Treasury offloads Pension Wise to DWP

Baldwin-Harriett.Conservatives.Dec2013

Government-backed guidance service Pension Wise is to move from the Treasury to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Economic secretary to the Treasury Harriett Baldwin told the DWP select committee today the DWP would be taking responsibility for the new service during this financial year.

She said: “We have decided to make a machinery of Government change as per your recommendation. We will be moving oversight over to DWP over the course of this financial year.”

She also revealed Pension Wise website traffic has increased significantly since a marketing campaign was launched in August.

Around 1.5 million unique users have visited the site, while over 20,000 people have had face-to-face or telephone appointments.

Baldwin said satisfaction surveys showed over 90 per cent were happy with the service.

Pension Wise, which costs £35m a year to run and is partly funded by advisers, was set up by the Government to support the pension freedoms.

Telephone guidance is operated by The Pensions Advisory Service and face-to-face guidance by Citizens Advice, while the Treasury is currently responsible for the Pension Wise website.

However, concerns have been raised about both take up of the service and the information it provides to savers making retirement income decisions.

Lord O’Neill, speaking for the Government in July, said around 925,000 had visited the website while phone and face-to-face appointments totaled just 18,000.

During the initial rollout of pension freedoms, there was capacity for up to 10,000 appointments a week.

And while organisations including Trade Union Congress, the Investment Association and Citizens Advice want the remit of Pension Wise expanded, consumer group Which? has raised fundamental concerns about the service.

In its response to the DWP committee’s inquiry it said a snap mystery shopping exercise it ran on one face-to-face session, two phone appointments, and the website found serious flaws.

Which? warned consumers “are unlikely to be in a position to make a decision” after receiving the guidance.

It said: “Our research found the appointments were consistent in terms of the information provided and produced similar results, but were quite heavily scripted.

“While there were no inaccuracies in the information given, it was felt to be more of a generic information sharing exercise than a tailored guidance experience.”