PPF to conclude Mothercare pension assessment 'on or around' 11 December

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) will complete its assessment of the Mothercare pension schemes "on or around" 11 December as the firm aims to avoid entering the pension lifeboat.

Speaking at the inaugural Pensions Age DB de-risking conference, held in association with Just, PPF panel manager, Helen Beckinsale, confirmed that the scheme is still hoping to avoid entering the lifeboat, despite currently being sat in PPF assessment.

Beckinsale confirmed that the PPF had been working with the trustees of the scheme quite closely since Mothercare’s company voluntary arrangement proposals in 2018, working to "make sure they are ready, and their members are ready, if indeed the unfortunate event happens".

Mothercare confirmed in November that they were holding talks with their pension trustees, hoping for the almost 6,000 members of the scheme to be shifted from the UK subsidiary to its parent business.

In its most recent actuarial valuation in 2017, the pensions schemes posted a deficit of £139m.

Commenting on the talks and potential funding plan, Lincoln Pensions managing director, Dan Mindel, said: “For Mothercare, the situation has been brewing for some time and so all of the trustees’ contingency planning work will be coming into play.”

At last week’s conference, Project de-risk: The DB journey planning summit, Beckinsale also commented on the contingency planning trustees of the scheme had undertaken to ensure member benefits would be protected, in particular addressing the issues associated with having an in-house payroll team.

Beckinsale commented: “We talked about the potential risks of an insolvency event and what that would mean for their members.

"What Mothercare did in the first instance, after the first CVA, was they decided to set up a standalone payroll with a third party administrator (TPA) outside of their own company payroll.”

Beckinsale explained that by bringing in a TPA and holding a reserve of funds, the trustees were able to ensure that members benefits would be safe for a period of up to three months.

This follows the news that the Thomas Cook pension scheme is also expected to avoid entering the PPF as it’s estimated that it has enough assets to provide benefits to its members in excess of PPF levels.

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