The Pension Ombudsman has been in touch with me over this blog and wants me to point out that some of the cases with him have taken 4 years for resolution. Clearly some cases are “broke”! Apparently the lease is up in Victoria and – in response to Eve’s question, I do believe that the current support will be enhanced. I am not sure that everyone in TPAS is as pleased to see this, and I’m not sure that Canary Wharf is where I’d like to see the Pensions Ombudsman, but if Mr Artur has the good will to call me up to allay my fears, then I have the good grace to publish the upshot of what he says. I hope that we will have an upgraded system!
+++End of Update+++
If it ain’t broke..
I ‘ve just read news that from April, will see 350 TPAS volunteers, who currently deal with dispute queries, housed under the same roof as The Pension Ombudsman in its Canary Wharf offices.
This does not feel me with a warm inner glow. Canary Wharf is a kind of incubus for complaints for other reasons. It is Europe’s capital of corporatism, even the FCA are desperate to get out!
I have a vision appearing of a Ministry of Complaints , a Kafkaesque building in which TPAS volunteers are wracked with anxiety and guilt , turning into monstrous vermin in their metamorphosis from their current happy state.
The delicacy of TPAS and the current system
The process of escalating a pension complaint is currently a delicate one. Many complaints are dealt with by the expert case handlers of TPAS under the care of Michelle Cracknell and this leads to many of them being resolved by the Pensions Ombudsman.
In my experience, the system works well, it relies on common sense as much as on a rulebook and much of the concern and worry that is at the heart of the complaint, can be diffused and dissipated by TPAS’s experienced case-handlers.
This may sound a little rustic and old fashioned, but when you look at the quality of the case handlers, you have to ask – is this system broke?
I hope I am wrong, but I do not feel that referring my complaint to a Canary Wharf based Pension Ombudsman, is going to go down well with the worried and concerned.
The politics of “process”
This has the whiff of politics about it. The decks are being cleared for the new super-guidance- quango, the Single Guidance Body. Is this too to be streamlined in this way? Will it in the process, be shod of its charm and personality in favour of “process”? Will it be subject to a dashboard of performance indicators reviewed by panels of faceless bureaucrats?
The Pension Advisory Service is a national treasure, it gives to the pension community and on a tiny grant it has become a beacon of good sense in a naughty world. Dismantling it and merging it into the corporate mainstream would be a big mistake.
I hope that whatever the intention is – for the new guidance body – it retains the integrity it has generated for itself in its Belgrade Road location and that it remains under the leadership of its current management.
Complaints about complaints
We may have complaints about the complaint procedure, I agree that it is hard to escalate and many give up rather than see their grievance through.
But you cannot resolve the heartfelt problems of those who feel aggrieved through digital decision trees.
Complaints get resolved by people talking – often meeting – and resolving differences in the way that human beings can.
Taking the complaint procedure into the corporate miasma of Canary Wharf and generating a super-complaints ministry, does not inspire me with confidence, it fills me with dread.