Workplace pensions: more bang for our buck needed

The  private pensions market has been sent a welcome wake-up call by the report of the Workplace Retirement Income Commission, chaired by Lord McFall.

The report says that although auto-enrolment into pensions  will be an important step forward when it starts to be phased in from 2012, more needs to be done, and it needs to start now.

Lord McFall doesn’t pull his punches in his introduction , in which he says that it has been a shock to discover that, even after auto-enrolment, up to 9 million people may still fall through the cracks in the system and could be on course for a poor old age.

Age UK gave evidence to the Commission, so we’re pleased that the report picked up many of our concerns in its recommendations. These include:

  1. Improvements to the state pension so that it provides a firm foundation for private saving.
  2. Action to reduce charges in some ‘defined contribution’ pensions where the savers ‘pension pot’ can be eroded by high management fees.
  3. Getting better value from your pension pot when it comes to turning it into a pension income on retirement, usually by buying an annuity. Up to two-thirds of people buy from their pension provider, although you can boost your income by up to a fifth, or even more, by switching to a new company.
  4. Making life easier for people with small pension pots, by allowing them to be transferred to the new National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) which has low charges and is being set up to help people on low and modest incomes.
  5. Taking the politics out of pensions, by setting up an independent standing commission on pensions to provide independent advice and rigorous analysis to the Government of the day.

What happens now? The Commission has no official status; it was set up by the National Association of Pension Funds and the Government has not formally responded. But certainly we at Age UK will be working hard to ensure that these recommendations don’t get lost in the swamp of day to day politics.

Author: janevass

Programme Manager, Private Sector Policy at Age UK

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