Impact of IOD Reviews.
Originally, this section of the Pipin web site explained, using genuine examples, how HOC46/2004 policies had affected individual ex officers and their families. Here we have widened the focus to illustrate how, since those early days, it is not just IOD pensioners that have been effected and the fallout has detrimentally affected the police service in unforseen ways. Pension provisions for injured officers, so necessary to those charged with protection of the public and hence a pillar of the police service, have been undermined. Officers cannot trust or have confidence in the system which, is influencing morale and hence the effectiveness of the service.
For the reader unfamiliar with the subject, a few brief facts:
In order to qualify for an Injury on Duty Pension (IOD) the injury must have been sustained in the course of police duty and must be permanent. An IOD pension is an additional pension (sometimes referred to as an award or supplementary pension and is described as a benefit in regulations). The officer is forced to retire before normal pension age and therefore cannot achieve the expected retirement pension so the IOD pension is very important to the recipient.
Policing is dangerous and officers face peril on a daily basis, injury is common for operational officers but injury pensions are applied only to permanent injury, which can be physical or psychological.
Reliable and trustworthy Injury on Duty pensions have underpinned policing and are absolutely essential if officers are expected to selflessly deal with constant danger in protecting the public.
Injury Pensions are provided under Regulations and are subject to review under certain conditions. Police Officers pay a substantial pension contribution from their salaries.
These problems resulted from the self serving manipulation of Regulations by the authorities concerned and pensioners and serving IOD officers have responded to a situation not of their making.
Police Pension Authorities (usually the Chief Constable since the demise of Police Authorities) will often claim that they are required by the Regulations to carry out reviews, they will claim that their processes are fair, transparent and in full accordance with the Regulations. They may also claim that carrying out reviews is not motivated by financial considerations. IOD's are warned that these claims do not necessarily reflect the true situation with the Regulations requiring merely that review should be 'considered at suitable intervals' and a good example of how the review process was to be used to generate savings for the force is revealed in these two rather callous Derbyshire reports from 2009 when the force had already been reviewing IOD's for some time under the now unlawful Home Office guidance.
We are not opposed to reviews, it is unfair and unlawful manipulation of the IOD review system that we oppose.
Impact on IOD Officers, Pensioners and Their Families
Ex Officers often elderly and in poor health faced severe financial problems as a result of HOC46/2004 and were forced to engage in difficult and stressful appeal procedures in an effort to retain the pensions which they had reasonably expected to be unchanged ‘for life’, especially those who had been informed that they would not be reviewed again. After defeating HOC46/2004 in the Courts, Injury pensions were reinstated with back pay but it was too late for those who had been forced to sell their homes or suffer other financial hardship and although back payment has been made, their lives have been damaged.
Some of the examples that we originally quoted involved ex officers having to sell their homes and move in with families – there was also at least one case where a disabled ex officer was forced to sell their specially adapted home. One pensioner, who later had a significant role in the defeat of HOC46, lost his home and became bankrupt when his IOD pension was reduced years after being told that he wouldn't be reviewed again. We quoted a 2009 case where an elderly terminally ill IOD had his pension slashed. Another example related to an 83 year year old West Yorkshire Officer who fought a successful appeal after his pension reduced to a minimum Band one despite retiring 36 years previously and never having been reviewed in that time. There are many such stories.
Although we have been very successful in our challenges to attacks on our injury pensions, it has not deterred the authorities from continuing to seek ways of reducing the costs of our pensions. Originally it was officers aged 60 (compulsory retirement age) and 65 (state retirement age) who were affected. Since those days we have seen younger retired officers and serving injured officers becoming embroiled in cost cutting measures.
It appears that, in a disgraceful development, some police forces avoid incurring the cost of injury pension by subjecting injured serving officers to 'under performance' procedures which can result in dismissal rather than the correct procedure set out in Regulations.
So, despite years of being forced to protect injury pensions, the struggle continues and the worry and anxiety continues for those who have selflessly been injured in serving the public.
The National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) is the official representative of retired officers and the performance of this organisation has been weak. Apparently, when HOC46/2004 policies were introduced, NARPO accepted legal advice that nothing could be done to counter the Home Office guidance. Help for IOD pensioners was sparse, patchy and inadequate with some branches assisting pensioners with advice and appeal support and others doing nothing. NARPO was somewhat disdainful when pensioners were forced to organise themselves and were critical of their efforts. We now know that the pensioners were right and NARPO was wrong. The organisation has improved since the dark days and does offer some advice but, where IOD's are concerned, lies very much in the shadow of the dedicated organisation created and run by the IOD’s themselves.
NARPO has not come out of this very well and has a long way to go to regain the confidence of injured officers if the organisation is to become 'fit for purpose' regarding IOD issues.
The Police Federation of England and Wales represents police officers and is regarded as the 'trade union' of the rank and file. It has to be said that the Federation has not always been as supportive as it should with help being rather patchy. In some areas the support has been excellent and others support has been poor. Overall, we are very grateful for the financial support provided by the Federation which has the necessary resources to challenge what the authorities refer to as 'robust' policies to limit IOD pensions to minimal levels.
If our official representative organisations had responded better at the outset then injury pensioners might have been spared years of anxiety and financial uncertainty. NARPO has lost credibility with IOD pensioners, the Federation has fared somewhat better. The injury on duty pensions issue is not going to go away soon and a 100% commitment to IOD's from the Federation will help achieve a satisfactory conclusion.
Selected Medical Practitioners (SMP's)
The Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP) or suitably qualified medical practitioner. This group have fared particularly badly – maybe not financially but certainly in terms of reputation. The SMP has a pivotal role in the injury on duty process and was always a respected figure. Although the SMP should be scrupulously independent and impartial, when policies based on HOC46/2004 were introduced by certain forces, the SMP became part of a process which was intended to reduce costs by manipulating IOD pensions in ways later completely discredited and shown to be unlawful. SMP work is financially very rewarding and IOD's believe that it is now a case of 'who pays the piper, calls the tune'. IOD's now distrust the whole process and, as part of the process, the SMP is distrusted. There has been criticism of SMP's in High Court cases and we have seen some very biased opinions of IOD's by one SMP in particular. SMP decisions are increasingly likely to be scrutinised in appeals, Pensions Ombudsman investigations and in the course of Judicial Reviews etc. This has apparently resulted in the role of SMP becoming very unattractive and has resulted in police forces having to rely on a reduced pool of doctors willing to act as SMP's.
The role of SMP has become tainted and none but the most naïve IOD pensioner will have any confidence in the integrity of SMP's. It can be put right but it will take a long time to regain confidence in the SMP in particular and the system in general – at the present time there seems to be no restorative action in sight.
The Home Office, Police Forces and Police and Crime Commissioners.
When the Home Office issued its HOC46/2004 guidance, it expected some criticism and short term concerns which would soon evaporate but the Home Office completely underestimated the determination of IOD pensioners. The guidance was shown to be bogus and eventually had to be withdrawn because it was unlawful. To their credit, around half of police forces did not accept the Home Office guidance which was supposed to be 'cohesive' and rectify disparity between IOD policies in the various forces. The result has actually created much greater disparity and a complete lack of cohesion. In short HOC46/2004 was a very expensive disaster and, what is more important, a betrayal of thousands of ex police officers who had lost their careers through duty injury. The Home Office can never be forgiven for their actions and, to date, has not introduced further guidance, although it may do so at some later date possibly by proxy, through the College of Policing.
The police forces which adopted the Home Office guidance and instituted a review programme based on it have also betrayed and alienated their injured officers. They also have found it to be an expensive exercise which has not enhanced their credibility. We all know that the Regulations allow for reviews to be considered at suitable intervals but the regulations were never intended to allow forces to plunder IOD pensions by artificially reducing them to the minimum level. It is likely that the people in the Home Office who dreamed up the guidance convinced themselves that they were right, forces then adopted the guidance on the basis that the Home Office had come up with it, so it must be right, the people who then carried out the procedures probably did as they were told and that any pensioner who objected was a trouble maker. Of course, while all this has been going on, we had the change from Police Authorities to Police and Crime Commissioners. We have seen how one particular PCC became involved in the IOD debate when correspondence exposed how negatively IOD's were viewed by this individual and such attitudes will have done nothing for officer moral in that force – remember, every operational officer does not know at the start of their shift if they will end that shift with an injury on duty!
At the time of writing, some forces are reviewing their IOD's and other aren't. Although the Regulations apply equally, it remains a 'post code lottery'. There has been a great deal of criticism but some forces seem to be pushing on regardless not to caring about the well-being of their IOD pensioners. Many of these forces and collaborate with others in 'talking shops' which appear to IOD's as the same old suspects pursuing the same old agendas sometimes producing worthless 'guidance'. Despite repeated failure, we have the same old faces who never face sanction for those failures and their policies have resulted in many findings of maladministration by independent bodies such as the Pensions Ombudsman. The people administrating IOD pensions, notably those within HR departments appear to lack the necessary basic competence and have very poor understanding of the Regulations. Furthermore, it is a fact that many of the IOD pensioners and serving officers who have negative experiences of the current system believe it to be corrupt.
The Police Forces and other bodies responsible for the disgraceful chaos that IOD's have to endure seem to be incapable of resolving the issue, apparently still attempting to manipulate the Regulations to gain a pecuniary advantage. The most important members of any police service are the officers who carry out their daily operational duties protecting the public – without them that police service ceases to be – and those officers have to rely on proper pension protection if they suffer injury. That protection already exists in the relevant Regulations. If such protection is denied then it will have an impact on morale and operational effectiveness.
Please let us know about your experiences with the review process.