Monday, 13 June 2016

The simplest thing, but...

MyCSP are now the government office in charge of all Civil Service Pension payments and entitlements, in succession to the private firm Capita Hartshead.

Capita had managed CS Pensions pretty well for years. At least they had from my own point of view, as a pensioner. But somehow they had put their foot in it, or were charging too much for their services, or there was some other compelling reason that occurred to our wise friends at the Treasury (who, no doubt, had been jocularly nudged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr George Osborne - a merry man to be sure). Anyway, with no warning to us, the mere pensioners, responsibility was taken out of Capita's hands and given to MyCSP. Just like that. The Cabinet Office sent me a letter in September 2014 to let me know.

I regretted the departure of Capita - they had been as efficient as one could hope for, and had provided handy but secure online access to one's pension details. Whereas MyCSP offered no such online service. Their website was sparse, lightweight, and bereft of frills. But I was prepared to welcome MyCSP with an open mind.

I had occasion to write annually to MyCSP after they took over. For there was an ongoing, recurrent problem with my not being sent P60s and payslips automatically, and not because of being a 'restricted records case' with them either - I wasn't. And the problem persists, unexplained and unresolved.

But now there's something else. It's developing into a saga.

You may be thinking, 'Why does she write - why does she send a paper letter in an envelope?' Well, I've discovered that it often pays nowadays to write a physical letter, rather than send an email, or make a voice call. A paper letter has become special. It needs special handling. It doesn't guarantee a rapid response of course, but it will get counted, will end up on someone's worklist, and it can't be deleted. Whereas emails are more vulnerable to getting 'lost' or overlooked. And of course phone calls are simply something to ignore after uttering platitudes - at least with some people you might ring up.

I do not wish to malign MyCSP's staff or work practices, however. So far they have been civil, and not evasive. But they haven't delivered - yet.

The present saga began on 24 February this year, when I wrote to MyCSP to say:

I have today cancelled my membership of Benenden Healthcare. They said however that I must contact you about stopping the deduction of the monthly subscription - hence this letter.

Please therefore amend your pension payment records so that no further monthly deduction for Benenden is made.

Short and sweet, and surely clear enough. And a chap duly phoned me on 4 March, to say that this had been actioned. He seemed helpful, and by Jove he was as good as his word. The CS Pension payment on 22 March was £8.45 higher. (That was the amount of the Benenden subscription no longer to be deducted) Hurrah!

But the CS Pension payment on 22 April was inexplicably less than expected. By some £9.

And the CS Pension payment on 20 May was equally less than expected. By £9 odd again. Something had gone wrong. And since the 2016/17 Benenden subscription rate was now £8.71 per month, it was not difficult to hazard a guess.

So I wrote to MyCSP again on 22 May, accusing them of nothing, but requesting that they explain why my pension payment was light by £9 or so. (I did in fact suggest - very politely - that the Benenden deduction had been erroneously reinstated by them, but my tone was tentative and not provocative).

Meanwhile Benenden had written, wondering why they were getting a monthly subscription again. Was I coming back? Could I clarify. They did offer repayment if MyCSP could confirm that the subscriptions really had ceased. This committed me to getting a letter out of MyCSP, to show to Benenden, before I could get my money back. What a palaver it already was.

Nothing from MyCSP. I rang them on 31 May. Another chap. He confessed that they had indeed erroneously restored the Benenden deductions. My letter had been received and passed to the 'Admin Team' for 'action within five working days'. I got the impression that they had scanned it, and the original was no more. I also got the impression that their 'five day' clock did not start ticking until the 'Action Team' actually saw the letter in their worklist. (Was it in fact reset every time the letter was referred to somebody else?)

Still, the fault was as expected, it was admitted to, and something ought now to happen. Well, I got the missing payslip and P60 - indeed two copies of each, four letters in all - all dated 31 May or 1 June.

Then a further letter from them - the fifth - dated 1 June, telling me that:

Your query has been forwarded to our pension experts who will aim to resolve it within 5 working days. If they require any further information they will contact you.

Pension experts? This was about the simplest thing: please, please, stop deducting £8.71 each month, and sending it to Benenden! No expert needed.

The days went by. I got a bit fed up waiting. On 9 June I phoned MyCSP again. A young lady this time. She was very polite and patient. She couldn't see any reason - none at all - why I hadn't been getting automatic payslips and P60s in recent years. But she didn't offer to set a thorough review in motion. So my having to write may become an annual chore. Sigh.

She also told me that my next payment was at the moment going to be £9 less than I wanted. The June payroll had not yet been amended. What? When those 'pension experts' in the 'Admin Team' had had my letter since 31 May or before? Ten days ago?

But there was hope! Her screen told her that a letter had been sent to me (by second-class post) only the day before, confirming that the Benenden deduction had been removed. Which was in time to get the pension payment right for 22 June. So (a) I should get a letter to show to Benenden (and claim a refund of £8.71 x 2 = £17.42), and (b) all would be fixed for 22 June onwards, and indeed forever.

Well, you will not be surprised to learn that I am still waiting for that letter supposedly sent to me on Wednesday 8 June. It's now Monday 13 June. Does it really take five days for second-class post to convey a letter from A to B?

Expect a sequel. Probably a tooth-grinding one.

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Lucy Melford