Select Committee on Defence Third Report


141. A key consideration for introducing new pension and compensation schemes, whatever the final provisions are, is that adequate information is provided to Armed Forces personnel. New members of the Armed Forces will automatically join the new schemes.

142. On pensions, serving personnel will be given the option to transfer into the new scheme or remain in the current scheme and they should be provided with sufficiently detailed information to enable individuals to decide what is best for them. The Forces Pension Society's view was that—

... the employer has an absolute responsibility to inform his people better than the MoD does now—the MoD's efforts to inform its people now are, frankly, pretty weak. [244]

The Minister acknowledged that current information could be improved and was 'a bit out of date'.[245] We regard this as an understatement. Compared with what is available elsewhere, the scheme booklet currently provided to Service personnel is turgid and unappealing and is unlikely to be readily understood by the majority of recruits.

143. The Minister assured us that steps would be taken to ensure Service personnel were properly informed about the new pension arrangements—

.... to help them make them an informed decision we will provide all the information required and in a form that is understandable. This communication challenge is no less important for the proposed new compensation arrangements.[246]

The intention is to use written material and information on the internet to inform Service personnel. Individuals will be provided with personal projections on their entitlement under the new and existing schemes. The MoD cannot recommend a particular course of action for an individual. That is the role of an independent financial adviser.[247] Equally, the Forces Pension Society intends to provide information to its members but is not in a position to give independent financial advice.[248]

144. The arrangements which the Civil Service have put in place for the transition to a new pension scheme provide an example of the steps which can be taken to ensure employees are properly informed. A leaflet announcing the new scheme and setting out its key features was issued to all civil service staff in the summer of 2000. A letter from the Head of the Civil Service to staff was circulated in the summer of 2001, informing them that they would have a choice of schemes. This was followed by the circulation of four factsheets providing information to prepare employees to choose whether to remain in the present scheme, transfer to the new one, or a combination of both. Between January 2002 and March 2003, all existing pension scheme members will receive personal projections, a booklet entitled Understanding Your Choices, and a workbook to take them through the decision-making process. Video and internet material is also available. Employees will have about two months to make a decision.

145. On the compensation scheme, injuries and illnesses arising from incidents which occur after the new provisions come into effect will be dealt with under the new arrangements. Awareness amongst Service personnel of their current entitlement is not high. The Royal British Legion told us that information provided to those who are medically discharged, about 1,700 people a year, is 'quite good'.[249] The weakness lies in the more general information which is provided to those who leave the Services in the normal way, but who might later need to claim for an injury or illness. One of the problems is that recruits are provided with a great deal of information when they join up, but what they receive on injuries and compensation probably seems quite irrelevant to a young, healthy person beginning their military career.[250]

146. One of the aims of the compensation review was to produce a less complex system. We do not believe that the current proposals have achieved this. There remains a variety of different payments which make up the total to which an individual is entitled; to the layman, the proposed new system is likely to appear complicated and individuals may be deterred from claiming what they are entitled to. This is clearly an area where the MoD must act as a responsible employer and promote the interests of the young people it recruits. Information on compensation arrangements needs to be provided at an appropriate time and in a readily understandable form. The War Pensions Agency leaflets setting out entitlement seem admirably clear (and have been approved by the Plain English Campaign) and the MoD could usefully draw on the War Pensions (now Veterans') Agency's experience.

147. The MoD plans to introduce new computer systems to administer the new pension and compensation schemes. We recommend that they take the opportunity this provides to adopt best practice and set up user-friendly, interactive websites to help Service personnel understand what benefits they may be entitled to, and to assist them through the process of claiming. This should supplement the more traditional methods of providing information, in the form of accessible and readable leaflets, made available at an appropriate time, and which indicate where further, more detailed information can be obtained.


244   Q 96  Back

245   Q 170 Back

246   Q 127 Back

247   Q 170 Back

248   Q 98 Back

249   Q 6; HC Deb, 15 April 2002, c 709w Back

250   Q 6 Back

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