Select Committee on Social Security Sixth Report


The Social Security Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



  1. The War Pensions Agency (WPA) was established as an Executive Agency of the Department of Social Security in 1994. The Agency's 958 staff administer the War Pensions Scheme for more than 320,000 war pensioners and widows both in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and in over one hundred countries throughout the world. It also provides welfare support through a local network of field-based case workers and it manages the Ilford Park Polish Home, a purpose built residential care and nursing home in Newton Abbot, Devon, established under the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947.[1] For our inquiry into the War Pensions Agency we took as a starting point the Business Plan for 1999-2000 which sets out the Agency's priorities and targets.[2] A number of ex-service organisations submitted memoranda which informed the public evidence session with Mr Gordon Hextall, Chief Executive of the War Pensions Agency, on 14 April 1999.

2. The majority of claims for war disablement pensions are made by ex-servicemen and are covered by The Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1983. The details of the scheme are outlined in the memorandum submitted by the War Pensions Agency.[3] Claims must be for a disabling condition which is due to service. The amount of war disablement pension payable depends on the assessed degree of disablement—up to a maximum of £412.95 per week (tax free). The level of a War Widow's Pension is dependent on the rank held by the husband, the date of discharge from service and the age of the widow—a typical pension is £162.05 per week (tax free). There is also provision for civilians injured by enemy action during World War Two to claim. Under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme a civilian may receive a pension for disablement or incapacity due to a war injury sustained between 3 September 1939 and 19 March 1946.[4] Total payments of war pensions and war widows' pensions administered by the Agency amounted to £1,285 million in the year to 31 March 1998. In addition the net cost of operations amounted to £41,741,000.[5]

3. Our inquiry is timely as two important reviews of the arrangements for war pensions are currently in progress. These reviews are considering both the administrative arrangements for war pensions and future policy on compensation for service personnel. The Prior Options Review is examining the available options for administering the war pensions scheme for the next five years.[6] A joint MOD/DSS review of compensation arrangements, announced in December 1997 but which has yet to be concluded, is considering the replacement of the existing scheme with a modern, fair and simplified scheme.[7] We await with interest the results of the Prior Options Review and the MOD/DSS joint review of compensation arrangements and we may return to the issues raised in this Report at a later date.

4. It is clear to us that the War Pensions Agency has an excellent relationship with the ex-service community and has a wealth of experience upon which the two reviews can and should draw. In their submissions a number of ex-service organisations praised the work of the staff at the War Pensions Agency. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) told us that the WPA "is efficient, understanding and caring."[8] The War Widows' Association of Great Britain expressed its "appreciation for the work done by the War Pensions Agency, recognising especially the dedication, enthusiasm and understanding of the staff both at Norcross and out in the regional offices of the War Pensioners' Welfare Service."[9] The high level of service provided by the Agency is demonstrated by the fact that it has been awarded the Charter Mark.[10] The staff of the War Pensions Agency should be congratulated for their professionalism and dedication.

1   Ev. p.1, para.1.1. Back

2   War Pensions Agency Business Plan 1999/2000. Back

3   see Ev. p.11, Annex D. Back

4   Personal Injuries (Civilian) Scheme 1983, SI 1983/686. Back

5   War Pensions Agency Annual Report and Accounts 1997/98, p.16. Back

6   Ev. p.4, para. 1.19, 1.20. Back

7   HC Deb 8 December 1997, cols 440-441w. Back

8   Appendix 1. Back

9   Appendix 2, para.2. Back

10   Ev. p,3, para. 1.11. Back

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Prepared 23 June 1999