Pensions Ombudsman clears case backlog

The Pensions Ombudsman says the organisation\'s backlog has been cleared and that 1,196 cases were closed in the year to March 2009, only 30 per cent of which needed a formal determination.

Tony King, Pensions Ombudsman, says that the economic downturn and its impact on pension funds is unlikely to have more than a delayed and indirect effect on complaint numbers. The organisation’s annual report says the number of new cases needing investigation during the year was 742, which was in line with previous years.

The proportion of cases requiring a formal determination fell from a figure of 39 per cent last year, which the Pensions Ombudsman said indicated that renewed efforts to resolve cases early andproportionately may be bearing fruit. The number of unresolved cases at the end of the year was 476. Three years before there had been almost three times as many (1,413). And the number of unresolved cases over a year old fell from 450 at the start of the year to 46 at the end.

Pension transfers and ill-health pensions were the most common causes for complaints. The report pointed out that applications for ill-health pensions involve difficult medical judgements and often the exercise of a discretion and the outcome for the scheme member may be fundamental to their financial security for many years to come.

King says: “Without doubt the year under report has been a good year. We have effectively disposed of the office’s long-standing backlog and have substantially met our other targets for the year.

“What matters to us is that we play our proper part in ensuring that redress is available where it is justified and providing finality where it is not. I am delighted that we have been able to do that so effectively this year.”