Victims of pension mis-selling should waste no time in claiming reparation. Susannah Kirkman explains.
A huge publicity campaign urging teachers who were mis-sold personal pensions to claim compensation has been launched by the Financial Services Authority.
Thousands of teachers have still to come forward, according to Teachers Pensions, the Darlington-based company that administers the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme. The company reckons that while 7,000-8,000 victims of mis-selling have already been contacted, more than 20,000 teachers remain unaware of their rights.
The FSA is sending out posters and copies of a factsheet called "Putting Things Right" to every school in the country.
"Despite all the publicity, people still seem to have their heads in the sand," says Marion Bird, deputy head of pensions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. "Some teachers still have personal pensions.
"Every time pensions mis-selling is in the news, calls flood in, often from teachers asking, 'I did do the right thing, didn't I?'" Meanwhile, reinstatement of teachers into the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme is continuing, although some unions claim more success than others in restoring their members' pension rights. Of 40 cases handled by the National Association of Headteachers, 12 have been settled, with an average compensation of around pound;21,000 each. Teachers can expect around pound;5,000 compensation for each year they spent out of the TSS.
"We keep writing to companies, plugging away at them to get things moving," says Mike Beard, head of pensions at the NAHT. The union has also issued writs against recalcitrant companies.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has seen the reinstatement of 30 out of the 250 cases it is dealing with, although many more teachers have received confirmation that they will be compensated.
"We were ready to fight for our members straightaway," says Ms Bird. "People have been taken advantage of by companies that should have known better."
The NAHT and the ATL say the "naming and shaming" policy pursued by Helen Liddell, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, is helping to stir the insurance companies into action.
But the National Union of Teachers says it is still mainly dealing with priority cases - involving members who have retired or died or who were 35 or over when they opted out. From around 1,500 victims of mis-selling, the union has achieved settlements in almost 100 cases.
The NUT has finalised an agreement with Teachers Assurance, a company it previously endorsed, ensuring full restoration to members who bought personal pensions from TA.
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers reports that the number of settlements among its members is negligible, with more than 400 cases waiting for reinstatement.
Apart from insurance companies dragging their heels, there have been several other stumbling blocks to rapid compensation. These have included delays by government actuaries in agreeing the costs of reinstatement with the trustees of occupational schemes such as the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme, and the introduction of a new system of fees paid by insurance companies to Teachers Pensions for assessing the costs of reinstatement.
Another problem has been a backlog of work at Teachers Pensions, which unions claim has led to delays of up to eight weeks in calculating reinstatement costs for companies.
A further complication is that many of the smaller firms of financial advisers implicated in mis-selling have since gone out of business. Most of the firms that failed to meet the December 31 deadline for compensating priority cases were also small independent financial advisers.
But the two City watchdogs, the Personal Investment Authority and the FSA, hope most victims will be compensated by 2000, a mere six years after the programme of redress started.