Welsh govt outlines proposed firefighter scheme amendments

The Welsh government has further outlined proposals that would amend Firefighter Pension Schemes’ regulations to equalise survivor benefits in the midst of a consultation on the issue.

A consultation into amendments that would affect same-sex spouses, civil partners and children of unmarried parents was launched in early July, with the deadline for responses set at 2 October.

Actions being considered by the Welsh government include amending both the Firefighters Pension (Wales) Scheme and the Firefighters Compensation Scheme (Wales) 2007 in order to remove a limitation date on civil partners’ entitlement to a deceased partner’s pension.

This limitation existed because, following the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005, the schemes were amended to provide civil partners of scheme members with a survivor’s pension that was calculated in line with the widowers’ benefits on the basis of the scheme member’s pensionable service from 6 April 1988.

The same applies to same-sex spouses following the introduction of same sex marriage in 2014.

This change was spurred by the July 2017 Supreme Court ruling in Walker v Innospec, which held that same sex spouses should be entitled to the same survivor benefit entitlement as those provided to survivors of opposite sex marriages.

Following another Supreme Court judgment, which held that denying benefits payable to children based on their parents’ marital status was unlawful, the Welsh government could also make further changes to the 2007 Compensation Scheme.

This is because the scheme does not currently make equal provision for children of unmarried parents, stepchildren or adopted children.

The consultation documents state that this “clearly breaches Article 2 and arguably Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”, adding that “equalising entitlement to these children will ensure that a child in this situation is not adversely affected as a result of factors over which they have no control".

Further proposed amendments for both schemes include changes to split pensions and updates to pension sharing following divorce.

The 2007 Scheme could also see commutation factors allowed up to the age of 75, extending from the current age limit of 65, while amendments to The Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (Wales) 2015 have been proposed that would allow members with protected 1992 scheme rights to join the 1992 Scheme in Wales on transferring to a fire and rescue authority in Wales.

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