Dr. Ros Altmann
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Since the Labour Party Conference in 2003 members of the Pensions Action Group have had to highlight their plight every year by stripping to try and force the Government to compensate them for their lost pensions. They saved in what were supposedly ‘safe’ company pension schemes, which failed before the PPF was established in April 2005 either as a result of the employer winding up their scheme or becoming insolvent.
In spite of verdicts from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee, European Court and the UK High Court Judicial Review finding that the victims should be properly compensated, the Government has refused. Only our continued pressure has forced incremental improvements in the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), but even now it remains woefully short of the 80% figure claimed by the Government.
Earlier this year, the DWP set up the Young Review to consider whether the assets of these failed pension schemes could be better used rather than buying annuities with insurers. The Government announced it would fund improved FAS payments by matching any savings identified by the review.
The Pensions Action Group’s objective is to achieve – as a minimum – FAS payments that are no worse than the Pension Protection Fund. This would have to include such vitally important benefits as pension paid from when it was due (scheme pension age) and not the arbitrary age of 65.
In order to remind the Government of just how important the review is and how the Government’s refusal to solve this crisis over the last 5 years has devastated so many innocent lives, some of the victims are holding a vigil on the 20th and 21st of November. These are all people who saved for decades in their company pension schemes, were close to retirement, but then found that the Government assurances of protection were simply not true. They have lost some or all of the pensions they saved for, they are seriously ill, but they are still being forced to work beyond retirement age because they do not have enough money. They include:
- Andrew Parr who has complicated and serious heart problems
- Phil Healey who also has heart problems and recently had a hip replacement operation
- Peter Humphrey who has had serious kidney problems including a period on life support
- Carol Herring who has high blood pressure, bronchiectasis and rheumatoid arthritis.
All these people should have retired but have still been working, often against medical advice. They have no choice until the Government settles this scandal properly.