Who can help me if I have a query or complaint?
If you have a problem or question about your pension scheme membership or benefits, please contact your Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA).
They will try to explain or put right any misunderstandings or mistakes as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you are still dissatisfied with any decision made about the scheme you have the right to have your complaint reviewed under the scheme’s appeal procedure.
Rights of Appeal
If a FPS member, or a dependant, is dissatisfied with a decision made by an FRA (or the failure to make a decision) there are rights of appeal available.
The FPS contains arrangements for Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures (IDRP) based on the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995. There are also provisions for medical appeal if a person is dissatisfied with a medical opinion on which a determination of award is based.
If the FRA is considering whether or not to make an award of an ill-health pension to a firefighter (or to allow early payment of a deferred pension on health grounds), they must first obtain the written opinion of an independent qualified medical practitioner (IQMP) as to whether the person is permanently disabled for the duties of their role and, if so, whether they would be capable of any other regular employment. The FRA must notify the firefighter of their decision and supply a copy of the medical opinion that their decision is based on.
If the person is dissatisfied with the level of award and believes the problem lies in the medical opinion, then they can appeal against the opinion to a Board of Medical Referees. If the member provides new evidence of a medical nature before this stage, and the member and the FRA agree, the IQMP can be asked to review the medical opinion in the light of the new evidence.
A similar process applies if an ill-health award is reviewed and the person is dissatisfied with the outcome and in any other circumstances where a decision has been made, based on medical evidence.
If the grievance of an FPS member, a dependant, or a pension credit member relates to a decision made by the FRA which is unrelated to a medical opinion, or is in respect of a non-medical aspect of the opinion, they can use IDRP to seek resolution. The grievance will be considered by the authority and a written response made.
Full details of local medical appeal procedures, the IDRP process, and relevant time limits can be supplied by your FRA.
Who else can I ask for help?
There are other regulatory bodies that may be able to help you.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
TPAS is a part of the Money and Pensions Service which is an arms-length body of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
TPAS works to make pensions accessible and understandable for everyone. They provide independent and impartial information and guidance about pensions, free of charge, to members of the public.
They help with all pension matters covering workplace, personal and stakeholder schemes and also the State Pension. They answer general questions, help with specific queries and offer guidance for people with complaints about their private pension scheme.
A person can seek the assistance of TPAS at any stage during IDRP, or they may be approached after an IDRP process has been completed and the person remains dissatisfied, as a preliminary to an investigation by the Pensions Ombudsman.
Opinions expressed by TPAS are not legally binding and the complainant has a right to take their case to the Ombudsman even if not supported by TPAS.
The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO)
TPO is an independent and impartial service set up by law to investigate complaints about pension administration. The free service is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and funded by a levy collected from schemes by TPR.
TPO has legal powers to make decisions that are final, binding and enforceable in court. A decision of the Ombudsman can only be changed by appealing to the appropriate court on a point of law.
TPO will normally expect the complainant to have had their case considered by TPAS and to have exhausted the IDRP process before they get involved.
TPO can impose fines and instruct that compensation should be made for financial loss. They can also award compensation for distress and inconvenience – this is usually in the range of £50 to £500.