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Another transformational year for The Pensions Ombudsman

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The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) today publishes its Annual Report and Accounts for 2019/20. The Report highlights the continuing transformation that has taken place within The Pensions Ombudsman, against a backdrop of an increase in demand, especially for early resolution cases, telephone and written enquiries.

Anthony Arter, Pensions Ombudsman, said:

“It has been another incredibly busy and exciting year for us as our transformational journey continues. These have been challenging times with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic towards the end of 2019/20. I am delighted that our Smarter Working Policy meant that we were able to mobilise our staff to work from home with very little disruption to our service.

Our focus has been on making it easier for people to resolve their pension complaints and we have continued to make excellent progress in this respect. Now only 5% of investigations require an Ombudman’s Determination with 95% being completed by informal routes. By resolving complaints earlier in the process, we save all parties from having to go through lengthier processes which can be both stressful for complainants and resource intensive for respondents. 

Demand for our service has never been higher. During 2019/20, our First Contact Team dealt with an incredible 11,552 telephone enquiries, a 41% increase on 2018/19, and 8,977 written enquiries, a 24% increase on 2018/19. Our change in approach of resolving complaints at an earlier stage means we have seen a decrease in the number of complaints taken on as adjudication investigations and a 16% increase in the number of complaints taken on as early resolution investigations. 

Our Casework Reorganisation Programme was completed during 2019/20 and has recently been implemented. The new casework structure creates a single customer journey for all occupational and personal pension complaints. It has flexibility built in so we can deploy resources where they are most needed at any given time; putting us in an excellent position to respond to any potential increase in demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

2019/20 has been another transformational year for TPO which has included; the introduction of an interim Chair and Corporate Board to strengthen governance; a continued focus on quality with the roll-out of our Quality Framework across all casework teams; redeveloping our website to better meet our customer needs, the new website went live on 28 May 2020, alongside extending our Stakeholder Engagement Team and our Volunteer Support Team.” 

Our caseload 

  • We received 11,552 phone enquiries (41% increase on 2018/19) and 8,977 written enquiries (24% increase on 2018/19), of which 1,979 were quick responses.
  • We took on 1,192 new adjudication investigations and resolved 1,204.
  • We took on 2,400 early resolution investigations and resolved 2,264. 
  • 95% of all completed investigations were completed by informal routes without the need for an ombudsman’s Determination.
  • 29% of cases formally decided by an ombudsman were upheld at least in part.
  • Cases concerning the actions of the Pension Protection Fund continue to form a small part of our work, with 8 matters being investigated and closed.
  • The most common topics of completed investigations were: transfers – general issues around calculation of transfer values or delays in payment; misquoting/misinformation; and ill health issues.
     

Our performance

  • Against a target of 90% - we closed a number equivalent to 96.5% (representing 107% of our target).
  • Against a target of 10% - We had 11% of open investigations aged more than 12
  • months.
  • Against a target of 90% - We dealt with enquiries at a rate of 98.1% (representing 109% of our target).
  • We completed new early resolution investigations in an average of 3.9 months and new adjudication investigations in an average of 5.3 months. 
  • 77.9% of investigations were concluded by early resolution (including quick responses). 
  • A further 9% were concluded following the acceptance of an Adjudicator’s Opinion.
  • 4.4% of complaints were completed by a Determination following an Adjudicator’s Opinion. 
  • 0.6% of complaints resulted in a Determination following an Ombudsman’s Preliminary Decision.
  • 3.7% were resolved or withdrawn and a further 4.4% of complaints were discontinued

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