At the most recent Trade Union Engagement meeting (where the Unions meet with the NPS Employer) the NPS confirmed that 400 people had been overpaid by SSCL in error. They had only just been informed themselves and were still investigating how this had happened. They agreed this was unacceptable.
Napo raised concerns about asking people to repay and recent experience in other cases where communications from SSCL had been aggressive. We particularly emphasised that SSCL are not the employer and that responsibility cannot be abdicated by the NPS. They need therefore to lead on co-ordinating communication and rectification of the errors in fair and reasonable ways. This was partially accepted but doubts remain as to the centre’s capacity to take over and manage such systematic errors by SSCL. Napo recognised that given SSCL’s record and expectations the implementation had actually gone reasonably well – thanks largely to the disproportionate effort of the Pay team and Union teams in fielding, addressing and resolving questions and concerns as they arose. However, we recorded that this was the final straw for us and that we had no confidence in the relationship with SSCL.
Napo General Secretary, Ian Lawrence, will be writing specifically to Head of HMPPS expressing disappointment at the continued anxiety members face as a consequence of periodic systems failures by SSCL and to state that we no longer have any confidence in them as a provider.
Consequently, we expect –
Napo also raised concerns about the impact the application of the pay rise had on staff who were in receipt of Universal Credit. Our understanding is that UC automatically stops as it is linked to HMRC and any one-off payments are assumed to be permanent adjustments in pay. It can take several months for the adjustments to work their way back through the system (in the same way as tax can change after an award) and that staff often have to reapply for the Universal Credit – causing considerable hardship.
NPS HR were sympathetic but insist, probably correctly, that it would be wrong to keep lists of staff accessing Universal Credit and that the most they can do is try to alert people in advance and try to get them to do what they can to protect themselves.
Student Loan repayments
Further concerns have arisen as a result of Student Loan payments being triggered when SSCL accidentally overpay someone. Incredibly, they are currently asking the member to recover these payments directly – i.e. increasing the amount of the overpayment. There is no direct dialogue with the Student Loan Company (another private company engaged by the Government) and there is no clarity around if someone can reclaim payments made in error.
Napo is considering what advice and support we can offer members in these situations. Napo will explore further the Student Loan issue and seek to negotiate a better process directly with employers.