Pension victims still owed pound;12m

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Over 1,200 teachers have not yet received compensation for the 1980s mis-selling scam, reports Chris Bunting.

TEACHERS are owed at least pound;12 million in compensation for mis-sold pensions, more than a decade after the scandal first came to light.

A log-jam of cases has brought the compensation scheme to a virtual standstill.

And with only a quarter of the claims settled, some retired teachers are having to eat into their own savings while they wait. The main teachers' unions are still pursuing claims on behalf of over 1,200 of their members.

Jeff Carlin, a former secondary maths teacher, has spent pound;6,000 supporting himself since retiring due to ill health four years ago. A claim for pound;23,000 from Royal and Sun Alliance has still not been settled.

"The difference in pension that we are talking about is the difference between getting enough and not getting enough to live on," 46-year-old Mr Carlin said.

"I would be totally satisfied if they just paid to make up my pension to what it would have been if they had not persuaded me to opt out. I retired because of stress and depression and, as you can imagine, this is not helping."

Edith Badgie, the National Union of Teachers' officer in charge of pensions claims, said Mr Carlin was not alone.

Sue Guscott, an art and special needs teacher at Speedwell secondary school in Bristol and mother of England rugby star Jeremy, has waited 10 years for more than pound;21,000 compensation from the Lincoln pensions firm. She faces the prospect of losing an early retirement deal because of the delay. "The years go on and there is still no money," Mrs Guscott, aged 55, said. "It makes you so angry."

The compensation scheme was set up by pension companies in the 1980s, after it emerged that teachers who had "opted out" by switching to private pensions would have been better off sticking with the state.

One of the largest ever payments to a teacher caught up in pensions mis selling - pound;161,388 to Sian Goodwin, a 57-year-old teacher in Middlesbrough - was settled by Royal and Sun Alliance this week. But most claimants have suffered years of frustration.

The Teachers' Pension Scheme is taking an average of four months just to work out people's compensation entitlements, according to Graham Clayton, the NUT's senior solicitor. On top of that, insurance companies are taking an average of two years to then process the cases.

That has left 1,283 of 1,706 teachers whose claims are being handled by the main teachers' unions unpaid. Even taking the most conservative estimate of average payments that will be made to teachers for mis-sold pensions (pound;10,000), the money owed comes to more than pound;12 million.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said he was "disappointed" that his union had only cleared up 169 of its 409 cases.

"Procrastination is the name of the game," he said.

"It is a bit of a nightmare. It totally destroys the notion of the private sector as competent and efficient. There will have been people who have died and never seen payments."

The NUT has settled 237 of its 1,200 claims, with an average payout of pound;20,000 to pound;25,000. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has dealt with 98 of 177 cases,averaging pound;10,000 to pound;15,000 per claimant.

Mr Clayton said the compensation scheme was eventually sorting out most cases, despite the slow pace of its work.

Kerry Hendry, spokeswoman for Lincoln, said most of Mrs Guscott's claim had been settled in October 1997. A pound;21,000 payment had not been made at that time, but Lincoln now also accepted this part of the claim. She said the current delay was the fault of the Teachers Pension Scheme.

Royal and Sun Alliance said it could not comment on Mr Carlin's case.

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