DWP figures for wind-up victims

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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DWP CAN’T PAY FOR DATA. TELLS ACTUARIES ‘TAKE MONEY OUT OF WINDING UP SCHEMES’

Believe it or not, the DWP has just written to actuaries of occupational schemes in wind-up, asking them to fill in an 11-page form of detailed data, by November 12th, and telling them that they should charge this to the members of the scheme, because the Government can’t pay!

In May 2004, the Government announced it was setting aside up to £400 million (£20million a year for 20 years) as a Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), to help some of the people who have lost their pensions when their employer wound up their final salary occupational pension schemes. The Government has already admitted that this sum of money will be nowhere near enough to restore the pensions to all those who have lost out. It is trying to collect data, to help decide who to exclude. It has already indicated that many schemes (although we don’t know yet which ones) will be left out and only the ‘worst cases’ will receive any assistance. So, after years of contributions, believing Government assurances that their money was safe and protected by the law, tens of thousands of people who have lost their pensions still do not know if they will get help from the Government they trusted.

As if they have not suffered enough, the DWP is now ensuring that those not yet retired may get even less pension. Amazingly, the DWP is telling actuaries to charge the schemes, for supplying it with the 11 pages of data. The DWP letter sent last week states:

‘Whilst the Government will not be able to cover the costs of providing this information… we hope that any charges to schemes are absorbed or minimised, where possible.’

This is carte blanche for further deductions from scheme assets. There are no controls on the amount that actuaries, or anyone else, can charge to these schemes and such charges have to be met before any payments are made to members. Many schemes have already lost well over 10% in costs paid to trustees, actuaries and others. Many do not have enough assets to give any pension to members not yet retired. Yet the DWP seems to feel it has the right to take more money out of the schemes, even though the members may not benefit as a result. The DWP states, in bold:

‘Neither the provision of the information, nor any subsequent contact from the DWP, is to be taken as an indication that a scheme or its members will be entitled to assistance from the FAS’!

Malcolm Wicks has already acknowledged that the situation for members in winding up schemes is as if they have had their money stolen. How does he think he would feel, if it were his pension fund that the DWP was encouraging others to take more money out of? Members are waiting in despair to hear how much of their pension they have lost. If the DWP wants the data, it should pay for this itself. How much injustice do these people have to endure? Better still, why not just promise to pay £75 million a year for 40 years, rather than £20 million for 20 years and the issue could be solved. If the Government then wants to try to recover the money from other sources, it can, but don’t leave the members in this awful misery. Unless, of course, this is this just a delaying tactic, to keep these poor people quiet till after the election and then just refuse to do more. Could this Government really be so cynical? I hope not.



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