Pensions Ombudsman set to struggle with growing case backlog

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has said it will be unable to handle new investigations as they come in, despite a late call to recruit additional resources.

In its corporate plan for 2018/21 published this month, TPO said that it expects to take on 1,800 new investigations over the next year, but had capacity to deal with only 1,400 in a six month period, and won’t feel the benefit of additional staff until the third quarter.

The Ombudsman, which resolves a number of different pensions disputes, has seen an annual growth in new investigations of 7 per cent over the last three years, a rate it expects to continue.

TPO said: “We have made further changes to our casework procedures and approach and we have restructured our casework function. But we will still not be in a position to handle all new investigations as they come in.

“We have recently been given the go-ahead to recruit additional resource but due to the lateness of the decision, we will not have staff in post and fully operational until sometime in quarter three. This additional resource has therefore been ignored for the purposes of forecasting performance in 2018/19.”

TPO said it currently has the resources to deal with around 600 investigations “soon after they are taken on”.

Futhermore, TPO said telephone enquiries are set to almost double to 11,000 following the transfer of dispute resolution work from The Pensions Advisory Service.

The Ombudsman added that it would be amending its processes to become “more flexible” in order to deal with an increase in annual enquiries.

The report also forecast that the budget was set to increase by almost £400,000 to £6m over the year.

Commenting on the report, Pensions Ombudsman, Anthony Arter, said: The forefront of our vision over the next three years is to further shorten and simplify the customer journey while maintaining quality and reaching the right outcome.

“This means not only providing the best possible service, but also continuing to pull together the fragmented pension disputes landscape. All this is set against the background of an increasing number of pension disputes received by us, so we need to work as efficiently as possible if we are to meet the growing demand for our service.”

Arter added that it is now seeing 70 per cent of cases resolved informally with timescales reduced due to changes it has implemented.

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