are made. He says it is wrong in principle for a person to be paid for professional services and yet not provide redress where members suffer as a result of maladministration in the way those services are delivered. He suggests that an arguable case can be made out that Independent Trustees who are found not to have sound administrative systems should not be regarded by the Regulator as being fit and proper persons to be retained on the Regulator’s List, particularly where such an Independent Trustee seeks to rely on an exoneration clause to leave without redress the individuals affected by their faulty procedures.

The Pensions Ombudsman repeats a call for the Government to review provision in some public sector benefit schemes of no – fault compensation for injuries sustained in the course of employment. Disputes about such arrangements have been an increasing proportion of his work over the last year.

Looking to the future, he expresses concern that the move away from final salary schemes and the level of contributions now being made will lead to many people being disappointed with the amount of the pension that they will be able to receive on retirement.

David Laverick’s successor will be Tony King, an Ombudsman currently working for the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Government having recently announced an intention to merge the two Offices. Commenting on this, David Laverick says

“There is much I admire in the Financial Ombudsman Service but the scale of its operations puts it outside my own concept of how an Ombudsman should look.”
31 August 2006

Pensions Ombudsman calls for changes to pensions schemes

Annual Report 2005-2006

Pensions Ombudsman, David Laverick, has called on Pension Schemes to change the way they deal with the payment of Death Benefits when a scheme member dies in service.

In presenting his latest Annual Report, the Pensions Ombudsman said that many members of pension schemes do not realise that such monies do not automatically go to their partner or indeed to anyone else who the member might specifically want to benefit, the Trustees of the Scheme usually have a discretion as to where to pay the benefits.

The Pensions Ombudsman says in his report that it is often difficult if not impossible for trustees to be aware of the needs and financial status of all possible recipients and that they can find themselves dealing with some very emotive issues. Speaking today he said:

"Estranged spouses and present lovers find it difficult to accept that there is no single right answer to which trustees can come. For trustees to reach their decision is hard enough. Explaining that decision to the parties is even harder."

The Ombudsman favours a system whereby trustees would be required to allocate the benefits in accordance with the wishes of the Scheme Member.

The Pensions Ombudsman accepts that a consequence of adopting his proposal may be to make such payments subject to Inheritance Tax, but says that for many members of occupational pension schemes this would be a theoretical possibility rather than a practical reality. It could in any event be avoided if the Government exempted such payments from Inheritance Tax.

The system which the Pensions Ombudsman favours is already used in the Pension Scheme for Teachers in Scotland but is not usually found in other public sector schemes in the United Kingdom. Commenting on that and other variations, David Laverick says:

"My experience suggests there would be merit in the Government undertaking a review of the detailed provisions of the various public sector schemes with the aim of having them all operate on a more uniform basis. There may be reasons why schemes for particular groups of workers need to have some special provision in place: but all too often it looks to me as if there is no objective reason to explain the lack of a common approach.

The lack of a common approach is a comment which could also be made about the myriad of pension schemes which are outside the public sector, each of which is likely to have its own definition of what constitutes pensionable pay and its own criteria as to when a pension can be granted on grounds of ill health. Perhaps efforts could be made to promote the production and then implementation of a limited number of Model Schemes. Were the Government to see itself as a single employer, it could lead a drive for simpler and more uniform schemes."

Recalling that when he took up his appointment the Government was undertaking a review aimed at simplifying the Regulation of Pensions, the Ombudsman said:

"Whatever else the Pensions Act 2004 may have achieved, I doubt whether it could be said to have simplified the law relating to pensions.

I noted with some despair the decision, after all, not to sweep away the complexities of the Regulations about internal dispute resolution processes, on the grounds that to do so would be too complicated. What complication would there be in sweeping away that raft of Regulation and replacing it with a single sentence which would not of itself involve any expense to schemes? I do not accept the argument that secondary legislation is needed to spell out in great detail the processes which schemes need to use to deal with complaints made about them."

The Pensions Ombudsman has also urged that professional trustees should not be allowed to benefit from clauses in Pension Schemes which allow trustees to escape personal liabilities arising from their work as a Trustee. Noting that the Law Commission had decided that no change in the law should be recommended, the Pensions Ombudsman said:

"In the specific context of pensions trusts, it seems to me to be quite wrong for a professional trustee who is being paid for his expertise, not to be required to provide redress for the consequences of any maladministration for which he is responsible."

The number of complaints made to the Pensions Ombudsman was nearly 30% less than in the previous year: 2790 in the year ending 31 March 2006 by comparison with 3930 in the previous year. About a third of these enquiries are accepted for investigation.

The lower incoming workload has enabled the Pensions Ombudsman to reduce the number of investigations in hand. 1226 investigations were closed during the year and the number in hand has fallen from 1702 at the start of the year to 1413 at the close. Working with current staffing levels this means that even if no further incoming work is revived it would still take about a year for the Office to deal with the work already in the pipeline.

In his Annual Report, the Pensions Ombudsman said:

"A year ago I expressed concern that the necessary changes to accommodation and IT, without which I could not employ sufficient staff, had not been put in place. At first sight, the same can be said of my position at the end of the year. But I am conscious that there has been considerable efforts made during the year so that there is now a more realistic prospect of my frustration coming to an end. The refurbishment of my accommodation is almost complete and a contract is about to be let for replacement of the IT systems, delivery of which should do much to improve the efficiency of the Office."

Less optimistically, he added:

"Only the new hardware and basic software will be in place by October 2006 when my staff and I will move back to refurbished premises. Further work will then need to continue to develop the new case and document management systems ready for use by the end of this calendar year. Despite having raised the need for this system with the then Minister at my first meeting with him after taking up office, I am not confident that it will be up and running before I retire next year."

David Laverick has also been appointed as the Ombudsman for the Pension Protection Fund which has been set up to provide pensions for members of defined benefit occupational pension schemes which are winding up without sufficient funds to meet their liabilities. He also reviews decisions made by the Financial Assistance Scheme which is run by the Department for Work and Pensions to provide limited assistance to members of schemes which have been subject to insolvency before the date from when the Pension Protection Fund can become involved. Systems have been set up to deal with this work but no matters had been raised with him before the end of the last financial year.

(ends)

Notes to Editors

1. The Pensions Ombudsman was established by Act of Parliament to determine disputes of fact or law relating to occupational and personal pension schemes. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions but thereafter acts independently of Government.

2. The current Ombudsman is David Laverick. He was appointed on 1 September 2001 and retires in August 2007.

For Annual Report click here
23/11/2005

Avoid the Pensions Ombudsman – but gain an advantage if he does become involved

Pensions Ombudsman, David Laverick, has urged all involved in the sale administration and provision of pensions to react positively if members of Pension Schemes refer disputes to his office.

Speaking at the launch of a new publication, How to avoid the Pensions Ombudsman David Laverick stressed that Trustees of Pension Schemes should themselves act as the Scheme’s Ombudsman when complaints are made to the Scheme and thus avoid the need for him to be formally involved.

How to avoid the Pensions Ombudsman, is based on the experience of the office since its inception and highlights principles and practices which have at times failed to be properly applied and have thus led to criticism from the Pensions Ombudsman.

Stephen Timms, Minister for Pension Reform welcomed the publication and underlined the need for general lessons to be learned from the work of the Ombudsman’s office.

(ends)

Further Information can be obtained from the Pensions Ombudsman on 020 7630 2207 or on our website www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk


Pensions Protection Fund

The Pensions Ombudsman is also the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman >>