There are two major things wrong with pensions in the UK these days; in my opinion anyway.† The first is the way that means-tested support for the elderly acts to devalue the private pension savings of the young and the second is the almost constant presence of bad press about pensions in the national media.† The first will eventually add to the second, of course, as things spiral ever downward.† But it doesnít have to be that way.
One of the issues that helps to keep the bad news on pensions constantly in the public eye is the continuing saga of the Financial Assistance Scheme.† This scheme, which was announced way back in 2004, has still only helped a small fraction of those who should by rights already be living on their pensions.† It also has the dubious attribute, according to the Pensions Action Group, of having only paid out £9 million to those who lost their life savings while having cost £10 million to administer!
My good friend, Ros Altmann, has just told me that we can expect to see more bad press about pensions in the papers and on the TV news this week too.† Tomorrow night some of the 125,000 people who have lost their pensions and are dependent on the assistance scheme are travelling from all over the country to hold an all-night vigil outside Downing Street.
People are desperate.† To date they have seen their hopes dashed despite the rulings of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee and the UK High Court Judicial Review.† There is the hope that the Young Review, that reports in the weeks leading up to Christmas, will lead to a resolution for people, but thereís no certainty to that.† Many of those who have chosen to stand through the long November night tomorrow will be workers and widows, some in wheelchairs, who have become ill with stress and exhaustion or whose husbands died without their pensions.
For those millions of us cosily tucked-up in the warm in front of our TV sets, or reading our newspapers over breakfast at home the message weíll get about pensions this week is that people who save for the future can lose everything and do little about it.† Thatís hardly an uplifting message to hear or read about and itís one that ought to frighten the life out of those of us who promote pension saving.† Of course things like this canít happen any more.† The Pension Protection Fund was launched to ensure that, but Joe and Josephine Average arenít going to believe that or feel comfortable about pension saving while their eyes and ears tell them different.† Are they?
19 November 2007
(If you missed it and want to hear more about Rosí work with the Pensions Action Group you can hear my Pensions Radio interview with her from a month or so ago by following the link here: Podcasts)
1. Pensions Action Group - press release 19 November 2007.
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