Years taken off pensions

5th March 2004 at 00:00
Hundreds of teachers are finding years of service missing from their pension records because of processing delays by a private company with a troubled record in education administration.

Teachers in several areas are either being sent inaccurate statements of their pension entitlement by the Teachers Pension Agency or finding gaps in their service when they check on the agency's website.

The TPA is run by Capita, the company criticised for shortcomings in running the scandal-hit Independent Learning Accounts scheme. It was also at the centre of the Criminal Records Bureau fiasco in 2002.

Kingston upon Thames council is understood to have lost patience with Capita over delays in processing the pension information, which it believes could affect its 1,169 teachers, and has asked the Department for Education and Skills to intervene.

The London boroughs of Lewisham and Sutton are among the other authorities where teachers have been affected.

Martyn Powell-Davis, National Union of Teachers' representative in Lewisham, said there had been a rush of complaints when pension statements were sent to the borough's teachers in January.

His own statement showed just four years and 364 days of pensionable service when he had actually clocked up 14 years.

Diane Parkhouse, schools personnel manager for Lewisham council, said she had been horrified at the number of teachers querying pension statements they had been sent by Capita.

The authority has provided the TPA with pension returns since the 1990s and there had been no questions about the data it had provided.

Problems emerged in Kingston early last year. The authority submitted records going back to 200001 in the wrong format, but said the TPA did not make this problem clear until April 2003.

It says the TPA had confirmed it had received the correct information last September and said the records would be updated by the end of October.

But the agency had still not done so by last week. It is understood the authority has now asked the DfES to intervene.

Tom Cahill, head of Richard Challoner school in Kingston, where several members of staff have been affected by the delay, said: "I believe that Capita, which has been given vast amounts of money to run this service, has made a mess of collecting and storing data."

Carolyn Graham, Sutton council's education personnel officer, said as many as 300 teachers in her borough did not have the correct information. She said the problem was caused partly by the TPA and partly by the authority.

Capita initially claimed that "all records" were up to date. When The TES went back with evidence suggesting that this was not the case, the company failed to provide another response despite repeated requests A spokeswoman said the DfES was not aware of any "significant problems" with the system. Capita had issued more than 400,000 statements with an "an extremely high level of accuracy".

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