It has been revealed that retired firefighters, who were in charge of extinguishing fires on military bases, have faced difficulties in receiving their complete pension due to multiple mistakes made by the outsourcing company Capita.
In 2019, Capita was awarded a contract worth £525m to manage the Ministry of Defence’s fire and rescue service. The service was subsequently renamed the Defence Fire and Rescue Project (DFRP) after being privatized.
Subsequently, certain former employees and widows/widowers of deceased retirees have expressed dissatisfaction with the calculation of their benefits, resulting in reduced payments. Additionally, some have experienced a delay of up to eight months in receiving owed funds.
Unite, a trade union, expressed concerns about Capita’s contract to manage the entire civil service pension scheme beginning in 2025 due to issues with the current scheme.
The errors impact retired individuals who were part of a firefighting service on UK and overseas military bases. This service involved using specialized equipment in dangerous situations, such as near ammunition or other military equipment.
The DFRP scheme is not administered by Capita but by MyCSP, part of another outsourcing company called Equiniti.
Capita acknowledged that it provided Equiniti with inaccurate employment information for a portion of the scheme’s 700 members. This mistake is believed to be the cause of delays and incorrect calculations that are impacting payouts.
The Cabinet Office has acknowledged in a letter to the trade union Unite, which was viewed by the Guardian, that Capita may have provided inaccurate data. They stated that they anticipate any problems to be resolved by July 2024.
Participants in the retirement plan reported to the Guardian that they were still owed hundreds of pounds, or had been waiting for months without receiving any payment.
Frank Gallacher contributed to his retirement savings for over 40 years and completed the necessary paperwork in November 2022, ensuring that he could retire in February 2023 as planned.
The ex-employee of the Royal Navy’s Clyde Nuclear Submarine Base pursued payment for a period of four months and was eventually informed that he would receive benefits starting in June 2023. However, he did not actually receive these benefits until August, despite multiple complaints made by Unite.
“I have never experienced such a stressful event in my life,” stated Gallacher, who had been employed by the MoD fire and rescue service for 50 years. “I can only speculate that the transition from MoD to Capita Fire Rescue somehow resulted in the loss of my pension.”
Sally Stringer expressed that she did not receive a better rate that was connected to a promotion her deceased husband had earned. She stated, “This only compounded the pain and grief I was already experiencing.”
Unite stated that they have reason to believe that a significant number of members in the scheme have been impacted and that some may not have reported it yet.
The labor union expressed worries regarding the Cabinet Office’s recent decision to grant a 10-year contract to Capita for managing the civil service pension scheme, which has a membership of 1.6 million people.
Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, expressed disbelief at the news that Capita, a company known for mishandling pensions for 700 firefighters, has been given permission to manage all pensions for civil servants starting next year.
This once again shows the consequences of prioritizing outsourcing and cutting costs over the well-being of individuals.
The Guardian has learned that Capita conducted several internal reviews in order to determine the reason for submitting incomplete employee information to MyCSP.
The company maintained that it was not responsible for all of the pension issues.
A spokesperson from Capita stated that they do not manage DFRP pensions, but they do supply payroll information to the administrator, [MyCSP]. They have collaborated with Unite to assess and submit updated payroll data to the administrator in order to ensure accurate payments. This assessment did not hinder the distribution of pension payments.
MyCSP refused to provide a statement.
In 2025, Capita will take on the responsibility of managing the scheme, replacing MyCSP, as part of their overall contract for civil service pensions.