Teacher pensions delayed

7th November 2008 at 00:00
Government blames a 50 per cent increase in retirements and council bureaucracy for hold-ups

A surge in the number of teachers wanting to leave the profession is being blamed for the failure of pensions authorities to make payments to an estimated 100 teachers who retired in the summer.

The delays have forced them to survive on their state pension or draw on their own resources in order to make ends meet.

The Scottish Government attributed the delays to the increase in retirements - expected to rise by 50 per cent in the course of this year - coupled with the failure of local authorities and teachers to submit the necessary paperwork to the Scottish Public Pensions Agency on time.

However, the Educational Institute of Scotland said the SPPA was also at fault. It claimed that, because of problems bedding in a new computer system to handle changes in the Scottish Teacher Superannuation Scheme, the body had failed to live up to its promise to process pension applications in 90 days.

A government spokesperson claimed that only 2 per cent of retired teachers had suffered delays. "During August, the SPPA was getting an average of 11 days' notice," she said. "This, combined with around a 50 per cent increase in the number of teacher retirements compared to last year, has created the problem. The SPPA is working towards clearing these outstanding cases."

Last year, the SPPA dealt with 2,830 retirals. This year, it expects the figure to be closer to 4,000, with 2,610 cases already processed in the first six months of the financial year, between April and September. Of the 2,610 cases processed, 579 were classed as "premature" - compared to 605 for the whole of last year. "We are hoping that this will be dealt with sooner rather than later," said Drew Morrice, EIS assistant secretary.

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh, shadow minister for schools, called on Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop to launch an investigation. He said: "These are people who have worked in public service all their lives. It is not acceptable just to ignore them."

One of those affected was Jim Thow, 64, who retired from Baldragon Academy in Dundee in August. His pension application was submitted in May and he was hoping to receive his monthly pension this week.

"I have been told they are prioritising applications, so someone like me is further down the pecking order than someone who retired on health grounds," he said.

"But that's a nonsense. It doesn't matter whether you're hale and hearty or otherwise: if you've commitments and bills to pay, you have to meet them."

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