Financial inclusion not social exclusion!

Welcome to the final day of the financial year. This is a blog about exclusion, inclusion and hopefully resolution!


Exclusion

We all create filters on what we want to hear, whether by including or excluding noise from the outside.

Like others I was surprised when the Pensions Minister blocked an FT pension journalist.

A former pension minister speculated

A nation held its breath….


Inclusion

As one of the correspondents to the FT article, I expected I too might get the cold shoulder but the article resulted in my being asked to talk with the Pensions Minister and I’m happy to say we are on the way with three projects where I hope the private sector will be able to influence public policy.

And I’m pleased that Paul Lewis and many other journalists are promoting this work.

But publicity is not enough. We need clear targets

  1. We need to get the numbers of Pension Credit non-claimants down from 850,000 and set targets for 1, 3 and 5 years
  2. We should set about the automation of means-tested claims so that the obviously needy get auto-enrolled into pension credit
  3. Ultimately , and this may take 5-10 years, we need to consider pension credit as a means of financial inclusion and pay it automatically to all who quality.

I think pension credit different from universal credit. Universal credit is for people of working age and demands action from claimants. Pension Credit is for pensioners who become economically inactive with age and who are increasingly vulnerable to financial exclusion as they grow into their 70s and beyond.

We should not be expecting all of them to make difficult claims either on-line , on the phone or in writing. We should be finding them and not relying on their awareness of a benefit many know nothing of or know of but don’t understand.

I look forward to finding out what has and is working both for the DWP and for groups like Manchester Ageing and the great age charities. But more, I look forward to understanding the barriers that prevent Government databases talking to each other so that the people who pay pensions have to ask the people they are paying pensions to whether and how much they get paid!


Resolution

There is of course a “politics of benefits” and some will say that moving towards an automation of targeted benefits is neither affordable or desirable. Clearly there are figures baked into the OBRs forecasts for benefit take-up that would differ from ambitious targets to improve them. But the Pensions Minister has said in the great political theatre of the House of Commons, that there is no cap on pension credit payments

Scribbles of the Minister

So this is not and should not be a political issue.  I am sure the DWP are prepared to admit that the situation is – at it stands – a bad one. Stephen Timms is right to demand more. But it should not be left just to the BBC, to charities and to public servants to solve this problem.

There are many private sector organisations that are funded to improve pensions, I think of Nest Insight, Phoenix Insights and the policy units of the many financial institutions that have benefited from public policy on pensions (and continue to do so).

It is right that we join together in this, and not make this the exclusive campaign of Henry Tapper, Gareth Morgan, the Pension PlayPen and AgeWage. While I am proud of the work done by my friends and associates, I would be a lot prouder to see others take on my work, with the pockets and energy that I lack!


We are better together

If Alex hadn’t written this article, I wouldn’t have pushed on Pension Credit take up, nor would I be pushing for a common definition on value for money or for the acceleration of a retail version of CDC that allows those with pots to turn them into pensions.

I’m not party to what was behind the block but were it to happen to me, I would consider putting it on my CV (certainly if I was at the start of my career). To have become someone a minister  blocks is an achievement Alex.

But for Guy Opperman to have opened his doors to me and my three ideas, suggests that he is not closing his ears to dissent, nor to solutions that may not be in line with his current policy.

Guy Opperman should be speaking at a Pension PlayPen coffee morning next month and I will be sending him the recording of today’s event. If you have your filters set right – you can join us at 10.30 today. Laurie is an old friend and Mark Johnson a new, but both have important things to say about private pensions and are not to be missed.

I hope that a young journalist and a senior politician will be reconciled – both are welcome to join us, as I hope will you.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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