Select Committee on Public Accounts Fifth Report



In March 2000 the Secretary of State for Social Security announced the Government's decision to set up a preserved rights scheme (to be known as the Inherited SERPS Scheme) for individuals who had taken inappropriate action as a result of being misled by the Department. He also announced that the implementation of the change in inherited SERPS would be deferred for two and a half years - until October 2002. This was to allow time for applications under the scheme to be considered and processed before the change in the inheritance arrangements. The scheme would have required regulations to be introduced under section 52 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999, and would have been debated in both Houses of Parliament. The Department stated that details of the scheme and its operation would be subject to consultation with interested parties, both internal and external. They intended that a private sector contractor should operate the scheme, in the absence of spare resources within the Benefits Agency. This would have been the Department's first experience of using a private sector partner to administer and decide on entitlement.

The Department announced that the scheme was to have had the following key features:

  • it would be brought to the attention of those affected through a national publicity campaign;

  • a helpline would be opened immediately to provide information about the scheme;

  • eligibility criteria would include people who:

        were married;

        had paid National Insurance contributions since 1978;

        were misinformed after 1986;

        could demonstrate they acted on incorrect or incomplete information received from a government department to their detriment.

  • Individuals would apply to have their rights to full inheritance of SERPS preserved, rather than receive any payment.

  • Those seeking preservation of their rights would complete an application form, which would ask for information about how they received advice or information about inherited SERPS, when and from whom. The form would also ask for details of what action they took.

  • Decisions would be made on the basis of information given on the application form. The lack of supporting documentary evidence would not mean that the application would fail.

  • Applicants would be able to seek a review of the original decision, and appeal to an independent tribunal in the same way as benefit claimants.[34]

34   C&AG's Report (HC 320 (1999-2000)) paras 2.19-2.20 Back

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