Government to increase investment in project for tracing lost pension funds after surge in demand

Free service will triple in size to reunite savers with billions of pounds in dormant schemes

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Indy Politics

A Government project to help people track down valuable lost pension pots worth billions is to be expanded in size amid increasing demand from the public.

The free Pension Tracing Service (PTS) was contacted a record 145,000 times last year, a 100 per cent increase on the number of requests in 2010. In nearly 90 per cent of cases people were successfully reunited with a pension fund.

However, it is estimated that there could be as many as 50 million dormant and lost funds by 2050. Jill Scott, operational manager at the PTS, said misplacing a pension was more common than people think.

“While it may sound strange, losing track of a pension is easily done, as people tend to move around the jobs market far more frequently than might have been the case in the past,” she said. “Helping people to find their hard-earned money means they can look forward to retirement in a much better position.”

The Newcastle-based service will have its staff numbers increased threefold to a total of 49. Recruitment of the new staff is under way and should be completed by April.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said the Government was keen to reunite people with their savings.

“With people having an average of 11 different jobs during the course of their working lives, it can be very easy to lose track of pensions they may have built up with previous employers,” he said.

“If you contributed to a pension in a previous job and don’t have any details any more, it would be worth contacting our free PTS to see how you can be reunited with your lost pension pot.

“While we have plans to help people combine their pension pots in future when they change jobs, there are still too many scattered and lost pensions, and we are working hard to make sure people get what they are entitled to.”

The expansion comes amid Government plans to allow people over 55 to cash in their fund, buy an annuity or keep it as a pension that provides an income. The new freedoms will mean that around 300,000 people a year will be able to access their defined contribution pension savings as they wish, instead of being herded towards buying a retirement annuity.

However some experts have criticised the changes. Nigel Green, chief executive of the financial consultancy deVere Group, said earlier this month that the implementation of the new plans had been “alarmingly chaotic” and appeared to be being rushed through “in a cynical attempt to woo older voters in the run-up to May’s election”.

People can contact the PTS by telephone, in writing or through its website. They should provide the name of the company or pension scheme they are trying to trace. Additional information, such as dates of employment, the type of business or its location, may also help in tracing lost funds.

The PTS searches its database, which contains contact addresses for more than 200,000 pension-scheme administrators. It is then the responsibility of the individual to contact the scheme.

From April the PTS will be complemented by the Government’s new “pension wise” service, which will offer guidance to people aged 55 and over about how they can make the most of the new pension freedoms which will come into force in the same month.

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