DWP launches consultation on dashboards availability point

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a consultation seeking further views on the dashboards available point (DAP), and on the disclosure of information between the Money and Pensions Service (Maps) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

The DWP previously ran a consultation on the draft pensions dashboards regulations, which outline the requirements pensions dashboards and their providers, and the trustees and managers of relevant occupational pension schemes, will need to meet.

Feedback from this initial consultation argued that the DAP should be "carefully selected" and agreed on by DWP, Maps, TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), with particular concerns raised that the availability of the state pension data could be the determining factor in when the DAP is.

In light of this, the DWP's latest consultation, which closes on 19 July, has proposed including a provision on the DAP within the regulations, which would require the Secretary of State to issue a notice on when the DAP will be on the government website.

In deciding the date for the DAP, according to the consultation, the Secretary of State “must be satisfied that the dashboard ecosystem is ready to support the widespread use of qualifying pensions dashboard services”, including consulting with Maps, TPR and the FCA, and considering matters such as security and conformance testing.

The formal announcement by the Secretary of State would be a "final confirmation", although DWP has committed to working transparently with Maps and the broader industry to provide updates on plans for the DAP "well in advance" of this formal notice.

"There will be significant communications between the government, Maps, and industry in the lead up to any announcement and so at the point at which the DAP is announced, it should not come as a surprise," the consultation stated.

Indeed, the DWP also acknowledged the need for the notice period, the time between the issuing of the final confirmation and the DAP itself, to "strike the right balance", suggesting that a period of three months or 90 days would be "sufficient".

The consultation is also seeking views on the sharing of information between Maps and TPR, with a new draft provision that looks to establish a "clear power" to expressly enable MaPs to disclose information to TPR in relation to pensions dashboard services to support their work specifically in the context of the pensions dashboards regulations.

Alongside this, the DWP confirmed that it intends to introduce an order to the Pensions Act 2004 to enable the regulator to share restricted information with Maps in respect of Maps dashboards functions.

However, industry experts have already raised concerns around the latest proposals, as LCP partner, Steve Webb, warned that the DWP “is missing the point with this consultation”.

In particular, Webb warned that the latest consultation "ignores" whether there should be a 'big bang' switch-on of dashboards at all, arguing that 90 days' notice may not be sufficient time to put in place the surge capacity needed to deal with member queries.

He stated: "If the whole project goes live on a single day there could be a huge spike in demand, especially if the launch attracts widespread media attention.

"Pension schemes may face real challenges in dealing with all the follow-up queries and engagement from members. A phased approach, perhaps by age, would be much more sensible, allowing the whole system to bed in and proper plans to be made.

"As things stand, schemes may have just 90 days’ notice of a major call on their resources, and may find it very difficult to put in place the surge capacity to provide a positive user experience”.

Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, also suggested that the 90-day notice may not give the pensions industry time to gear-up for any early surge in member queries, explaining that some schemes and providers will be more ready then others.

"There needs to be more join-up to understand how this will work," she stated. “We want the public to have a good experience of dashboards from day one, not having to queue virtually to use it if they are caught in a log jam.

"This could lead to disengagement with some simply giving up or not returning.

"A longer lead in, say of six months, along with a government and industry-wide promotion campaign is needed to ensure the dashboard ecosystem doesn’t fall over. This needs to be the priority after all the effort which has gone into building dashboards – to be successful the delivery needs to work for all.”

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