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Digital skills shortage contributed to delays in flagship pensions dashboards programme

Capacity and capability issues, including a lack of digital skills and ineffective governance, have contributed to delays to government’s Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP), according to a new National Audit Office (NAO) report.1

  • Estimated 16.3 million people will use pensions dashboards.
  • Pension providers and schemes required to connect to government digital architecture that supports dashboards by 31 October 2026 – one year later than planned.
  • Range of factors, including rise in supplier costs and delivery timetable being extended by two years, have increased programme’s estimated cost by 23%.

Pensions dashboards will enable people to view information about their private, workplace and state pensions online, securely and in one place. DWP expects these dashboards to deliver significant benefits by helping people to plan better for retirement, make more informed financial decisions and connect with ‘lost’ pension pots.2,3

The PDP is one of the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)’s flagship programmes and forms part of the Government Major Projects Portfolio.

Its aim is to design and implement the digital architecture needed to make government and private sector pensions dashboards work across the UK.

In 2019, DWP delegated responsibility for delivering the PDP to one of its arm’s-length bodies, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). However, it did not have assurance at the outset that MaPS – which was formed in October 2018 – had the capacity and capability to deliver a major digital programme such as the PDP.4

Between 2020 and mid-2022, DWP and MaPS made progress in delivering important elements of the pensions dashboards system. However, in December 2022, MaPS informed DWP that the PDP’s delivery timetable was no longer viable.5

A subsequent review carried out by DWP in February 2023 found that multiple factors had contributed to the delivery problems, including a lack of skilled digital resources and ineffective programme governance. These factors had also been raised in earlier reviews of the programme carried out by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

This delay led to a programme reset and a revised final connection deadline of 31 October 2026 – one year later than what was outlined in the original timetable.6,7

DWP has yet to specify when pensions dashboards will become available to the estimated 16.3 million users who could stand to benefit.8 However, due to the delay, this is likely to be later than previously expected.

The estimated cost of the PDP has also increased by 23%, from £235 million in 2020 to £289 million in 2023, while the estimated gross benefits have fallen from £437 million in 2022 to £413 million in 2023.9,10

The PDP is currently being reset. DWP and MaPS have made progress in some areas including revising the PDP’s delivery plan, reviewing the digital architecture to ensure it meets requirements, and appointing a new senior responsible owner with the necessary digital technology experience to lead the rest of the programme. DWP and MaPS expect to consider in May 2024 whether the PDP is ready to leave reset. DWP and MaPS have also started to make changes in response to lessons learned from the experience, revising programme governance arrangements and strengthening how DWP works with its arm’s-length bodies.

“Once completed, the PDP could benefit millions of people by providing a secure, comprehensive and online point of access for information about their pensions.

“However, delivery delays due to shortfalls in digital capacity and capability have pushed back the final deadline for pension providers and schemes to connect to the PDP by a year, with no date currently set for citizens to benefit.

“Though progress has been made during the reset, DWP and MaPS must continue to work closely to ensure the final stages of the PDP are delivered smoothly and the public can begin to have access to this important service.”

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO

Read the full report : Investigation into the Pensions Dashboards Programme

Notes for editors

  1. In summer 2023, the NAO received parliamentary correspondence requesting that it consider investigating the delays in the delivery of the PDP. In autumn 2023, after reviewing documents and discussing the programme with DWP officials, the NAO decided there would be value in undertaking an investigation into the delivery of the PDP, focusing on events since 2019 when DWP decided to delegate responsibility to MaPS. A separate programme, which sits alongside the PDP, is responsible for delivering the user interface for the government dashboard through which users will be able to access their pensions information. The report does not cover this programme.
  2. In 2022, the Pensions Policy Institute, an independent research organisation, estimated that over 2.8 million pension pots, worth a total of £26.6 billion, were considered lost.
  3. In March 2024, analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of PensionBee estimated that, on average, 18-year-olds will accumulate five pension pots by the age of 68.
  4. MaPS was initially called the Single Financial Guidance Body, which was formed in October 2018 and took on the responsibilities of three previous bodies – the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. It was renamed MaPS in April 2019.
  5. Deadlines for connecting to the PDP’s digital architecture were initially staggered, depending on the pension scheme’s size and type, with the first deadline set for 31 August 2023 and the last set for 31 October 2025.
  6. In March 2023, the then-Pensions Minister announced that the PDP would be reset to allow extra time for delivery. In June 2023, she subsequently laid amending regulations that replaced the staggered timeline with a single mandatory connection deadline of 31 October 2026.
  7. In March 2024, DWP published a staggered timetable, for guidance only, to mitigate the risk that all providers choose to connect close to the mandatory deadline of 31 October 2026, which could create capacity challenges for the PDP: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pensions-dashboards-guidance-on-connection-the-staged-timetable/pensions-dashboards-guidance-on-connection-the-staged-timetable#the-staged-timetable-for-connection
  8. Informed by quantitative research carried out by Ipsos MORI in 2021-22.
  9. Although users will not have to pay to access dashboards, MaPS calculated the benefits using an estimate of the average price a user would be willing to pay annually for a pensions dashboard (informed by research carried out by Ipsos MORI) and the estimated value of recovered pension pots.
  10. Estimated costs cover 2019-20 to 2031-32 and are in cash terms. Estimated gross benefits cover 2022-23 to 2031-32 and are discounted.
Channel website: https://www.nao.org.uk/

Original article link: https://www.nao.org.uk/press-releases/digital-skills-shortage-contributed-to-delays-in-flagship-pensions-dashboards-programme/

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