Many Police Authorities are discovering that they have a duty to re-assess injury awards.
This is not a new responsibility but for a variety of reasons both political and financial, the question of this responsibility has come to the fore over the recent past. If you think that this is good news for all those on injury awards well you will be wrong.
For those of us who understood why injury awards were subject to re-assessment, that the condition of those on injury awards could get worse as well as better, the legislation made some sense if it was applied sensitively and fairly. However, in the past some Police Authorities chose to put little or no effort into re-assessment, many telling those in receipt of the award that they would not need to be reviewed again or simply failing to review, whether the recipient was getting worse or not. Now many see re-assessment as a way to claw back money from those injured on duty serving the public to meet budget shortfalls. This is a disgraceful situation and leaves all those in receipt of this award unsure about their future.
The facts are worse than that as there are a number of Police Authorities who are making every effort to claw money back from the injured as cheaply and as quickly as is possible, ignoring both the legislation and proper procedures. With little notice members are simply being reduced in payment banding some without even being properly re assessed by a doctor. Pressure is put on members to simply adhere to a paper exercise conducted through Human Resource Departments, which in our view is both illegal and does not offer members a proper opportunity to make out their case.
It is our view that a re-assessment of an injury award needs to take into account each individual factor as it applies to the person being reviewed. A review should be conducted by the Selected Medical Practitioner (SMP), who is the doctor appointed by the force and who performs a quasi judicial role and so needs to take account of all issues of natural justice in this process. It is in our view essential if you are to be re-assessed that you are offered and that you accept the chance of being interviewed and examined by the SMP. We urge you to demand this right.
We also advise you to prepare well for any review. Forces are clearly doing this and are briefing the SMP before your visit. Human Resource Departments can put their own interpretation on information you provide them so we urge you to be careful in your approach to their questions. It is our view that it is a matter for the SMP to decide level of disability and so he or she needs to consider all the facts of each case , including what constitutes a 'cogent reason' if you are being reviewed at 60 or 65 years of age.
Remember that 'degree of disablement' in police injury award legislation is defined as loss of earnings potential and not simply as a loss of faculty. So although your medical condition has an impact on the outcome, other factors to do with your potential for work have weight also. Many forces are using your old police training records as well as other force records to help determine degree of disablement in particular to draw up a 'skills base' for you prior to the doctor seeing you. You should ask for these records prior to the review as some will be inaccurate but more importantly your skills are likely to be out of date in any case. Always remember that the review is as much about the ability to do a job and the 'value' of any job you could do. So in preparation you should carefully consider your limitations in a 'working' context. Preparation is important. If you are unsure of the position you should contact your local Narpo branch or Police Federation who can offer advice.
By Clint Elliott