DWP – Do some Work for your Pensions.

It’s been a week of protests, bewildered Greeks, campers on the steps of St Pauls, a strike ballot on public sector pensions.

Direct action is seldom harmless, its victims are all too often the vulnerable in society for whom protestors seek protection.

For that reason, the majority of us will seek to use “the usual channels” to achieve change, trusting the system’s capacity to listen and understand.

We’d reckon that beat camping on the steps of St Pauls.

But what happens when the usual channels are blocked?  Here’s the testimony of Terence O’Halloran.

I spent 31 years as a volunteer endeavouring to liaise with the DWP and its predecessor organisation DSS. From 1997 onward the level of knowledge in their representation went down and their political bias went up. All through the Stakeholder consultations, and I use the word advisedly, they pursued their own agenda and shunned genuine concerns and comments from practitioners and HR departments in the submissions discussed.

O’Halloran & Co hosted groups of DWP senior managers, at their request and our cost in order to bring them up to speed on private pensions. They abused our time and effort.

In 2003 I was attending one of eight (as we later found out) meetings of specialists (all volunteers) to discuss pensions. When I asked a question regarding state pensions I was informed that the subject was not on the agenda.

I called a halt to my attendance at that point and subsequently resigned as the national pensions spokesman for the Federation of Small Business, a position that I had held for 31 years.

These are politicised, wet behind the ears, representatives of no one but themselves and their prescribed theories.

Gordon Brown went out of his way to populate the Treasury, HMRC and DWP with Government can do it better activists and what you are now witnessing is the fruit of his labour.

IFAs are anathema because they really do care about their clients’ welfare and argue their corner. Supplication always finds favour with government officials; we simply do not bend to fit that mould.

The context a thread of comments from an article on Citywire reporting Alan Higham’s outrage at obstruction from the DWP as reported  by Will Robbins.

Adviser Alan Higham has hit out at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), claiming it revealed its opposition to paid-for financial advice on annuities in an email he received from the government department.

Higham, founder of specialist adviser Retirement Angels, said he noticed the line from a DWP official in an email exchange about his proposal for a shopping around and pension transfer code of practice.

The email, apparently unintended for Higham, stated: ‘My team were following up on the earlier email as although we didn’t like the proposed solution which drives people to seek paid for advice, we thought there was merit in talking to him about when information should be provided regarding changes in schemes.’

Higham said it was a ‘disgrace’ and asked the DWP for an explanation but said he had not received a satisfactory answer.

‘They do not like the idea of people seeking advice at retirement. I have asked them why and they do not want to engage further on the subject. Why is there not more transparency on the issue?’

A DWP spokesman said: ‘We want to encourage people to shop around for the best shape and rate of annuity for them. We have no concerns about people taking paid for advice, however, making it compulsory isn’t the only way to get people to shop around. The OMO review group is considering a range of measures to do just that.’

He said the DWP were also ignorant of moves by the Financial Services Authority to reform advice.

Independent pensions expert Ros Altmann said the DWP had always been wary of IFAs.

‘That has always been their position. They do not trust IFAs and they do not regard annuities as risky products. I have spoken to them about this and they do not want to know,’ she said.

‘For some people annuities are the highest risk product there can be because of inflation. They [the DWP] do not think it’s a problem or they think advice is not worth paying for. The DWP is beholden to the insurer and banking lobby.’

There are 40,000 people buying annuities every month, the majority are buying unadvisedly at a time when DC pension pots are depressed and annuity rates on the floor. They need advice like a patient needs a doctor, like a house purchaser needs a solicitor.

To suggest that “a solution that drives people to take paid advice” should be buried is not open Government. When people like Alan Higham and Terence O’Halloran voluntarily give up their time to provide the DWP with ideas, we as tax-payers should be grateful and DWP mandarins should be shames when they “punch the gift-horse in the mouth”.

When fine upstanding members of our community get pushed back in this way, it devalues the legitimate processes of Government and legitimises the alternative means of protest – camping on the steps of St Pauls.

The gap between the public and private sectors is likely to widen during November as we prepare ourselves for November 30th and the first public sector pension strike, the irony is lost on no-one that the one sector of society that do not need to worry about annuities are the public sector workers who have their pensions paid for by the taxpayer.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to DWP – Do some Work for your Pensions.

  1. Henry

    Thank you for championing the cause. I have published an open letter to Steve Webb. Steve also has it in his e mail account.

    The detail is here http://www.retirementangels.com/2011/11/steve-webb-open-letter-on-improving-retirement-outcomes/

  2. sipphound says:

    Well done Henry for not letting this issue go. This affects pretty much everyone and an irrevocable decision (annuitisation) has to be one of the highest risk decisions anyone can take, particularly when they could have to live with it for decades.

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