Citizens Advice ramps up efforts to prevent leaks

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A Citizens Advice bureau has increased efforts to prevent a raft of leaks that have revealed the inner workings of one of the organisations running the Government’s Pension Wise service.

The declaration, sent to both emp­loyees and volunteers at Diss, Thetford and District Citizens Advice in Norfolk and seen by Money Marketing, blocks disclosure of information including details of staffing, contracts, suppliers and clients. It covers information relating to “Citizens Advice or any of their respective associates and government partners”.

A Citizens Advice spokeswoman says the declaration, which is part of staff contracts, was sent as a reminder following the bureau’s AGM. After the meeting, details of the meeting, which included a vote of no confidence motion, were leaked to the press.

The motion, which was defeated, included allegations of the misuse of Pension Wise funds which Citizens Advice says are unfounded.

Citizens Advice Diss and Thetford trustee Jane Guy says: “Given that client confidentiality and data protection is at the absolute heart of what we do, staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice Diss and Thetford, regardless of their role, are asked to sign confidentiality agreements. This is a standard practice used by the majority of local Citizens Advice services.

“Allegations regarding Pension Wise at Citizens Advice Diss and Thetford were publicly discussed at its Annual General Meeting and were dismissed as groundless. The Pension Wise team at Citizens Advice Diss and Thetford work hard to deliver an excellent service and people are very satisfied with the guidance they are receiving.”

The move follows revelations by Money Marketing around delivery centres that redeployed underused Pension Wise staff on other activities.

In November, former adviser and Pension Wise guider Trevor Gibbons was sacked after refusing to undertake non-Pension Wise work.

Gibbons feared his delivery centre would follow in the footsteps of Derbyshire Districts, which was found to be using staff funded by the Treasury on work unrelated to pensions. Financial services firms paid £39.1m towards running the Pension Wise service in 2015/16, with advisers contributing £4.7m.

Before Pension Wise launched last April, concern was raised the service would be underused with customers likely to get most of their information from their pension provider.

At the end of November, Treasury figures showed Pension Wise had delivered around 44,000 telephone and face-to-face guidance sessions and had over two million hits on  its website.

However, the cost per session works out at £516.