The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that its Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) requires a “reset”, following a realisation that it will not meet its first connection deadline, requiring significantly more time to deliver the “complex technical solution”.
Pensions Minister Laura Trott explained that more time is needed beyond the existing deadline of 31 August 2023, in a statement released on 2 March. In light of this, Trott has initiated a “reset” of the PDP which will see the new chair of the programme board develop a new plan for its delivery.
The programme is once again delayed – well past the 2019 launch date that it had originally planned. The reason behind the delay appears to be down to the complex nature of the infrastructure required – with significantly more time needed to produce something that can serve everyone in the UK.
November 2023 saw the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) give pension providers an extension until 31 August for implementation to align with the now-abandoned government extension.
For many, the delays are worrying. Because Trott was unable to set out a new deadline for the PDP to see completion, many have begun to question if the programme will ever come to light at all.
Steve Webb, formerly Minister of State for Pensions between 2010 and 2015, exemplified the frustration caused by further delays to the programme, labelling the ordeal as “deeply disappointing”.
Deeply disappointing to see the delay in the dashboards project – and frustrating that we don’t yet have a revised timetable. It does make you wonder why this wasn’t foreseen just a few months ago when Guy Opperman took through the regulations setting out the current deadlines..
— Steve Webb (@stevewebb1) March 2, 2023
What exactly is the PDP trying to achieve?
Put simply, the pensions dashboard would provide one central location in which individuals can view and access all of their pension savings. The Money and Pensions Service, which is currently supervising the PDP, says that the dashboards “will provide clear and simple information” about all of your pension pots, including the state pension, to support “better planning for retirement“.
Should the dashboard come to fruition, it could even help individuals reconnect with lost pension pots. The PDP itself is responsible for delivering the digital architecture which underpins the pensions dashboard.
Is the PDP ‘facing indefinite delays’?
So far, delays have plagued the PDP, with this delay enhancing frustration in the industry due to a lack of clarification regarding a revised timeline.
Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy for Which? explained how the need for pension dashboards is increasing, as the average number of pension pots per person increases.
“It’s bitterly disappointing that the introduction of pensions dashboards is being delayed. Our research recently found only a third of people know what their pension is worth. It is also estimated that there are billions of pounds worth of lost pension pots out there, showing why this vital change is needed so consumers have all of their pension information in one place.
“The days of people spending their entire career with one employer and receiving one company pension are over. Instead, the average person will build up an average of 11 different pension pots in their lifetime.
“With the threat of losing so much money to dormant or unlocated pensions, the need for dashboards is greater than ever. The government must commit resources to get pensions dashboards back on track and set a clear timeline for implementation in order for millions of people to benefit from this crucial change.”
Lily Megson, policy director at retirement income specialist My Pension Expert, referenced a lack of confidence for retirement in the UK as she urges the government to consider enhancing support for those saving for retirement, as the wait time for a pensions dashboard increases.
“The government must ensure that consumers have the right financial support to help them achieve the financially secure retirement they deserve. After all, My Pension Expert’s research found that just 35 per cent of UK adults believe they will be able to retire when they want to.
“If the Pension Dashboard is facing indefinite delays, the government must ask itself what further support can be provided in the interim.
“One option could be ensuring all consumers are aware of independent financial advice, which can help them to better understand the state of their retirement finances and make informed decisions about their money.
“The PDP has the potential to transform pension engagement. I hope the government soon outlines when we can expect the new launch date. Until then, I implore ministers to ensure support for savers remains a top priority. Otherwise, we risk seeing the UK’s confidence in its financial future continuing to slip.”
Accepting it for what it is: getting the digital architecture right
Although new delays may be frustrating, many recognise the complex technical reasons behind them. Despite a clear urge for the government to clarify new deadlines, getting the technology “right” must take priority.
Alice Guy, personal finance editor at interactive investor, acknowledges the reasoning behind frustration but suggests that ensuring the dashboard meets all expectations is a must.
“This moving of the goalposts is frustrating for pensions providers as regulated firms need to meet mandated deadlines every year and deliver on time, it’s not possible for them to change the rules to give them more breathing space.
“Although the delay is disappointing, it’s important that the practicalities of the pensions dashboards project are worked through to make sure the new system is a success.
“We look forward to receiving more information on the new timetable in due course and will work constructively with the government to deliver this project effectively to our customers.”
Kris Elliott, head of implementation and technology at HR service provider Buck, explained why the delay isn’t necessarily all bad news.
“Today’s announcement from DWP on the delay in the delivery of Pensions Dashboards should be viewed as a sensible ‘reset’ in respect of the digital architecture ONLY, and some much-needed contingency in the project delivery overall.
“There is still much to do, so from a trustee perspective it should be very much business as usual. Continue working to ensure your scheme’s data is accurate, automation is in place, and your administrator is taking all necessary steps to ensure you are ‘dashboard ready’.
“Taking advantage of this time will pay dividends and enable schemes opportunities to improve the member experience, confidently meet new dashboards deadlines when they are communicated, and benefit other strategic projects as a byproduct.”
Steve Watson, director of policy and research at workplace pension and ISA provider Cushon, explained that while the development isn’t good news, it is important to recognise that the PDP needs to take time to ensure the final product works to support as many people as possible.
“Although this latest delay is disappointing, its delivery needs to be right. The Pensions Dashboard is a fundamental development.
“It also helps solve the small pots issue; seeing everything together is a driver for consolidation.
“Pension members want it to be easier to be able to consolidate all their pensions and although there are other issues such as perceived complexity and jargon to deal with, the dashboard is an important part of getting this right and so we need to have a new launch date confirmed as soon as possible.”
Nick Meredith, products director at insurance and investment software solution provider Equisoft, reflected on how a pause in proceedings could ensure that all parties are ready.
“It is not surprising that with a project of this complexity, there will be some delays.
“From Equisoft’s perspective, our Pension Fusion ISP product is robust and ready to re-connect and finalise testing, with 22 pension providers signed up, covering nearly six million members.
“On the plus side, when the programme recommences, this pause should mean that all sides will hopefully be ready to move ahead with a fully comprehensive and effective solution, which is good news for individuals and organisations with multiple pensions everywhere.”