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Decision of the Fund

As Administering Authority for the West Midlands Pension Fund, Wolverhampton City Council is required under the pension scheme regulations to have a process for dealing with Internal Disputes regarding members' pension benefits. This policy sets out how the West Midlands Pension Fund will manage Stage One of the Internal Dispute Resolution Process to the benefit of both employers and members. All officers employed by or acting on behalf of the West Midlands Pension Fund are required to adhere to this process when undertaking their role as an investigating officer. The Fund's compliance team will be actively monitoring disputes and the resolution of these. Information should be sent via email to wmpfIDRP@wolverhampton.gov.uk. Where the Fund believes an employer has failed to comply with this process it may consider reporting the matter to the Pensions Regulator under its reporting policy

The Internal Dispute Resolution Process (IDRP)

 

First Instance Decisions

First Instance Decisions are decisions taken by an employer on matters relating to a member's pension rights other than in relation to

  1. A person's previous service or employment
  2. The crediting of additional pension under regulation 16

The calculation of any benefit or return of contributions a person is or may become entitled to out of a pension fund.

These matters should be referred direct to the Administering Authority and will be managed under this process.

The Fund will issue a letter to Members determining its outcome under the sections noted above.

Stage One

In the first instance appeals under Stage One should be forwarded to the Fund's compliance team who will log the complaint and forward it to the appropriate officer.   

The member challenging the decision may complete the IDRP form available on the Fund's website or provide written details of the dispute together with their name address date of birth and signature and send it to the address provided at the bottom of this process.  

In cases related to ill-health retirement, it may be appropriate for the Fund to appoint an independent registered medical practitioner to review the findings of the first instance decision.

On receiving the form, the compliance team will allocate a case number to the complaint and log the timeframe for managing the complaint notifying the appropriate officer that the complaint has been received and the timeframe for responding. The appropriate officer may make an assessment as to whether there is any conflict in conducting the matter and may, where a conflict occurs, seek to refer the matter to an external reviewer.

The compliance team will continue to monitor this timeframe ensuring it is met, issuing an acknowledgement to the member detailing the date by which they will receive a response from the Fund.  

Contact details for the officer dealing with the Stage One complaint on behalf of the Fund must also be supplied. Should this officer change during the course of the complaint handling, notification will be sent to the member.  

The officer responsible for investigating the complaint (allocated by the appropriate officer, who will be separate to First Instance Decision Maker) will then conduct a data gathering exercise of information held by the Fund in order to investigate the complaint and draw an initial conclusion. It may be necessary to contact the member's employer for further information and this will be requested on the appropriate form enclosing the letter of authority. This information is expected to be returned within 14 days of the date of request.

Should the investigating officer believe that the timeframe notified to the member is not going to be met, they must notify the member and the Fund's compliance team as soon as they become aware of this and provide confirmation as to when the complaint will be resolved detailing reasons for the delay.

Failure to meet the deadline or to notify those involved of a delay may be taken by the member as a non-determination of Stage One and they may then instigate the Stage Two procedure. It is therefore vital that members are kept informed of the progress of their complaint and whether there will be any delays.

Once the investigating officer has concluded their fact finding, they will present an overview of the facts and the proposed decision to the appropriate officer for consideration. If the appropriate officer agrees with the initial findings, a final decision will be made and the decision notice issued.

Should there be a disagreement between the investigating officer and the appropriate officer, the latter may request the investigating officer to reconsider certain parts or all of the information received.

The appropriate officer will have the final determination on the matter.

Where a decision has been reached, the officer must notify the member within the required timeframe (no later than 15 days of the date the decision was made) using the template decision notice. A copy of the medical report will be available to the member if requested on the 'Access to Medical Reports' form.

A copy of that notice must be provided to the Fund's Compliance team with confirmation that the matter has closed.

A report of all Stage One complaints, the number received, those completed within the regulatory timescale of 2 months and those that fall outside the timescale will be reported annually to the Fund's Pension Board. Persistent delays will be highlighted as an area of concern.

Stage Two

Where a member believes that the decision reached in Stage One is unfair or they don't agree with it, they may invoke Stage Two, requesting a review by the Administering Authority, using the appropriate form on the Fund's website or in writing by providing details of the disagreement, their name, address, date of birth and signature and sending it to the Fund's compliance team. Contact details are provided at the bottom of this process.

On receiving the form, the compliance team will allocate a case number to the complaint and log the timeframe for managing the complaint notifying the appropriate officer, of the Administering Authority that the complaint has been received and the timeframe for responding. Compliance will continue to monitor this timeframe ensuring it is met, issuing an acknowledgement to the member detailing the date by which they will receive a response from the Administering Authority. 

Contact details for the officer dealing with the Stage Two complaint on behalf of the Administering Authority must also be supplied. The officer investigating the matter under Stage Two will be different to the one who conducted the Stage One review in order to ensure an independent review.

In certain cases it may be appropriate for the Fund to request an external adjudicator to conduct the Stage Two investigation. This may occur where no new information has been provided but the complainant has alleged a mishandling of the Stage One investigation or that the Fund has failed to apply the correct legislation/process to their complaint. 

Where this is considered appropriate the Fund will appoint the external reviewer in line with its process for "Stage Two External Review".

Where the matter remains with the Administering Authority for a Stage Two review, the officer responsible for investigating the complaint (allocated by the appropriate officer) will then conduct a data gathering exercise of information held by the Fund in order to investigate the complaint and draw an initial conclusion. It may be necessary to contact the member's employer for further information and this will be requested on the appropriate form enclosing the letter of authority. This information is expected to be returned within 14 days of the date of request.

Failure by an employer to provide the information or to notify those involved of any delay will be taken by the fund as non-compliance and we may consider reporting the matter to the Pensions Regulator.

Should the investigating officer believe that the timeframe notified to the member is not going to be met, they must notify the member and the Fund's compliance team as soon as they become aware that the deadline will not be met and provide confirmation as to when the complaint will be resolved detailing reasons for the delay.

Failure to meet the deadline or to notify those involved of any delay maybe taken by the member as a non-determination and they may then consider appealing to the Pension Ombudsman. It is therefore vital that members are kept informed of the progress of their complaint and whether there will be any delays.

In cases related to ill-health retirement, it may be appropriate for the Administering Authority to appoint another medical practitioner to review the findings of the Fund. This practitioner will be different to the one appointed under Stage One.

Once the investigating officer has concluded their fact finding, they will present an overview of the facts and the proposed decision to the appropriate officer for consideration with the Fund's Strategic Director of Pensions and S151 Officer. Where the appropriate officer agrees with the initial findings a final decision will be made and the decision notice issued.

Should there be a disagreement between the investigating officer/external reviewer and the appropriate officer, the latter may request the investigating officer to reconsider certain parts or all of the information received. It may be necessary at this stage to request an external review if the parties do not agree.  

The appropriate officer will have the final determination on the matter.

Where a decision has been reached the officer must notify the member within the required timeframe (no later than 15 days of the date the decision was made) using the template decision notice. A copy of the medical report (if used) will be available on request by the member.

A copy of that notice must be provided to the Fund's Compliance team with confirmation that the matter has closed.

A report of all Stage Two complaints, the number received, those completed within the regulatory timescale and those that fall outside the timescale will be reported annually to the Fund's Pension Board. Persistent delays will be highlighted as an area of concern.

Where Compliance monitor the performance of the Fund in adhering to timescales and the process, they are performing an independent monitoring duty and take no part in the decision making process.

Contact

WMPF Compliance Team

P O Box 3948

Wolverhampton

WV1 1XB

 

Email: WMPFIDRP@wolverhampton.gov.uk

 

Appropriate Officer

Within this policy the term Appropriate Officer has the following definition

First Instance Decision

West Midlands Pension Fund Officer

Stage One

Strategic Director of Pensions

Stage Two

Administering Authority's Managing Director

 

 

 

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