Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

MPs highlight pensions confusion

The Government must help people to understand how they will be affected by the pensions shake-up 'as soon as possible', MPs have said
The Government must help people to understand how they will be affected by the pensions shake-up 'as soon as possible', MPs have said

The Government must act quickly to stamp out confusion over its looming state pension shake-up, a committee of MPs has warned.

The Work and Pensions Committee said the key to the success of the new simple flat-rate state pension hinges on the Government helping people to understand how they will be affected "as soon as possible".

The single-tier pension - which will affect around 40 million people of working age when it comes into force - will run alongside the Government's landmark plans to automatically enrol people into workplace pensions in the coming years, to encourage confidence in retirement saving.

The Government recently confirmed it will bring forward the start date for the single-tier pension, which will be worth around £144 a week in today's money, to April 2016.

Publishing a report into the state pension reforms, the committee argued it is "vital" that the Government sets out what its communication approach will be by the time the Pensions Bill comes before Parliament in early summer, including how the internet can be used to explain the changes.

The report said: "It is particularly important that groups of people who may lose out, or who believe that they may lose out, are given accurate information so that they can assess whether they need to take remedial action, which might include making additional National Insurance contributions."

The committee said that although the system will be simpler in the end, there will be a "complex" transitional period. Ultimately, the reforms are intended to reduce people's reliance on means-tested benefits and give people more certainty about the value of saving into a private pension scheme.

The report said there are already several "misconceptions" about who stands to gain or lose from the changes and it is important that concerns are "allayed as far as possible by the provision of accurate and understandable information". It said that those closest to retirement "understandably have the most immediate concerns".

The committee found that many people wrongly believed the reforms would mean that everyone across the board would automatically receive a state pension of £144 per week because they did not yet understand the criteria for entitlement to the full amount. Others feared that they may lose any higher state pension entitlement that they had built up.

By starting the single-tier pension a year earlier than planned, some 400,000 more people will qualify for the pension. This group includes around 85,000 women who would have missed out, unlike men of the same age, because their state pension age was rising at the same time as the reform was being introduced.

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