Ombudsman upholds complaint against Department on delayed pension statements

INTO member Kieran O’Connell has received a significant decision from the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman in a complaint against the Department of Education (DE) for their failure to provide him with pension statements.

Mr. O’Connell is a member of the Single Pension Scheme, and Section 43 of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012 (PSPA 2012) provides for the issue of annual benefit statements to members of the Scheme. A previous complaint to the DE by Mr. O’Connell resulted in him receiving his pension statements, but he complained that the late receipt of these statements had resulted in him not being able to make informed decisions about making additional contributions to his pension.

The Ombudsman found that Mr. O’Connell’s complaint that he had not received pension statements was upheld and confirmed that there was a legal obligation on the DE to issue these, on an annual basis. She further “accepted that the Complainant, in the period from 2014 – 2020, lost out on the opportunity to make a more informed decision regarding his purchase of AVCs, because of the absence of information in his pension benefit statements, which ought to have been issued to him by the Provider in accordance with its obligations”.

Mr. O’Connell also informed the Ombudsman that despite the assurances given by DE that annual pension benefit statements would be issued to members without difficulty, they had not issued his 2020 statement, and neither had they issued statements to other teachers in the scheme. The Ombudsman stated that “It will be important for the Provider to recognise that the timely provision of annual pension statements to its employees, is critical to the protection of those employees”. On the basis of the issues raised by the complaint, the Ombudsman intends to refer this matter to the Pensions Authority for such action as it considers appropriate.

INTO believes this is a significant decision and welcomes the Ombudsman’s agreement that the continuing failure of the department to issue these statements negatively impacts on our members ability to make important financial decisions in relation to their future income. We reiterate our demand that the DE issue pension statements without any further delay to all members of the Single Pension scheme, as required by law. We congratulate Mr. O’Connell on his persistence in his complaint. We hope that the Pensions Authority will exercise its power to ensure that this matter is resolved once and for all.