Our complaints handling procedure reflects the Scottish Government's commitment to resolving issues at the point of service delivery, and where necessary, conducting thorough, impartial and fair investigations of any complaints.
The procedure standardises the approach across government departments and complies with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman's guidance on complaint handling procedure. Our aim is to 'get it right first time' by providing quicker, simpler, local resolution by capable, well trained staff. Topics of complaints cover:
- our standard of service
- unreasonable delays
- any mistakes we have made
- how you've been treated by our staff
Where we can, we'll apologise and put things right as quickly as possible.
Internal disputes resolution procedure (IDRP)
If you have a dispute regarding how SPPA has applied the regulations in your case or you’re not satisfied with a decision we’ve made, you can appeal using either the SPPA’s Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure or the Pension Ombudsman Early Resolution Service.
Common appeal examples include disputes concerning:
- the amount of retirement benefits members have received
- rejections of ill-health retirement benefit awards
- not being allowed to transfer in or out of the scheme.
Our Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure is a one stage process that complies with pension legislation and Citizen's Charter guidelines. Applications for Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure reviews must be made in writing to the Head of Policy, who will try to resolve your appeal and let you have a response within four months (but sooner if possible).
Before appealing through the IDRP process, you may wish to consider discussing a potential appeal with a member of the Pensions Ombudsman’s Early Resolution Team. They can also support you through the process, and you can reach their helpline at: Phone: 0800 917 4487 (selecting the relevant option)
IDRP Guidance and Application Form
Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (This guide is for the NHS, Teachers’, Firefighters’ and Police pension schemes)
This guidance describes the SPPA’s formal procedures for settling disputes and explains why it has set them up. We hope that most problems can be dealt with informally, but we recognise that sometimes this is not possible.
Early Resolution Background
The Pensions Act 1995 (‘the 1995 Act’) requires all occupational pension schemes, including those that the SPPA administers, to have a formal Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (IDRP).
This guidance sets out the procedure for each of the NHS, Teachers’, Firefighters’ and Police Pension Schemes in Scotland. These arrangements comply with Section 50 of the 1995 Act and Regulation 2 of the Occupational Pension Schemes (Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures) (Consequential and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008.
The procedures give scheme members and other interested parties the opportunity to have disputes considered by someone who was not involved in the original decision.
The SPPA is fully committed to ensuring that you receive an efficient, fair and courteous service.
These arrangements do not apply if any related court or tribunal proceedings have started or if either the Pensions Ombudsman or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman have started an investigation into the specific dispute.
Before appealing through the IDRP, you may wish to consider discussing a potential complaint with a member of the Pensions Ombudsman’s Early Resolution Team. They can also support you through the process, and you can reach their helpline at:
Phone: 0800 917 4487 (selecting the relevant option)
Who can use the Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure?
Under the 1995 Act, IDRP is available to ‘people with an interest in the scheme’. This can include all the following people:
- Members of the scheme: Current members, members who have received their pension from the scheme, members who have preserved benefits in the scheme, and members with some service left in the scheme, but who have not taken a refund of their contributions or transferred their service to another scheme.
- Prospective members: People who are entitled to join or re-join the scheme, but have not done so.
- Widows, widowers, nominated partners, surviving civil partners, or dependants of deceased members.
- People who have ceased to be a member, beneficiary or prospective member, or;
- People who claim to be in one of the above categories above and the dispute relates to whether they are such a person.
Please, note, if you are no longer a member, beneficiary, prospective member, or if you claim to have formerly been such, we expect your application to be made within six months of the date you ceased to be or claimed to be a person with an interest in the scheme.
The Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure
Some pension issues can be resolved informally. Therefore, before considering the formal non-medical IDRP, you should write to the person who made the original decision.
Please give details of the issues concerned, including any facts that you think the decision maker may not have considered. The decision maker will look at what you have said and will do their best to provide further clarification. Hopefully, this will resolve your enquiry.
If this informal process does not resolve the issues, you can then move to the formal process.
The IDRP arrangements allow people to challenge decisions on the basis that:
(a) Other information which was available at the time of the original application, but not presented, has come to light; and/or
(b) If you are not satisfied with the way in which your case has been handled, or you do not feel that sufficient consideration has been given when applying the pension scheme’s regulations.
(c) If you believe the scheme regulations have not been applied correctly.
A formal IDRP is an appeal to the Scottish Ministers that will be determined on their behalf by the Head of Policy at the SPPA. The determination requires a full review of the original decision. Your appeal will be allocated to a dedicated caseworker who will support you through this process.
How to apply for a review and determination
Your application for a review must be in writing and must be signed (an electronic signature is acceptable). You should use the form at the back of this booklet, or alternatively download it from the website. You should apply to the Head of Policy as quickly as possible after you receive the decision, but your application should be made within six months of receiving the decision you wish to dispute.
What information does the Head of Policy require?
You should explain your dispute as fully as you can, enclosing copies of any documents you think may be helpful. You should set out why you disagree with the decision taken, and what action you are seeking from SPPA to put things right.
Please include your full name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number, your superannuation number (if you have one) and the name of your employer.
If you are acting on behalf of someone else, you will need to supply the same information and provide your name and an address for correspondence.
Important: Written evidence of your authority to act on behalf of someone else must also be provided.
Determination on behalf of the Scottish Ministers
A ‘determination’ provides a decision on behalf of the Scottish Ministers on whether the action taken in the case complies with the regulations governing the scheme. The SPPA’s Head of Policy has delegated responsibility from Scottish Ministers to make decisions in respect of the schemes administered by the SPPA.
This process is completely independent of each scheme’s own administration procedures. No-one previously involved in the case will contribute to the decision making, although they may be asked to provide the caseworker with any evidence required as part of the investigations.
The 1995 Act requires that you must be given a determination within a “reasonable period” of your application. Disputes can be complex and require further information or enquiries. In the Pension Regulator’s Code of Practice, the Regulator specifies that a reasonable period is within four months of receipt of the appeal application. To reflect that, the Head of Policy aims to resolve all disputes within four months of receiving them. Your caseworker will keep in touch through the appeal process, and if it appears it will not be possible to meet that target, you will receive an explanation why, and given a revised decision date.
When the Head of Policy reaches a decision, you will be sent a letter to inform you of the outcome of your appeal. The letter will provide a full rationale for the decision and will refer to the specific scheme regulations or rules that have been considered in reaching the decision. The reply will also remind you that the Pensions Ombudsman or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman can help with problems which have not been resolved under IDRP and will provide their contact details.
Ill health retirement - Police and Firefighters only
SPPA does not handle appeals in relation to ill-health retirement in the Police and Firefighters’ schemes. Police and Firefighters’ members should contact their employer for medical appeals, which are considered by an independent Board of Medical Referees appointed by the respective Service.
Ill health retirement - NHS and Teachers only
SPPA manages appeals in relation to ill-health retirement from members of the NHS (Scotland) and Scottish Teachers’ pension schemes.
Any decision to accept or reject an application for ill health retirement will take into consideration medical advice and evidence submitted by your employer in support of your application.
If your ill health application is refused, you can appeal the decision through IDRP. At this review, the Head of Policy will consult a medical adviser who has not previously been involved in the case and will consider all the relevant medical evidence. The SPPA will then write to you with the decision.
It is important to note that in most cases, a decision to refuse ill health retirement is unlikely to be overturned unless you can provide additional medical (or other) evidence in support of your original application which could and should have been presented with the original application. Without it, our medical advisers can only make a recommendation based on the evidence supplied at the time of the initial decision.
The dispute process is designed to test that decisions have been made properly and have taken account all the appropriate evidence.
If you are still dissatisfied after going through the formal process, you may wish to consider taking your dispute to the Pensions Ombudsman (TPO). TPO may investigate and determine any complaint or dispute of fact or law in relation to the pension scheme.
Please note it is not enough merely to disagree with a decision; you must have reason to believe that the decision was not properly made or implemented.
The Pensions Ombudsman can be contacted at:
Postal Address: 10 South Colonnade, Canary Wharf, E14 4PU
Telephone: 0800 917 4487
You can also submit a complaint form online: Making a complaint | The Pensions Ombudsman (pensions-ombudsman.org.uk)
If your complaint is in relation to the administrative actions of SPPA, you also have the right to ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to consider your complaint. The SPSO will not consider matters which relate to decisions or omissions relating to the provisions of the pension regulations.
Telephone: 0800 377 7330
If you have general requests for information or guidance concerning your pension arrangements, please contact:
Money & Pensions Service
Telephone: 01159 659570
If you have any questions about the information contained in this guidance, please contact the us at:
Scottish Public Pensions Agency
7 Tweedside Park
Telephone: 01896 893000
You may take your case to The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman who can consider complaints relating to SPPA’s administrative actions. However, it is unlikely that The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman will be able to accept complaints relating to decisions or omissions concerning the provisions of pension regulations.
Unacceptable actions and behaviours
We come into contact with many people in the course of our work and our interactions are usually positive and productive for all parties. Occasionally, the behaviour or actions of some individuals make it impossible for us to continue any constructive engagement. In a small number of cases we have to consider taking steps to protect our staff or to ensure that our ability to work effectively is not undermined.
Our Unacceptable Actions Policy explains how we'll approach these situations.