The first national pension scheme specially designed for firefighters was introduced in 1926.
The Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 (FPS 1992) came into effect on 1 March 1992, but which has been amended on many occasions since that date.
The FPS is a statutory, public service pension scheme initially made under section 26 of the Fire Services Act 1947. This Act was repealed by the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, but section 36 of the 2004 Act allowed the Scheme to continue in force.
It became a closed scheme on 6 April 2006 (i.e. new members could not be admitted).
Unlike occupational pension schemes in the private sector, the FPS does not have trustees nor does it have the type of pension fund which uses investments to help meet its liabilities. Although each fire and rescue authority is required to maintain a “Firefighters’ Pension Fund” which:
- receives contributions from firefighter members and from the employing fire and rescue authority,
- pays out benefits to and in respect of members, and
- makes and receives transfer payments to and from other pension schemes
an authority does not have the power to invest the money. If the Fund has insufficient money to meet all of its pension liabilities, the Secretary of State will make up the shortfall; if the Fund is in surplus, the Secretary of State will take the excess to cover any shortfall in the Funds of other authorities.
The FPS is a “registered” pension scheme for the purposes of the Finance Act 2004. This means that HM Revenue and Customs allow certain tax concessions. Pension contributions attract tax relief and certain benefits, provided they are within set limits, are exempt from tax charges.
On 6 April 2006, the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 became a closed scheme. Consequently current active members of the FPS 1992 will be those who satisfied the membership conditions and joined before that date, who have not opted out of the Scheme, and who have not had any subsequent break in continuity of employment.
One of the conditions for membership was that a person should have been appointed as a regular firefighter by a fire and rescue authority on terms under which he or she may be required to engage in firefighting. Having joined the FPS, however, membership can continue if a person is required to perform just the non-firefighting duties appropriate to his or her role. This means, for example, that if a person becomes unfit for the "operational" aspects of the role, provided there is no break in the continuity of the employment, he or she would be allowed to remain a member.
If you are a member of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme you belong to a public service pension scheme which provides very good benefits.
The Scheme's benefits include the following –
- an inflation-proofed pension based on your length of pensionable service and average final pay
- an option to convert part of the pension to a lump sum
- early payment of benefits if you have to retire on grounds of permanent ill-health
- death-in-service cover providing a lump sum death grant equal to twice pensionable pay
- a pension for your widow(er) or surviving civil partner
- children's and dependants' pensions