Disbanding TPAS volunteer army contrary to ‘Big Society’ – McLean

Getting rid of the band of volunteers that support the Pension Advisory Service would run contrary to the Conservative Party’s promotion of the ’Big Society’ says former chief executive Malcolm McLean.

McLean says he can see how the objectives of TPAS could be taken on by other bodies, were it to be abolished, but he has questioned the wisdom of getting rid of such a rich source of advice on pensions when auto-enrolment and Nest are set to make demand for that advice higher than ever.

The fate of TPAS in the Government’s cull of quangos remains in question after a leaked Cabinet Office letter containing a list of non-governmental offices to be axed says its future is still to be decided.

McLean, now a consultant at Barnett Waddingham says: “It was perhaps inevitable in the present climate that questions would be raised about TPAS’s role and its continuance as a separate, free-standing pensions body.

“Despite its history and strong record of achievement over many years, I suspect if push came to shove most if not all of TPAS’s activities in pension dispute cases could in reality be taken on by the Pensions Ombudsman’s office without undue difficulty – in fact often producing a speedier outcome to the case in consequence. Similarly, there are now a number of other organisations, such as Moneymadeclear, who might be capable of subsuming TPAS’s hitherto unchallenged impartial information and guidance function.

“Whether any or all of that would be sensible or desirable in the best interests of the pension consumer is a moot point. With auto-enrolment and Nest on the horizon this is going to be a critical period for pension planning and advice and any diminution of the service available should be avoided at all costs.

“My other concern would be in relation to the future of TPAS’s army of unpaid volunteer professional advisers. If TPAS were to be disbanded what would happen to them? Surely if the Government is serious about its concept of the Big Society a continuing role for them must be found as part of the solution”.