What Can I Do?
If you have found our site because you or someone you know has lost the occupational pension they paid for, then you have found the right place, as many of the members Pensions Action Group found themselves in similar circumstances around the turn of the millennium, and we have been fighting ever since for the restoration of our rights. You are the victim of an injustice - that pension was yours and it has been taken from you. It's time to fight back!
First things first
The first thing you need to do is to get organised and informed:
- Keep all your documents. You would expect trustees to keep good records but we know of many instances where members would have lost some or all of their entitlement because the trustees had lost their information and the members were only able to get their proper payments because they had kept the letters and notifications that they had received from the trustees. Put them in order and keep them somewhere safe - they could easily be your most valuable possessions.
- Get a statement of entitlement. If you don't have a clear statement of entitlement from you scheme showing your years of service and expected pension, ask your trustees for one now.
- Get a copy of the scheme rules and latest annual report. These are likely to be bulky documents but there is no reason why the trustees should not send you electronic copies. You have a right to see them.
- Addresses. Make sure that the trustees have your current contact details on record.
- Check your state pension entitlement from the Government website (external link).
- More information. If you need more information than you can get from your trustees, try the Pensions Advice Service (external link) which is run by the Government and offers a free pension advice for all types of pensions and help to resolve disputes about work and personal pensions. The Citizens Advice Bureau (external link) is also a good source of information and advice.
- IFAs. Some people may try and steer you towards using an IFA (Independent Financial Advisor), but while that will result in impartial advice, it can be expensive. If you or your family have a trusted contact with the necessary expertise, then talk to them first about how you can make the best of your situation. Your bank/building society may also offer this service.
Once you have the basics organised and you have some understanding of your situation, you may well want to take some action to try and improve it. It is very hard to do that on your own, so you need to join together with others to make your voice heard. You may have to make a nuisance of yourselves to get your foot in the door and to get your story told, but in the end of the day if you want justice then you will have to work hard to get it - if you leave it for someone else to do then you may well just end up with very little.
Don't forget to check out our Links page where you will find lots of other useful sources of information and help.
- Make contact with your friends and colleagues from work so that you can pool ideas on how to move forward and to keep each others spirits up.
- If you have a workplace union, contact your rep and find out what they are doing to help the situation. Don't be afraid to make a nuisance of yourself if you have to, because the union has to order its priorities and those that are making the most noise tend to get the attention. Just remember that your rep is probably in the same position as you, so don't be too hard on him!
- Check to see whether there is already a campaigning group for your company. Try searching online for your company's name and 'pension'. If you find them, make contact and offer your support.
- If you don't have a union, or you are not happy with what they are doing, and there's no group, then it's time to take matters into your own hands. Get together with your workmates and form your own group. All you need to do is to think of a name and establish a means of communication, like an email group (PAG uses Yahoo groups, but there are many options).
- One of the problems, once a company closes, is how to contact other ex-employees to let them know about your new group. The new independent trustee will have a full list, but he can't share it with you because of data protection laws. However, if you ask him nicely, he may be prepared to add a note to his next communication to scheme members which mentions your group and gives a contact point. Remember that the trustee during the wind-up phase is on your side - his job is to extract as much money as possible from the insolvency on your behalf. If you are having problems, let us know and we will try to help through our contacts and by putting a notice on this site.
- If anyone in your new group has web building experience, then get them to put up a simple website for the group. Or learn how to do it yourself - there are many free online tutorials and it doesn't have to be complex. A single page with the details of the group, the name of the scheme and the company involved and a contact address are all you need. The search engines will find it, and then anyone from your scheme who is searching for help online will be able to find you.
- Put the word out about your group. Here at PAG we would be happy to add a link from this site, which would make it easier for people to find you, and other groups would do the same.
- Join PAG! Joining is easy, just subscribe to our email group. There are no costs, and you can leave at any time. We have all been through the same experience as you, and we have been fighting our corner since 2003, so we have a wealth of experience on the ins and outs of pensions and on how to campaign effectively. It was, in part, because of our campaigning that the FAS and PPF were established in the first place. We focus on members of FAS schemes, but are happy to help PPF members as well if we can. Joining is easy: just send a blank email to email@example.com. Leaving is easy too: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Talk to your MP. Tell him about your situation and enlist his help. If you can organise a meeting with him with lots of his constituents, that will be more effective than meeting individually, but he should be prepared to help.
- Write to the Minister for Pensions. There's a trick to this. If you just write a letter, it will get answered by civil servants and he is unlikely ever to see it. However if you send the letter to your MP and ask him to forward it, your MP has to do it and, because it comes from an MP, the minister has to respond personally. Now, he may get civil servants to draft a reply for him, but it goes out with his signature, so it would be a brave minister who signed such a reply without reading it and your original letter. So, by doing it this way, you will get a considered reply from the minister himself. And you can write follow-ups in the same way!
- If you are not getting information from the company, trustees or government departments, try using the Freedom of Information Act. It's very easy, all you have to do is put your request in writing, be very specific about what information you want, and cite the 'Freedom of Information Act 2000'. Not all information must be disclosed under the Act and there are some exemptions but, if you are hitting a brick wall, then a request under the act will often do the trick. It is an offence to refuse to give information, or to withhold information which falls within the scope of the request, and they have a limited period in which to respond. There is a good Wikipedia article (external link) on the act, its application and exemptions.
- If you believe that your pension loss is a result of rules having been broken, then there are agencies which can help. The Pensions Ombudsman (external link) regulates the pensions industry and can enforce fair play. They have legal powers to settle complaints and disputes. Their service is free, fair and impartial. If you feel that the Government or Government agencies are at fault, there is the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (external link), who can adjudicate on disputes.