Opinion Former Article

NARPO Election Issues



The National Association of Retired Police Officers considers that the forthcoming General Election is an opportunity to highlight some of the organisations key current concerns. NARPO is a non political member organisation founded in 1919 and now representing in excess of 76,000 former police officers of all ranks, police widows, widowers and partners of former police officers. The issues below are specific to the organisation and its members and are in addition to our general concerns about treatment of older people in society. Candidates can get further information about our position from our website at www.narpo.org or by calling the national office on 01924 362166, where the Chief Executive Clint Elliott QPM or his deputy Steve Edwards will be happy to discuss any of the matters raised below. If candidates want a local view, details of local branches are also available on the website or through the national office.

Welfare

Welfare in the Police Service has in our view suffered greatly in recent years as policing becomes more concerned about value for money and less people conscious. We are now in a position where welfare services in many forces struggle to keep pace with the needs of serving officers and have little or no time at all for retired officers and police widows. This contrasts starkly with the time when we, as retired officers, were still seen as part of the extended 'police family'. The knock on effect for former officers and for Police Charities like the Police Dependants Trust (PDT) is plain to see, many forces not even being able to find sufficient time to meet the fairly low level of commitment needed to help to administer PDT claims from those eligible. (The Police Dependants Trust supports officers injured on duty and their families and widows and families of officers killed on duty)

Injury Awards

Police Officers who are forced to retire early as a result of an injury received on duty are likely to receive an injury pension in addition to an ill health pension to help compensate for their loss of career. An injury award can be subject to review by the local Police Authority as the former officers medical conditions worsen or improve. We believe that a Home Office Circular, 46/2004, has created a situation of great inequality in respect of treatment of these officers between forces and at different age points. In our view the circular has encouraged maladministration of police injury pensions in a significant number of forces in England and Wales.

Our position is that there should be no different a procedure or considerations in a review of this award simply based on the age of the recipient. We have been encouraged in this view by several legal and Pension Ombudsman decisions and by recent decisions of the Police Medical Appeals Board. The Home Office have also recently advised all forces to put all reviews on hold as it awaits the outcome of an appeal in the Metropolitan Police case of 'Laws'.

Whilst we understand the reasons for this suspension of reviews, we consider that the Home Office should, when considering further advice on this matter, take into account the position of hundreds of our members who have already gone through a questionable process of review. It is clear that some forces are reviewing those on this benefit purely to make financial savings at the expense of elderly, infirm former officers injured protecting the public they served without a fair and proper process that meets the requirements of the legislation.

Police Widows

Under the Police Pensions Regulation 1987, a police officer's widow in receipt of a widow's pension loses that pension should she choose to cohabit or re- marry subsequent to receiving the widow's pension. This legislation is based on values that would no longer be acceptable today and leaves many older widows with a stark choice between being alone until death or finding a loving companion late in life and losing a significant part of overall income.

The most recent Police Pension Scheme introduced in 2006 does provide a pension for life to widows, widowers and partners of contributing police officers following their death but this provision does not apply retrospectively. The Government are also introducing a lifelong widow(er)s pension under the 1987 scheme for those officers killed on duty. Whilst we support this change we do not believe that it goes far enough and should have encompassed all those affected by potential loss of pension outlined above.

Cost of Police Pensions

There has been a significant amount of publicity in the Press and some political interest in the overall cost of public sector pensions, including police pensions. We believe that this publicity generally gives an entirely wrong impression of both the value and costs of public sector pension provision. The average public sector pension is only around £5,000.00 per annum.

In the police service, the pension is an integral part of the overall remuneration package and is both useful in attracting and retaining good quality police officers. Police officers contributions to their pension is amongst the highest in the sector but employer contributions to the scheme compares more than favourably when considering other public sector schemes.

Police Officers and pensioners deserve to have a high degree of certainty about pension provisions. All accrued benefits must be guaranteed publically.

The Police scheme, in common with many other public sector schemes, has only recently been completely reviewed and a new scheme introduced in 2006. This new scheme recognises the requirements of policing and balances the need to attract quality recruits with affordability. Further reforms so soon would seem unnecessary.

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