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Former prison officer hit with a £100k bill after pension mistake

Prison officers forced to retire early due to the job’s toll on their mental health are now being told to return up to £100,000 in mistaken pension payments.

Money Mail has spoken to two officers who say they suffered further mental health problems when huge bills arrived out of the blue years after they retired on medical grounds.

It comes after we reported last week that retirees were having their pensions slashed and were being ordered to pay back up to £250,000.

‘Livid’: Former prison officer Paul Davidson was forced to retire early in 2012. Seven years later his pension was slashed by £1,000 a month and he was hit with a bill for £101,000

Sweeping reviews of pension payments have uncovered tens of thousands of errors that date back decades — meaning some pensioners are now being made to pay for someone else’s mistakes.

Former prison officer Paul Davidson, 62, was forced to retire early in 2012 after he suffered a breakdown. He spent a month in a clinic and his wife had to give up work to care for him.

But seven years later the Civil Service Pension Scheme slashed his pension by £1,000 a month and hit him with a bill for £101,000.

Paul says: ‘It could have killed me. I had to go straight back on the medication again. There was no thought as to how I would feel or the impact on me.’

Paul, from Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, worked in prisons in Dorset and Devon before moving to HMP Huntercombe in Oxfordshire where he was for ten years before his career ended. 

But in January last year his wife Wendy, 59, noticed his pension was around £1,000 short.

After speaking to the CSPS, Paul found out he had been receiving more money than he should have, and would have to pay some back. 

He later received a letter to say he owed £101,000.

The letter said: ‘This was due to an administrative error and we have now taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.’

Paul says: ‘I couldn’t speak, I was just livid. I was losing the plot.’ The scheme has not revealed how many other pensioners were sent similar demands.

The CSPS told Paul he was overpaid injury benefits and his pension. But Paul says he trusted it to get his payments right and had no reason to doubt that his monthly pension of around £2,500 was too much. 

He says: ‘We just thought it is a good pension and we will be looked after. I was ill. I just wanted to get out and pick up the pieces.’

Another retired prison officer told Money Mail he received a shock bill for £32,000 just before Christmas 2018. 

Another retired prison officer, who was attacked by a prisoner and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, told Money Mail he received a bill for £32,000 just before Christmas 2018

Another retired prison officer, who was attacked by a prisoner and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, told Money Mail he received a bill for £32,000 just before Christmas 2018

The 50-year-old, who did not want to be named, had to end his 20‑year career in 2014 after he was attacked by a prisoner and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the time, the CSPS wrote to confirm he was entitled to a pension and injury benefits totalling close to £2,000 a month.

But four years later he received another letter to say he had been overpaid and owed the CSPS £32,000. 

He says: ‘It completely threw me. I have really struggled to hold things together. It has been handled really poorly, especially the tone of the letter, which was basically accusing me of being deceitful.’

He says the CSPS told him that he should have let it know that he was receiving both a pension and ill-health payments — even though it was paying him both.

He says: ‘The right hand was not working with the left hand and they made a mistake.’

His pension payments were cut from £1,980 a month to £1,350. The retired officer has had to put his home on the market because he can no longer afford the £825 mortgage payments.

Former pensions minister Baroness (Ros) Altmann says: ‘It is disgraceful that administrators would force pensioners to pick up the bill for their own mistakes.

‘I’ve seen it so many times, where the person asked to repay is made to feel they have done something wrong.’

Of the prison officers affected, she adds: ‘They have had enough trauma in the first place doing a job that society asked of them.’

A Government spokesman says: ‘We sincerely apologise for this error and the inconvenience caused. We are obliged to recover any overpayment. 

‘We must ensure all pensioners are paid their correct entitlement. We do offer a number of repayment options to any one who has been overpaid.’


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