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During the current Covid-19 crisis lockdown the office in Belfast that collects our post is closed. If you have sent any post there (our freepost address) since the lockdown started please contact the Membership Secretary Alastair Hunter on 028 90424970

Today (12th May 2020) The  Northern Ireland Executive has published its approach to decision making for easing lockdown restrictions.

 The published plan can be viewed here.
 
Current positions 
 
  • Progression of the pandemic - at present, best estimates suggest that less than 5% of our population are likely to have had the infection and recovered, which is not a sufficiently high level of population immunity to confer protection from further spread of the virus.
  • The R-0 value (rate of transmission) is estimated to stand at around 0.8. It is important to maintain R at or below 1.
  • The single greatest concentration of the virus is within care homes. An urgent expansion of a testing programme will commence immediately.
  • There is a wider health impact, with health services pressures now exacerbated by the pandemic. As of 22 April 2020, more than 2,000 red flag referral elective care and inpatient admissions were cancelled. 
  • The pandemic will cause severe social and economic damage. Initial assessments put the overall output within the NI economy at 25-30% below normal. The Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) have estimated that the unemployment rate could reach 6%. This equates to an increase of around 30,000 unemployed people.
 
Basis for decision making
 
  • Controlling transmission – keeping the R number below 1.
  • Protecting healthcare capacity – not allowing healthcare services to become overwhelmed as normal services resume. 
  • Necessity – specific restrictions and regulations will only remain in place as long as necessary.
  • Proportionality – restrictions should only be tolerated as long as they outweigh the health, social or economic risks of lifting them.
  • Reliance on evidence – proposals for change should be based on the best available evidence.
 
These align closely with WHO guidance.
 
North/South and East/West collaboration
 
The Executive is committed to good co-operation on both an East/West and North/South basis, as well as learning from other jurisdictions elsewhere too.  The decisions on the future approach to the restrictions are for the Executive to take based on the best analysis of the situation here and internationally.
 
Steps to lifting lockdown
 
Steps are outlined in a 5 stage approach and are broken down into sectors, which are as follows:
 
  • Work
  • Retail
  • Education
  • Travel
  • Family and Community
  • Sport, Cultural and Leisure activities
 
A breakdown of the steps can be viewed on pages 10 and 11 of the document. 
 
It is important to note that steps do not necessarily apply at the same time in different sectors. For example, step one in the ‘retail’ sector may occur weeks before step one in the ‘travel’ sector.
 
 
Why does the plan not include dates, as the ROI plan does?
 
First Minister Arlene Foster MLA has said that: “We will not be driven by a timetable” and instead, the steps will be progressed “when the time is right” and may even include some steps back as well as forward, if necessary. 
 
Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA has said that we could be on “step one in the very immediate future.”
 
The Executive will “look continuously” at moving through the stages, but the current position currently stands i.e. we have not yet moved to step one in any sector.
 
The Regulations will continue to be reviewed within every three week period.  There may be reviews where no change is warranted and others when more change is possible. Each process of review should not be read as being linked to the next step of the relaxations.
 
The Plan for Economic Recovery will be published in the coming days.
 
 



Important Information from Towergate CSPA Travel Insurance




I have just had the following update from Northern Ireland Civil Service Pensions Branch
"An issue we may encounter, if the printing offices close is that pensioners may not get payslips – payments will still be paid through BACS. We also have approx. 87 pensioners who still receive a cheque and this might also pose an issue. We have written to these pensioners requesting bank details but the success rate has been minimal. We can do manual checks but this is dependent on the postal service & some shops etc will not cash manual cheques. Plus I would imagine most of these pensioners will not be leaving their homes.
If you still receive your pension by cheque or know anyone who does please contact NICS Pensions Branch on 028 71321202and try to speak to Colette Heaney or Margaret Coyle
 or email Colette.Heaney@finance-ni.gov.uk




GROUP CIRCULAR 897
 We have been notified by Towergate Health and Protection Ltd the brokers who administer the CSPA travel insurance on behalf of the Alliance, that the underwriters AXA PPP healthcare Ltd issued the following updates on 16 March 2020 in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. How long the withdrawal of the CSPA travel insurance policy to new applicants will last for is a matter for speculation at present.  We will notify members of any change to this situation in the light of future updates. This issue affects all Affinity organisations with travel insurance policies underwritten by AXA PPP healthcare Ltd.
Most importantly now that Covid-19 has been classed as a pandemic, it is no longer viewed as an unforeseen event. 
We should warn any customer wishing to purchase travel insurance as a standalone cover or as an add on to one of our PMI policies that this is our position. 
Cover on both new and existing travel policies will continue to include cover for medical treatment should a member choose to travel within FCO advice and fall ill with Covid-19. This is the case so long as the member was fit to travel.”

We understand that some members may be feeling concerned. The situation is very changeable and we advise all members, their family and friends, to keep themselves informed by listening to the news and checking the regularly updated Government and NHS guidance, which can be found at these links:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

It is most important to look after your health and those around you. The basic way you can do this is to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose or eyes and if you cough or sneeze cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or with your elbow. Throw the tissue away in a bin immediately.

If you feel unwell with the symptoms of the virus, which are similar to flu, NHS England advises that you DO NOT go to the GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, but instead call telephone number 111 
Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open
Wales: call 111 (if available in your area) or call 0845 46 47

Northern Ireland: call 0300 200 7885

Alternatively go online to the 111 Corona virus service here: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 
CSPA Head Office will be closed from Tue 17th March 2020 
·      A notice on the website and a message on the answerphone 
Staff who are able to, and for whom it is practical, will work from home. However, a considerably reduced service will be in operation, e.g.; no newsletters or circulars will be issued and application forms for membership will not be processed (not an exhaustive list)
Our objective is to maintain and improve the purchasing power of all pensions from Civil Service related schemes. 

Advice recently from NICS Pension Branch

1.  The reason  Pay Advice Slip may show two components in its makeup is due to the fact part of the members pension is GMP, below is the statement on GMP taken from the pensioners newsletter:

2.We in Civil Service Pensions revise awards as matter of course – at present we are working through the revisions arising from the voluntary exits schemes and we have over 80% of those completed. Age retirements etc are also revised mainly as a result of a back-dated pay award or another change notified by the employer.
The majority of revisions do result in the payment of arrears however, a revision can also result in an overpayment due to the way pay is calculated. Eg prior to a pay award the best pay to calculate an award is not the most current salary (some go back 13 years) and Pensions Increase is applied to the award. However, after the application of the pay award the best pay is the most current salary and no Pensions Increase is due to the award – this can result in an overpayment.
If any Member receives such a notification asking for a repayment do not agree to anything and contact the Hon. Sec. Tony Damoglou immediately on 028-92610610 or apdamoglou@cspa.co.uk

 





The following has just been released by CSPA Head Office
GROUP CIRCULAR 897 To:      Branches, Groups and Executive Council          17 March 2020  1.    FURTHER INFORMATION ON CORONAVIRUS 2.    CSPA TRAVEL INSURANCE POLICY -TEMPORARY WITHDRAWAL OF TRAVEL POLICY TO NEW APPLICANTS - CLAIMS INVOLVING COVID-19 3.    MESSAGE FROM FRED OLSEN CRUISE LINES 4.    BBC FREE TV LICENCES AND RED BUTTON
Press here to see full text of GC897 Northern Ireland Branch AGM (arranged for the 22nd April 2020) has now been postponed and will be rearranged when normality returns.

CSPA Travel Insurance Policy -Temporary Withdrawal Of Travel Policy to new applicants  - Claims involving Covid-19 We have been notified by Towergate Health and Protection Ltd the brokers who administer the CSPA travel insurance on behalf of the Alliance, that the underwriters AXA PPP healthcare Ltd issued the following updates on 16 March 2020 in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. How long the withdrawal of the CSPA travel insurance policy to new applicants will last for is a matter for speculation at present.  We will notify members of any change to this situation in the light of future updates. This issue affects all Affinity organisations with travel insurance policies underwritten by AXA PPP healthcare Ltd.1.“The Executive Committee at AXA PPP healthcare have made their decision today to cease offering new travel policy access with immediate effect on all Affinity schemes until further notice.” 2.“We have been assessing the Covid -19 situation here at AXA PPP and now have a decision on how we move forward. Most importantly now that Covid-19 has been classed as a pandemic, it is no longer viewed as an unforeseen event.  In line with other providers in the market, including AXA Insurance, we will use our existing policy terms to reject cancellation claims from members who booked their trip or purchased their travel insurance policy after 9am 14 March 2020 due to Covid-19.  We should warn any customer wishing to purchase travel insurance as a standalone cover or as an add on to one of our PMI policies that this is our position.  We have made this decision because cancellation as a result of COVID-19, is now considered something the member should reasonably have known about before they purchased their travel insurance or booked their overseas journey. Cover on both new and existing travel policies will continue to include cover for medical treatment should a member choose to travel within FCO advice and fall ill with Covid-19. This is the case so long as the member was fit to travel.”
 
CORONAVIRUS The Alliance has been monitoring rapidly unfolding developments in news of the Coronavirus. We understand that some members may be feeling concerned. The situation is very changeable and we advise all members, their family and friends, to keep themselves informed by listening to the news and checking the regularly updated Government and NHS guidance, which can be found at these links:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

It is most important to look after your health and those around you. The basic way you can do this is to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose or eyes and if you cough or sneeze cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or with your elbow. Throw the tissue away in a bin immediately.

If you feel unwell with the symptoms of the virus, which are similar to flu, NHS England advises that you DO NOT go to the GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, but instead call telephone number 111 
Getting help in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open
Wales: call 111 (if available in your area) or call 0845 46 47

Northern Ireland: call 0300 200 7885

Alternatively go online to the 111 Corona virus service here: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 
 
Outline plan for Headquarters Office Closure
CSPA Head Office will be closed from Tue 17th March 2020  
If we have enough fit and healthy staff, we will try as far as possible, to provide a basic service to members. This will take the following form: 
·      A notice on the website and a message on the answerphone ·      A request to those contacting us to defer non urgent requests·      For requests deemed urgent the work mobile numbers of the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary, will be provided  Staff who are able to, and for whom it is practical, will work from home. However, a considerably reduced service will be in operation, e.g.; no newsletters or circulars will be issued and application forms for membership will not be processed (not an exhaustive list)

NI Branch AGM Postponed 
The Hon Treasurer/ Membership Secretary Alastair Hunter has indicated that whilst he is happy to continue in the post for the foreseeable future it would only be prudent to have another person trained in the work of the Treasurer/Membership Secretary to be able to take over should Alastair wish to relinquish the post.There is a small honorarium payable and anyone interested should in the first instance contact the Hon Sec Tony Damoglou on apdamoglou@cspa.co.uk or 07775743008. 

Pension Payslips From March 2018 Civil Service Pension (NI) Pay Advice Slip appearance has been upgraded, this change was added: b.    To allow members who have more than one component to their pension to view pension breakdown correctly.d.    In preparation for Civil Service Pensions online functionality Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) It is the GMP portion of the pension which is showing as “Normal Pension” within the Slip. I would like to assure you and your member that the breakdown of pension on the members Pay Advice Slip will have no consequence on any annual percentage increase due nor will it affect any spouse pension entitlement due.
It has been brought to the attention of the Branch Committee that  a Pension Revision exercise was being carried out by Pensions Branch.We in Civil Service Pensions revise awards as matter of course – at present we are working through the revisions arising from the voluntary exits schemes and we have over 80% of those completed. Age retirements etc are also revised mainly as a result of a back-dated pay award or another change notified by the employer.The issue with My CSP is that they were not doing the revisions of awards as part of their schedule of work and this was identified by their auditor. The processes they are looking at are in relation to building the revisions into their work practices.The majority of revisions do result in the payment of arrears however, a revision can also result in an overpayment due to the way pay is calculated. Eg prior to a pay award the best pay to calculate an award is not the most current salary (some go back 13 years) and Pensions Increase is applied to the award. However, after the application of the pay award the best pay is the most current salary and no Pensions Increase is due to the award – this can result in an overpayment.As per managing public money we are obliged to seek recovery of overpayments 



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