How to raise a complaint or dispute
When you become a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme multiple decisions are made in respect of your membership. Some decisions are made by your employer or former employer, whilst some are made by the administering authority for the Staffordshire Pension Fund which is Staffordshire County Council.
If you are notified of a decision, you should check with the decision maker that it has firstly been based on the correct information. When notified of a decision, contact details will be provided so you can query any uncertainties and be provided with details of the rights of appeal under the LGPS regulations.
Often a problem can be resolved quickly by contacting the decision maker directly. Whether this is your employer or the Staffordshire Pension Fund, the decision may have evolved from incorrect information being used or an initial misunderstanding.
Both scenarios can therefore be explained and easily amended by contacting the decision maker by telephone or in writing. Many problems are resolved this way, so please bear this in mind as it may save you time.
If you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to have your complaint independently reviewed under the internal dispute resolution procedure (IDRP).
If an agreement cannot be made between the applicant and the decision maker, within the LGPS Regulations 2013, Regulations 72 to 79 detail the formal dispute procedure known as the IDRP.
The process is split into two stages, if you are unhappy with a decision following stage 1, or a decision has not been made in reasonable time under the dispute rules, you have the right to have it looked at afresh.
You can use the dispute system if you are:
In other words, you are paying into Staffordshire Pension Fund or you have retired and draw a pension from us, or you have left your benefits 'on hold' with us.
A prospective member
In other words, you are not a member yet, but could become one if your employer brings you in, or you ask to join.
In other words, you are the widow, widower, surviving civil partner, eligible cohabiting partner or child of a member or prospective member.
Using someone else to represent you
You might feel happier with someone else representing you, or you may not be able to put your case yourself.
In this case you can choose someone else to represent you. This can be whoever you like - a friend, relative, solicitor, union rep, and so on.
From the day you join the pension scheme, various decisions are being made about your pension - both by your employer, and ourselves here at Staffordshire Pension Fund. If you disagree with a decision, you can dispute it.
Examples of employer decisions
- deciding whether you meet the grounds for an ill-health retirement and what tier of benefits is to be awarded
- deciding the final pay to be used to work out your benefits
- deciding the contribution rate, you pay
- deciding how and when to apply the discretions available to employers in the LGPS
Remember: if you are unhappy with any decision made by your employer you should contact them first before beginning the IDRP process.
Examples of administering authority decisions
- whether or not to accept a transfer from another scheme
- decide who receives any death grant that may be payable
- calculating your benefits
You can also dispute other aspects of your pension, for example if you feel that you haven't been given the information you need.
You need to put your complaint in writing, using the appeals form to whomever you think is at fault - either your employer, or the administering authority. Ask yourself "who made the decision I am unhappy with?" The answer should tell you who to appeal to.
Please note: the appeal must be made within six months of the day when you were told of the decision you want to complain about.
Your complaint will be considered carefully by a person nominated by the body that took the decision against which you wish to complain. This guide calls them the 'adjudicator' that person is required to give you their decision in writing.
How do I appeal?
You can use this form:
If you wish to have a copy of the form sent to you, please contact us.
What information should be included on the stage 1 appeal form?
When submitting an IDRP it is not enough to merely state that you do not agree with the original decision. You must set out your reasons. Anything you feel relevant to your complaint about the decision or issue you are appealing should be included. However, it is important to stick to the facts. You can attach any related information to the form including copies of letters you have been sent.
Your complaint will be looked at by the person nominated by your employer or the administering authority that took the original decision you wish to appeal against. This individual is referred to as the adjudicator'. The adjudicator will not have been involved in the initial decision or issue that you are appealing so you must ensure that you provide them with all relevant information.
The regulations do not stipulate who should be the adjudicator at the stage 1 of the dispute process. It could be, for example, the human resources manager, or payroll manager. It is for each employer and administering authority to decide who should fulfil this role.
Where should I send the stage 1 appeal form?
Complaints about your employer
Please send your form to your employer's appointed person. Your employer should have told you who their adjudicator is or how to find this information in the letter that contained the decision you are appealing. If you do not know who your employer's nominated person is, please contact the organisation who made the decision you are appealing against.
Appeals against the administering authority
Please send your form to the Staffordshire Pension Fund - Head of Treasury and Pensions.
What happens next?
The facts of your case that have been provided on the stage 1 appeal form and any other supporting documentation will be examined, alongside the scheme rules, and any legislation that is applicable. It is possible that you may be asked for more details, to help the adjudicator fully understand your case.
Your complaint will then be considered carefully by the appointed person and you should receive a written reply within two months of the date your complaint arrived. The letter will either provide you with a decision or will acknowledge your complaint.
What happens if a decision cannot be made within 2 months?
Where it has not been possible for the nominated person to issue his/her decision within the two-month period, a letter will be sent to you explaining the reasons for the delay and provide an expected date for issuing a decision. Although in most cases the decision should be made within 2 months, there may be circumstances where the specified person may wish to seek the views of the interested parties those of the relevant administering authority before a final decision is taken which may take longer.
Receiving a reply from the appointed person
The LGPS regulations require the adjudicator's decision to provide you with the following in their reply:
- a statement of their decision
- a reference to any legislation on which the nominated person relied
- if your case relates to the exercise of a discretion, a reference to the provisions of these Regulations conferring the discretion*
- if your appeal is not upheld, a reference should be made to your right to refer the disagreement for reconsideration by the appropriate administering authority and the time within which you may do so
- contact details for the Pensions Ombudsman who are available to give assistance with any issues that remain unresolved
* If the decision you are appealing against concerns the exercise of a discretion by your employer or the administering authority, and the adjudicator person decides that your employer or the administering authority should reconsider how they exercised their decision, they will write to notify them of their decision. In such cases, the adjudicator cannot overturn the initial decision but can determine whether the discretion has been exercised reasonably and, in cases where this is found not to be the case, can refer the decision to be reconsidered.
If you are still not satisfied with this decision after reconsideration, then you can take your appeal to Stage 2.
The stage 2 procedure applies when you ask the administering authority to take a fresh look at your complaint if:
- you are not satisfied with the adjudicator stage 1 decision
- you have not received a decision or an interim letter from the adjudicator, and it is more than two months since you lodged your stage 1 appeal
- it is one month after the date by which the adjudicator told you (in an interim letter) that they would give you a decision, and you have still not received that decision
Each administering authority must appoint a person (the adjudicator) to consider applications under the stage 2 appeal. The adjudicator is appointed by the fund's administering authority (Staffordshire County Council). The name and address of the adjudicator should be up-to-date on the appeals form.
What details should be sent with a stage 2 form?
All the information and details that were required for the stage 1 application should be resubmitted at the stage 2 via the appeals form. Also, where you have received a stage 1 decision a copy of the decision letter and most importantly, an explanation of why you are dissatisfied with it should be explained on the appeals form.
As with appeals at the stage 1 of the dispute rules, the person considering your application should acknowledge receipt of the appeals form and may request further information so that they can fully understand your complaint.
If your health is a factor in the complaint, you may be asked to attend a medical examination or consent to the release of your medical details to another independent registered medical practitioner (IRMP) for a further medical opinion.
The review at the stage 2 would be undertaken by an independent registered medical practitioner not involved in the stage 1 decision.
What happens next?
The person nominated by the administering authority must then decide on the basis of the scheme rules, and by taking into account the facts and evidence they have obtained, whether the adjudicator decision reached at the stage 1 of the process was correct. If they decide that it was not, they must replace the adjudicator decision in the stage 1 with a new decision of their own.
As is the case at stage 1, if the original decision was made in the exercise of a discretion and the administering authority decides that it was not exercised in a reasonable manner, they can only insist the employer or administering authority reconsider its discretion - they cannot replace their original decision with a decision of their own. At the stage 2 the adjudicator must either write to you to let you know their decision within two months of the date they receive your stage 2 appeals form, or they must write to you at the end of two months to let you know when a decision is likely to be reached and the reason for any delay.
When they write to inform you of the decision, they will also tell you whether the decision confirms or replaces the original adjudicator’s decision and they will tell you the legislation used in reaching their decision.
If you are still unhappy following the adjudicators stage 2 decision you can refer your complaint to the Pension Ombudsman provided you do so within three years from the date of the original decision (or lack of decision) about which you are complaining.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS)
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) is an independent no profit organisation that provides free information advice and guidance on all types of pension scheme. Their role is primarily one of negotiation and advice and they are available to assist individuals and their dependants in connection with any pension difficulties they have failed to resolve.
Please note: TPAS has no statutory power to impose any course of action or determination on an employer or the administration authority. They can though give an opinion to any individual as to whether they believe any complaint would be a case that the Pension Ombudsman might pursue.
Website: Pensions Advisory Service
Online enquiry form
Postal address: Money and Pensions Service, 120 Holborn, London, EC1N 2ND
Phone: 0800 011 3797
The Pensions Ombudsman (PO)
The Pensions Ombudsman is able to investigate and determine any allegation of maladministration or any dispute of fact of law in relation to the Local Government Pension Scheme made or referred in accordance with the Pension Scheme Act 1993. The Pensions Ombudsman will, however, only usually investigate cases which has been through stages 1 and 2 of the internal dispute resolution procedure.
Please note: a Pensions Ombudsman decision is binding on all parties and can only be challenged on a point of law in the Supreme Court
Website: Pensions Ombudsman
Email: Enquiries to the Pensions Ombudsman
Postal address: 10 South Collonade, Canary Wharf, E14 4PU
Phone: 0800 917 4487 (for the early resolution service, select option 1)
Staffordshire Pension Fund
If you need any further advice or information, please contact us.
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