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Govt blocks data request on ‘under capacity’ Pension Wise

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Government officials have again refused to disclose information on how Pension Wise is functioning more than three months after it first launched.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Money Marketing for any findings on customer satisfaction with the service was blocked by the Treasury. It acknowledged it held the information, but argued the Treasury can determine its own publication timelines.

At the same time research conducted by providers indicates the service is running well below capacity.

A Hargreaves Lansdown survey of 300 investors found just 10 per cent of the first cohort following the introduction of the freedoms had used Pension Wise.

And a YouGov survey of 1,649 over-50s – commissioned by Old Mutual Wealth for a forthcoming report – found only 1 per cent of people aware of the pension reforms have spoken to Pension Wise as a result.

However, out of 1,152 people members of workplace schemes run by BlackRock, 61 per cent have accessed Pension Wise.

In response to the FOI, the Treasury says: “Public authorities such as the Treasury must, within reason, have space to be able to determine their own publication timetables and deal with the necessary preparation, administration and context of publication.

“The Act recognises that the coincidence of individual requests for information should not determine the publication timetables of public authorities, for example by forcing them into premature publication.”

It marks the second time the Government has refused to publish information on its guidance service.

In February, Government officials refused to disclose how many people it expected to use the service, claiming any benefits of disclosure would be outweighed by “the risk that public exposure when preparing and finalising policy advice would make civil servants less likely to provide full and frank advice or opinions on policy proposals”.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pension research Tom McPhail says: “Based on our own research, it appears that take-up of Pension Wise has been very low in the first weeks and months of the new regime. It is time the Treasury published its own data so we can see whether the official picture is any better.

“The idea of creating a new, independent service to deliver Pension Wise was always a high risk strategy for the government. Take-up was never going to hit 100 per cent so the challenge now is to ensure that all investors get good service and good information even if they don’t use Pension Wise.”

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Comments

There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I think that we can take it as read that the figures are dismal as if they were great we would all know about it via numerous press releases.

  2. Isn’t it ironic that the industry that pays for it can’t access information about it!

  3. Bearing in mind the frustrations of delays at providers adopting the new rules and costs of advice in accessing pots are plastered across the media perhaps the fact that Pension Wise offers impartial and free guidance and isn’t sinking should be seen as a positive… at least it gives scope to trim capacity rather than launch with a lot of negative publicity.

  4. Every where advisers go we are blocked, delayed and told we have no way to get the information you require at this time. Yet when the tables are turned we are expected to turn everything around and have all information at our finger tips. We are given weeks to implement new rules and guidelines that have taken the instructors 12 months to come up with. We do not have the right to refuse, yet our masters seem to believe they can do as they please and DO.

    There is one rule for us and one for the masters who are supposed to lead by example. I am finding my working life both very upsetting, stressful and painful at this time due to the dual standards being applied. The consumer does not understand the issues we advisers face on a day to day basis. I wonder where this will all end, as frankly I cannot see how there will be a positive outcome. Red tape, over complicated legislation, regulation,, consumer groups and MP’s that all seem to be pushing to gain everything for nothing.

    Very frightening times with no positive outcome in sight for any adviser, other than being made the escape goats for others failings and inability to listen to those at the goal face.

  5. Having come across two people who have been to Pension Wise, i have seen the ‘guidance’ given out and it is very basic and both people who attended their meeting learnt nothing other than how to waste their own time …

  6. A client’s sister has also been to Pension Wise and found it an entirely fruitless exercise as the “information giver” kept to a narrow script (so it seemed) and repeated the information that the client’s provider had already produced. All they wanted to know about was deferring their pension to a later date (DC Scheme) and the meeting rather ground to a halt as no opinion was given. Most will end up needing an IFA, I suspect! Hey, ho!

  7. So what does “freedom of Information” mean then?

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