If you are worried about your pension or think something has gone wrong, a good opening move is to contact your union's regional office or headquarters. There you should find advisers accustomed to unravelling tricky pension problems. You can also try the Teachers' Pensions Scheme head office (Capita Teachers' Pensions, Mowden Hall, Darlington DL3 9EE.
Tel: 0845 6066166; www.teacherspensions.co.uk).
An independent financial adviser might also help, though you have to pay them either up front or in commission.
Then, whoever you talk to, you need to be sure of your facts. You'll have to find out who is responsible and who did what. It's important to keep copies of all correspondence and make a note of who you spoke to on the phone and what they said. If you can get them to confirm the details in writing, even better. Have your National Insurance number or teacher's reference number to hand. Once you have gathered your facts you can, if appropriate, make a complaint or an appeal using internal disputes procedures.
Teachers' Pensions Scheme
If your problem is with the TPS, you may need to use its internal disputes procedure. Get in touch with the customer services manager at the TPS, telling them you are embarking on the first stage of the procedure. If your problem remains unsolved, you have to launch an appeal within six months of receiving a reply to your first letter of complaint. This time you should complain to the Department for Education and Skills. Write to the pensions and medical fitness department, DfES, Mowden Hall, Darlington DL3 9BG, making clear why you are not happy with the results of the first stage of the disputes procedure and what redress you seek. Again you will need details such as your teacher's reference number and your NI number. If you want a representative to write in on your behalf, make sure they have these details.
You can, at any stage, get in touch with the Pensions Advisory Service.
Their services are free from OPAS, 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB. Tel: 0845 601 2923. If you want to pursue the matter further after your appeal, you can contact the Pensions Ombudsman, an independent and impartial adjudicator, at 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB. Tel: 020 7834 9144; www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk.
Another option is to contact the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority. OPRA can intervene in schemes if managers or administrators have failed in their duties, and can impose financial penalties, tel: 0870 606 3636.
You may have a problem with your employer's records or payment of contributions. Sometimes incomplete or inaccurate records are given to the TPS and sometimes additional voluntary contributions are paid late to the Prudential, which manages the teachers' AVC scheme. You will need to contact your employer - try the pensions officer or payroll department.
Also inform your union branch. If your problems have not been solved by your employer or the internal disputes procedures, try your union again.
ADDED YEARS AND Avcs
If you need information from the Prudential, call the Pension Connection, tel: 0845 607 0077, or write to Prudential Life and Pensions, Teachers'
AVCs, Abbey Gardens, 55 Kings Road, Reading RG1 1BR; www.pru.co.ukteachers.
You may find that the wrong AVC has been deducted, or that it has been paid to Prudential late and even paid in the wrong financial year. Similarly, payments for added years can go awry, particularly if you move to a new education authority. Generally, you need to check your payslips, and certainly the first one you get after changing jobs. Contact your payroll department to find out who is responsible and how to put things right.
If you think you have been the victim of mis-selling, you should contact the Financial Services Authority, tel: 0845 606 1234.
If you wish to check what sort of state pension you can expect, tel: 0845 60 60 265, or online at www.thepensionservice.gov.uk. From next year, however, the TPS should send you a combined annual forecast of your teachers' and state pensions.