Monday, 05 October 2015 08:30
The Scottish Government has announced a change to the pensions paid to the survivors of police officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.
Although the 2006 and 2015 police and firefighter schemes allow for lifetime adult survivor pension awards, pensions paid to widows, widowers and civil partners under the 1987 Police and 1992 Firefighter pension scheme regulations are withdrawn on remarriage, registering for a civil partnership and in the case of the police scheme, cohabitation.
This announcement means that going forward survivors' pensions paid in respect of members of the 1987 and 1992 regulations will no longer be subject to this particular rule where the police officer or firefighter is killed in the line of duty. In addition those wives, husbands, or civil partners of police officers or firefighters who were killed in the line of duty who have already had their pension withdrawn because of remarriage, forming a civil partnership or cohabitation will have their pension reinstated with effect from 1 October 2015.
Which adult survivor pensions qualify for this change?
Only those paid as Special or Augmented awards. An ordinary pension paid to a widow, widower, civil partner under the 1987 Police or 1992 Firefighter regulations is not covered and will still be subject to withdrawal on remarriage, registering a civil partnership or in the case of the police regulations, cohabitation.
What happens next?
Any person currently in receipt of a Special or Augmented award from the 1987 Police or 1992 Firefighter regulations will continue to be entitled to that pension for life and will not be affected by any remarriage, civil partnership or cohabitation.
SPPA will endeavour to identify those Special and Augmented awards that have been withdrawn on remarriage, registering a civil partnership or in the case of the police regulations cohabitation so that those pensions can now be put back into payment.
Where SPPA do hold the necessary details the re-instated pension will be indexed from the date of withdrawal and put back into payment at the level it would have been payable at if it had not been withdrawn. Entitlement commences 1 October 2015 - it does not cover the period from the date the pension was withdrawn up to that date - so there is no entitlement to any arrears of pension before 1 October.
SPPA took over responsibility for the administration of police and fire pensions from 1 April 2015. It will make every effort to establish details of those eligible pensions that have been withdrawn but it is likely that any details may be held by the authorities which previously administered the scheme. SPPA will be contacting those authorities for details of any eligible pension covered by this change. However due to data retention policies within each of the former police and fire authorities there may be some records that are no longer held.
What do I need to do to have my Special or Augmented pension reinstated?
If SPPA is unable to establish your previous pension entitlement then you should supply SPPA with any evidence of that pension and when it was withdrawn. SPPA will only be able to reinstate a withdrawn Special or Augmented pension where there is sufficient evidence of entitlement so it is important that, where there are no longer any official records of an award being made, you provide any relevant evidence that shows entitlement. This could be the initial award letter or correspondence relating to the withdrawal of that pension.
This change only affects Special or Augmented pensions paid to the survivors of police officers and firefighters. Those in receipt of ordinary adult survivor pensions payable under the 1987 police and 1992 firefighter pension scheme regulations will still be subject to the withdrawal of that pension on remarriage, formation of a civil partnership and in the case of the police scheme cohabitation. Those ordinary adult survivor pensions already withdrawn are not affected and remain withdrawn.
Special and Augmented awards are paid under the Police (Injury Benefits) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 and the Firefighters' Compensation Scheme (Scotland) Order 2006. SPPA will take forward the necessary regulatory changes necessary to reflect this change in the regulations.
Police and Firefighters Survivors' Pensions Q & A
Q. What are the changes being made?
A. Under the Police pension Scheme Regulations 1987 and Firefighters Pension Scheme Order 1992, the pensions of surviving adults are terminated when the survivor remarries, enters a civil partnership, or in the case of the police scheme, cohabits.
Scottish Ministers noted the recent changes announced by the UK Government that remove this rule for survivors of officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Scottish Ministers agree that these changes are needed.
In addition to that, and taking the change further than the UK Government, Scottish Ministers will seek to reinstate the pensions previously withdrawn from those affected individuals.
Q. What does 'killed in the line of duty' mean?
A. Any officer or firefighter who dies as a result of an injury sustained whilst fulfilling the requirements of duty.
For police officers, this will include accidents that occur to and from the place of work.
Survivors of officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty receive a Special, or in some cases Augmented, award through the injury benefit or compensation scheme. It is recipients of these Special or Augmented awards that are affected.
Q. I am in receipt of an ordinary survivor's pensions. Will I now receive this for life if I remarry?
A. No, this change only affects those survivors entitled to a Special or Augmented pension award.
Q. This change relates only to the 1987 and 1992 scheme. What about the newer police and firefighter schemes?
A. Under the changes made to public service pensions between 2006 and 2009, all survivor pensions in the Police and Firefighter 2006 schemes are payable for life. This policy has continued in the new 2015 schemes.
Q. Why make the change now?
A. Generally improvements made to the devolved public service schemes are not applied retrospectively because in most circumstances the resulting costs must be met by scheme members, not by taxpayers. However this change reflects the unique risks regularly faced by police officers and firefighters and the demands placed on them and it is only right that their pension scheme benefits should reflect that unique risk.
Q. Pensions previously withdrawn are being re-instated. Will arrears be paid for the period that they were withdrawn.
A. No, pensions will be re-instated with effect from 1 October and will be revalued to the rate that would have been payable today had they not been withdrawn.
Q. How many people are affected by this decision?
A. All individuals currently in receipt of a Special or Augmented award will now retain their pensions for life. SPPA is in the process of identifying the number of pensions to be reinstated and will contact those affected in due course. Until these persons have been identified it will not be possible to establish exact numbers.
Q. When will pensions be reinstated?
A. The process to confirm and reinstate pension entitlement is a complex issue. The Scottish Government is committed to reinstating entitlement to eligible survivors as soon as possible. These changes will be administered by the Scottish Public Pensions Agency which will issue an update in due course.
Q. Why are the rules not being changed in respect of all survivors pensions, not just the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty?
A. Generally improvements made to the devolved public service schemes are not applied retrospectively because in most circumstances the resulting costs must be met by current scheme members, not by taxpayers. Scottish Ministers recognise that unique circumstances in which police officers and firefighters protect the public and are therefore prepared to make an exception to recognise this.
Q. Why are these changes not extending to cover all public service pensions schemes?
A. Clearly, all injuries and deaths suffered in the workplace are extremely regrettable. Fortunately such tragedies are rare in most professions, however police and firefighters are regularly exposed to situations where they may have to pay the ultimate sacrifice. It is only right that the provisions of the pension scheme should reflect this.