I’m not with Steve Groves here but nor am I with Steve Webb or Ros Altmann. Where the problems with the State Pension differ from those with Universal Credit is that the State Pension has always been the DWP’s responsibility while Pension Freedoms were thrust upon the DWP by the Treasury without any modelling of the consequences.
We are now 7 years since George Osborne announced the Freedoms and (just as with Waspi), the DWP seem to be slow to be helping those impacted by change, to understand how to deal with it. Steve Webb has often taken the credit for Pension Freedoms though it doesn’t appear he had much to do with their creation. The creation of the Single State Pension was on his watch and he is right to take credit for that. But he cannot cherry-pick glory for the successes without accepting that changes to state pensions need major investment in support for those impacted.
But I do not agree with Steve Groves that this is all about incompetent politicians , failing departments and inter- departmental rivalries. This is all about political priorities and , as with those impacted by the net pay anomaly, the voice of those on low incomes with the prospect of high dependency on the state pension is a low priority for Government.
Which should bother Guy Opperman as the first Minister for pensions and financial inclusion. The private sector has been failing to concern itself with these issues and it is good that LCP – led by Steve Webb, is taking a lead. We should be kicking Government’s arse but also helping out where we can.
High dependency – low priority
For a wealthy pensioner , enjoying the benefits of a healthy private pension and the services of the wealth management industry, the delay in payment of a state pension is a cash-flow inconvenience. For those on no income, and there are many involuntarily entering retirement today as the furlough unwinds, the state pension is all that the income they are likely to be getting. Not getting that income is bad news.
Which is why the DWP needs to be prioritizing sorting this out. We have Guy Opperman’s promise that immediate rectification is around the corner. But the long-term problems at the DWP appear to be systemic and we do not seem to have found a way of arming people with the information they need to take difficult decisions around the management of their wages in retirement.
In the short- term, the private sector, can – and should, be heightening awareness of these issues. I intend to develop the AgeWage app so that we help people on benefits to the LCP site and to Gareth Morgan’s excellent calculators. But people should not need to go through these convoluted calculations and take guidance from actuaries , to ensure they don’t trip over their benefits when drawing an income from their pension savings.
Government needs to create a higher priority for those with the greatest dependence on state benefits and that includes the state pension as well as universal and pension credit. It also means a focus on the net pay issue.