Select Committee on Social Security Sixth Report


Prior Options Review

  16. As a Next Steps Agency, the War Pensions Agency is required to undertake a Prior Options Review of its Framework Agreement every three to five years. As the Agency was launched in 1994, it is currently subject to the first of these reviews to examine the available options for administering the war pensions scheme for the next five years. The results of this review will be announced in Autumn 1999 after Ministers have agreed the findings.[47] The role of the War Pensions Agency is to inform the review, which is being conducted independently within the DSS. The Chief Executive identified the key options that are likely to be addressed:

    "In the field we operate in the likelihood is that they will be considering whether we could be administered by the Ministry of Defence or by the Benefits Agency or continue as a separate Agency. I think they are probably likely to be the three front runners which would receive real consideration."[48]

17. The Prior Options Review is the source of some concern among the ex-service community. The National Association of Far East POW Clubs and Associations told us that they "have never known War Pensioners to be so worried about their future."[49] The consensus among the ex-service community is that significant changes in the administration of war pensions are not yet needed. BLESMA told us that "there is a very real need to retain the War Pensions Agency as a 'stand alone' body for the next five years."[50] The Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society told us that it would "be unwise to change the present arrangements under which the WPA operates in a period of anything less than 5 to 10 years."[51] The Burma Star Association considers that "it should be possible for War Pensions to remain as a separate Agency for some years despite the increasing reduction in workloads."[52] We believe that the War Pensions Agency should be retained as a 'stand alone' body for at least the next five years. Moreover, we consider it to be very important that ex-service organisations should be consulted fully in the course of the Prior Options Review.

18. One of the areas of the Agency's work which will be examined in the course of the Prior Options Review is the management of the Ilford Park Polish Home.[53] The Ilford Park Polish Home is a residential care and nursing home, managed by the Agency under the terms of the Polish Resettlement Act 1947. It has evolved into a residential care and nursing home for elderly Poles and has retained a strong sense of community and commitment to Polish values and traditions.[54] Over the course of the year 1998-99 the average occupancy rate in the Home has been 95 per cent. The War Pensions Agency's memorandum states that "this will be increasingly difficult to maintain in the long term because of the diminishing pool of potential residents and their increasing average age, which is now over eighty."[55] We recommend that consideration should be given to hiving off the administration of the Ilford Park Polish Home, while continuing to place priority on providing a high level of service to the residents of the Home and the community that it serves.

47   Ev. p.4, para. 1.19, 1.20. Back

48   Q 73. Back

49   Appendix 8. Back

50   Appendix 4, para. 4. Back

51   Appendix 3, para. 4. Back

52   Appendix 6, para. 4. Back

53   Ev. p.3, para. 1.16; Q74. Back

54   Ev. p.3, para. 1.15. Back

55   Ev. p.3, para. 1.16. Back

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Prepared 23 June 1999