My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions Reform (Mike O’Brien) has made the following Statement.
The Government are launching the face-to-face guidance pilot project which was announced as part of a package of measures in the welfare reform Green Paper, A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work which was published in January 2006 and aimed at increasing the employment rates of people aged 50 and over. Further reference was made in the pensions White Paper of May 2006 Security in Retirement: towards a new pensions system which re-emphasised the importance of providing information and communicating choices to individuals. The pilot project is being carried out to establish what information older people need and how they can access it in order to take an informed decision about work and retirement in later life. Existing services are not providing the information that older individuals tell us they need when considering options about working longer. The information will focus on the choices and opportunities available to older people to help them plan how and when to retire as well as making use of flexible working options to help them remain in work or work for longer. The expectation is that better information will support extended working lives. The pilots will be evaluated over the operating period to inform the development of good practice for Government and non-government organisations to use in the guidance that they offer older workers. Tenders were invited from a wide range of guidance and older people agencies and six contractors have been selected. The organisations that successfully tendered for the pilot are as follows:
Age Concern Training for Greater Merseyside and St Helen’s;
Guidance Services for North Yorkshire;
Shaw Trust Ltd for Glasgow;
The Life Academy for Rural Cambridgeshire, mid Bedfordshire and Bedford;
British Chamber of Commerce for Birmingham; and
Manpower UK Ltd for Bridgend/Rhondda Cynon Taff.
The contracts started in October 2007 and will be for an 18-month period concluding March 2009. The final report, publication and production of best practice guidance will be in 2009-10.