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Firefighters 2015 scheme
Need to know

Help for members and rights of appeal

If a member of FPS 2015, or a dependant, is dissatisfied with a decision made by a fire and rescue authority (or the failure to make a decision) there are rights of appeal available. There is an appeal procedure for someone who is dissatisfied with a determination that was based on a medical opinion, where they believe the fault lies in the medical opinion. And for other grievances the authority must have in place arrangements for Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures (“IDRP”) based on the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995.

Medical Appeals

If the authority 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 his/her role and, if so, whether he/she would be capable of any other regular employment. The authority must notify the firefighter of their decision as to award and supply a copy of the medical opinion upon which their determination is based.

If the person is dissatisfied with the award and believes the problem lies in the medical opinion, then he/she can appeal against the opinion to a Board of Medical Referees. (Before this stage, however, if the member provides new evidence of a medical nature and the member and the authority 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.

Internal Dispute Resolution Process (IDRP)

If the grievance of a FPS 2015 member, a dependant, or a pension credit member relates to a decision made by the fire and rescue authority unrelated to the content of a medical opinion, or is in respect of a non-medical aspect of the opinion, he/she 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 authority.

The Pensions Advisory Service ("TPAS")

TPAS is an independent voluntary organisation which provides information and guidance on pension matters. They are available at any time to assist occupational pension scheme members and beneficiaries in connection with any pension query they may have or any difficulty which they have failed to resolve with pension scheme administrators. Their service is free. TPAS cannot enforce pensions action but, if felt appropriate, could recommend a person to put his/her case to the Pensions Ombudsman. They can be contacted at:

The Pensions Advisory Service,
11, Belgrave Road,
London, SW1V 1RB

Telephone helpline: 0300 123 1047
Website: www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

The Pension Ombudsman

The Pensions Ombudsman can investigate a pension scheme member's complaint of maladministration or a dispute of fact or law between a scheme member and pension scheme managers or employer. However, the Ombudsman cannot help if court proceedings have begun in respect of the dispute, under any of the FBS rules (1992/2006 or 2015).

The Ombudsman will expect the case to have first been put through Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures. Also, a complainant who writes to the Ombudsman direct will normally be requested to have the case dealt with initially by The Pensions Advisory Service.

The Pensions Ombudsman can be contacted at:

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman,
11 Belgrave Road,
London, SW1V 1RB

Telephone: 020 7630 2200
Website: www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

The Pension Regulator

The Pensions Regulator is a regulatory body which came into existence on 6 April 2005 having been set up under the Pensions Act 2004 (replacing the earlier Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority). It ensures that pension scheme members' interests are protected and that schemes comply with the law.

For example, the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 includes requirements for the governance and administration of public service schemes (including FPS 1992, 2006 and 2015), and for oversight by The Pensions Regulator. Fire and rescue authorities must comply with The Pension Regulator's Code of Practice No.14 which sets out a framework for governance and administration.

At central level there must be a Scheme Advisory Board and at local level a Pension Board with responsibility for assisting the authority ("scheme manager") to comply with Scheme regulations and other legislation relating to the governance of the Scheme.

The Local Pension Board must have an equal number of employee and employer representatives, a minimum of 4 in total, 2 from each side. They must be conversant with the Scheme rules and have an understanding of the law relating to pensions. It is not a decision-making board although it can review decisions made under the Scheme rules.

At the time of writing this guide, some of the Pensions Regulator's requirements for the Firefighters' Pension Schemes are still in draft form, but your fire and rescue authority can keep you informed about local arrangements

The Pensions Regulator deals with issues about pension schemes as a whole. It does not deal with queries about an individual’s pension benefits but recommends that a person seeking free information and advice on all types of pensions should approach The Pensions Advisory Service.

Website: www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk

Pensions Tracing Service

If you have previous pension rights held in a pension arrangement but have lost contact with the administrators, the Department for Work and Pensions offer a Pension Tracing Service.

They can be contacted at:
The Pension Service 9,
Mail Handling Site A,
Wolverhampton WV98 1LU

Tel: 0845 6002 537

Website: www.gov.uk/find-lost-pension

Divorce or dissolution of civil partnership – the effect on pension rights

In the event of divorce, dissolution of civil partnership, annulment or judicial separation, a court may order a pension scheme to pay all or part of a member's entitlement to pension to his/her former spouse or civil partner. This could be in accordance with an attachment order (sometimes referred to as an "earmarking" order) or under the terms of a "pension sharing" order.

The authority’s pension’s administrator can provide pensions information, if so requested, for the court proceedings.

An earmarking order could apply to all or part of your retirement pension, potential lump sum, or possibly your lump sum death benefit. If you have already retired, the order may require immediate payment of pension to your former spouse or civil partner. If you are an active or deferred member the order would not have effect until the benefits become payable.

A pension sharing order would have immediate effect. The court would instruct that a percentage of the value of your benefits should be deducted and transferred to a pension credit account which your authority would set up for your former spouse or civil partner (who becomes a "pension credit member" of FPS 2015).

Pension Credit Member

A pension credit member is entitled to draw their pension at the Scheme's deferred pension age, i.e. State pension age or age 65 if higher. If, at the date that the pension sharing order comes into effect the pension credit member had already reached deferred pension age, their pension entitlement would be put into payment immediately. They have a right to commute part of the pension for a lump sum on similar terms that apply to you provided that you had not already retired and commuted part of your pension before the pension sharing order takes effect.

If the pension credit member dies before any benefits derived from the pension credit have been paid to them, a lump sum death benefit would be payable, equal to 2.25 times the annual rate of the pension credit pension. Or if they die within 5 years of the pension credit pension coming into payment, and they are under age 75, a death grant would be payable equal to the difference between 5 times their pension and the instalments already paid. There are no survivor pensions attached to a pension credit.

On divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, your former spouse or partner ceases to have any death benefit cover in respect of the portion of the pension you retain after the pension sharing order has been acted upon.

If, at the time of your death you had entered into a new relationship and leave an eligible surviving partner, they would be entitled to a surviving partner's pension based on the portion of pension you have retained after the pension sharing reduction.

However, an eligible child's pension would be calculated on the pension to which you would have been entitled had no reduction been made at all for pension sharing.