Dear Brother / Sister,
ILL HEALTH PENSION RETIREMENTS UPDATE
Over the last few weeks we have been contacted by several Out Of Trade members who are concerned over any potential changes to their ill-health pension entitlements. This has followed the disgraceful treatment of three Out Of Trade members in London. The purpose of this circular is to update you of the situation and to inform you of the action currently being taken by The Fire Brigades Union.
In recent months the Communities and Local Government Department (CLG) have issued new guidance to the Independent Qualified Medical Practitioners (IQMPs) which differs significantly from the guidance issued in 2004. This new guidance means that to be permanently disabled and therefore eligible for an ill-health pension the individual must be unable to perform any duty within their role.
The 2004 Guidance contained the following within the advice.
‘If the FRA cannot offer other employment, fitness to perform other duties would not be relevant and the person may be retired with an ill-health award’.
Subsequently, in 2006 this guidance was amended and this sentence has been removed.It is difficult to imagine circumstances in which an individual could not perform one of the duties of the Firefighter’s role. The effect of this guidance will therefore be to end ill-health retirement under the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (FPS) and the New Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (NFPS).
The aim of the 2004 guidance was to allow greater flexibility into the schemes by allowing redeployment to non-operational duties if this was appropriate. However, under the new guidance an ill-health pension will not be paid even if no such job exists. The effect of these changes will be to place firefighters in limbo. They will not be able to continue in their profession due to ill-health. They will not be entitled to an ill-health pension.
In July three retired members of the FBU were informed by the Fire Authority in London (LFEPA) that their pensions would cease. This decision followed medical appeals on the issue of injury awards by the three under the terms of the FPS. They had already been awarded an ill-health pension and registered an appeal as is their right under the Pension Scheme. The Board of Medical Referees who hear appeals concluded that the individuals were capable of performing some of the duties within the Firefighter Role Map and should not therefore receive a pension.
As a result of this, LFEPA has concluded that they can no longer pay the ill-health pension. The three retired members were informed that their pensions would cease in August. That has now happened.
This has created an unprecedented situation where three members have been retired from service. They have now had their pension stopped and are now without work and without a pension. I am sure you will understand that the Fire Brigades Union cannot accept that this is an appropriate way to treat retired firefighters and you will appreciate the level of anger which this decision has caused among our members.
What could this mean to you?
Any firefighter who has retired on ill-health within the last 10 years could be reviewed using the 2006 guidance; this has already been raised as a possibility. Under the 2006 guidance it is a strong possibility that many firefighters currently in receipt of an ill-health pension could be dealt with in the same way as the three former London firefighters. This could mean the cessation of pension payments with no offer of alternative employment.
Relatively easy resolution
The Executive Council unanimously supported a resolution condemning the decision to cease the payment of pension to the three retired members and to ensure a return to the 2004 guidance. If this position is not achieved the FBU will embark upon a political and industrial campaign aimed at securing their objectives.
What can you do?
Branches across the UK are considering a resolution condemning the decision to cease the payment of pension to the three retirees, leaving them without a pension or a job and to ensure that ministers within CLG amend the current advice in line with the 2004 guidance. (The full resolution along with all updates on this, and other issues, can be found on The Fire Brigades Union website www.fbu.org.uk )
Senior officials have written to and are speaking with ministers from CLG in the hope of achieving our objective. Our campaign is already having an impact on others within the Fire and Rescue Service and I would ask that you consider adding your support. Please consider raising this issue with your M.P., with local councillors, your local Chief Fire Officer and with the Chair of your local Fire and Rescue Authority. It would be helpful if copies of any letters you send could be sent to our National Office, Sean Starbuck either by post or by email ([email protected]).
Updates will be posted on the Fire Brigades Union website.
Yours in Unity,