UK - "Insensitive" schemes and poor administrators have been lambasted by pensions ombudsman David Laverick.
His annual report cites cases where schemes have sent “increasingly threatening” letters to members and deducted payments from their accounts without their knowledge.
And he urges schemes to show more “sensitivity and sympathy” towards their members when resolving disputes.
Laverick described Cornwall County Council’s handling of a claim for benefits following the death of a complainant’s husband as a “sorry tale of administrative error and official high handedness” that could be used as a case study of “how not to deal with a bereaved spouse”.
Laverick said: “Scheme administrators need to deal sensitively with people affected by such mistakes. The position should be sympathetically explained and discussion should take place – without undue strain for the member concerned.”
The report – for the year to the end of March – showed a record number of determinations made by the ombudsman’s office, with the number of investigations closed at 1050, up from 679 in the previous year.
Laverick also hit out at legislators for refusing to give him the same powers as a High Court judge.
He said: “What the legislation says is I can direct those responsible for the management of a scheme concerned to take, or refrain from taking, such steps as I may specify.”
“It seems to me that ombudsmen are intended to provide remedies in circumstances and, where appropriate, of a kind which differs from those available in the courts.”
The registration deadline for the Workplace Savings & Benefits Awards 2019 is today.
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