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Panacea slams Fos for months-long delays to FOI request

Panacea slams Fos for months-long delays to FOI request

Adviser forum Panacea has slammed the Financial Ombudsman Service for the delay in its response to a Freedom of Information request.

Panacea Advisers’ founder and chief executive officer Derek Bradley submitted an FOI to the Fos on January 24 but said the response took over three months to come back.

According to the Fos website, it claims to respond “always within 20 working days” to FOI requests. 

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It stated: “If you're still unhappy after we've reviewed our response, you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office.”

However, Bradley did not receive a response until April 28, more than three months after submitting the request.

FTAdviser understands that the Fos is experiencing some delays in responding to FOI requests at the moment.

Meanwhile, in the FOI submitted by Panacea Adviser, Bradley asked the Fos about what percentage of staff have worked from home since March 16, 2020.

The Fos said: “During various periods since March 2020 - almost 100 per cent of our employees have worked from home, due to government restrictions.

“It’s difficult to provide a precise percentage of how many employees have worked from home since March 16, to date, as we’ve had changes in headcount since then and some employees have returned to the office sporadically in different periods over the last two years.”

This comes as earlier this year, the Fos admitted to having high attrition rates, putting it down to “throwing new people in at the deep end” as it looked to enhance its training programme.

Speaking at a session with the Treasury Committee in February, Baroness Zahida Manzoor, chairperson at the Fos said when she took over in her role in 2019, around 45 per cent of investigators had been with the service for less than two years.

She said: “Our attrition rate is high and I do think that we have thrown new people into the deep end a little bit.

“Some of our most experienced and highly trained ombudsmen had their time taken up training these individuals so it is very important that we get it right.”

It followed on from last October when the Fos was also offering staff “voluntary overtime” to tackle its cases backlog, just a few months after it made 200 redundancies in its mass claims teams.

Discussing the FOI, Bradley said: “It may have been better to have asked [the Fos] how many were working in the office. Perhaps they knew it was a little more than zero but thought it best not to go there given advisers' view of the Fos and its workings.”

The Fos also said since April 4, staff have been required to work from the office they were contractually employed to work from.

“Our current position is that any employee that tests positive for Covid-19 should not come into our offices until they have received a negative result. As our employees are office-based 40 per cent of the time, we do not request proof of positive Covid test results for self-isolation.”