Govt blocks data request on ‘under capacity’ Pension Wise


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.”