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Financial Services: Elderly

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how his Department plans to increase access for older people to information on financial matters; (255761)

(2) what steps he is taking to improve his Department's financial advice for older people;

(3) if his Department will provide support for voluntary sector initiatives which promote financial education amongst older people;

(4) what assessment he has made of whether improving financial literacy amongst older people would contribute to tackling poverty and promoting well-being under Public Service Agreement 17.

The Department provides directly, or supports the provision of, information on financial matters through a range of initiatives. All of these benefit older people, and some are designed specifically for them. All of this activity contributes to the goal, encapsulated in PSA 17, to tackle poverty and promote greater independence and well-being in later life, although no quantitative assessment of the impact of financial literacy on these outcomes has been made.

First, through the ‘Now Let's Talk Money campaign’, the Department has engaged with many partner organisations and forged links with over 4,000 intermediary organisations. One contract was awarded to encourage advice agencies and credit unions to target older people, whilst also encouraging older people to take up the advice which is available.

The Department is also working closely with HM Treasury and the Financial Services Authority on the Money Guidance pathfinder that will launch later this spring in the north-west and north-east of England and will provide impartial financial guidance to up to 750,000 people in these regions. The guidance will be delivered by telephone, face to face, and on the internet. Face to face provision will be delivered by a range of partners, including third sector organisations.

The pathfinder will be supported by The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS), an independent body that provides information and guidance across the full range of pensions issues. TPAS is funded by the Department. Its running costs are then recovered from the general levy on pensions schemes.

Further information on pensions, and saving for later life will be provided through the comprehensive communication strategy that the Department is developing to support the introduction of pension reforms that will extend the opportunity of workplace pension saving to millions, many for the first time. This effort will draw on lessons learned from the Pensions Education Fund—a three-year UK-wide initiative using third sector organisations to test approaches, in a workplace setting, to provide information on saving for retirement. It involved a series of 26 pilot projects, 10 of which include older people aged 50 years or more in their target group.

The Pension, Disability and Carers' Service provides older people with essential information on their entitlement to pensions and related benefits in later life. Its Local Service visits approximately 13,000 older customers each week, providing a holistic financial assessment and benefit service targeted at vulnerable older people. It delivers direct access and assistance to customers so that they receive benefits and services, promoting their independence and security. Information and guidance is also available through the Pension, Disability and Carers' Service contact centres and websites, on Directgov, and in leaflet form. Services on offer include the forecasting of state pension entitlement, based on an individual's contributions record, and the tracing of lost private pensions.