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PSPS benefit and savings statement breaches

FOI reference - FOI-3304

Date - 2 October 2018

Request

[1] In respect of the requirement to provide members of Public Service Pension Schemes (PSPS) with information in respect of:

  • Accrued pension amounts (through a benefit statement), and
  • Pension Input Amounts (through a savings statement);

I should be grateful if you would provide details of which public service pension schemes have reported a breach of this requirement to The Pensions Regulator (TPR). If possible, this should apply to each scheme year from 2014/15 onwards.

[2] In respect of any breaches, and if TPR holds this information, please could you outline how many members of each reporting scheme have not received relevant information in accordance with statutory timescales?

[3] Furthermore in respect of any breaches, can you outline details of what remedial action has been either suggested by TPR, or offered by the reporting scheme administrators in question?

Response

I can confirm that we hold some of the information falling within scope of your request. However, we are unable to supply some of the information requested for the reason set out below.

Please also be aware that TPR groups breaches of the requirement to issue saving and benefit statements under the category annual benefit statements (ABS).

Information we are able to supply

Details of which public service pension schemes reported a breach of the requirement to issue ABS is exempt as it constitutes restricted information (see below). However, we can provide the number of public service schemes which reported a breach, as well as the approximate number of members affected by the breach.

Year[1] 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 (up to 2 October 2018)
Number of schemes which reported breaches of law in respect of annual benefit statements in the year (x) 59 33 6
Total number of members affected by a breach of requirement to issue annual benefit statements in the year (x) 188,923 284,024 11,004[2]

[1] Each period runs from 1 September to 31 August each year. This is in line with the deadline for issuing ABS' to members.
[2] This figure is only for five schemes. The sixth is currently compiling the membership data.

We are unable to provide data for 2014/15 or 2015/16 as we do not hold the information. This is because the requirement to report for public service schemes did not come into effect until the year 2016/17. 

Interpretation of Data

Our code of practice 01: reporting breaches of law explains the framework for reporting to TPR. Schemes need not report every breach of law to TPR: they must consider if a breach has occurred and if it is materially significant to TPR. As such, these figures should not be interpreted as an accurate measure of how many public service schemes have breached the requirements to issue ABS' in total.

You should also be aware that because of the proximity to the end of year – 31 August 2018 for the year 2018/19 - the information for this year is not complete and is not a true reflection of ABS breaches.

Additionally, the number of members affected by the breach will be an approximation provided by schemes when making a breach of law report. As such, the true figure may vary.

Information we are not able to supply

Section 44(1)(a) – restricted information under s82 of the Pensions Act 2004 (PA04).

Restricted information is defined at section 82(4) of the PA04 as:

'information obtained by the Regulator in the exercise of its functions which relates to the business or other affairs of any person'.

Under section 82(5) of the PA04 it is a criminal offence to disclose such information except as permitted under that Act.

Whilst the Freedom of information Act (FoIA) is based on the presumption of releasing information, section 44(1)(a) of the FoIA provides an absolute exemption from the requirement to disclose information if its disclosure is prohibited by or under any enactment. In this case, section 82 of the PA04 prohibits disclosure and we are unable to disclose the requested information. This exemption is absolute and does not require a public interest assessment be undertaken.

Regarding 'which public service pension schemes' reported breaches of the requirement to issue [1], any specific details of breaches leading to the identification of schemes risks disclosure of information obtained in the course of the exercise of our functions and which relates to the business or other affairs of any person, in this case the trustees and providers of the pension schemes involved.

Further to the above, we are unable to provide a case by case breakdown of the remedial action taken [3] as this may lead to the identification of the scheme. This would reveal restricted information and therefore becomes restricted information itself. In general we would expect schemes that are breaching the requirement to put measures in place to achieve compliance; with possible enforcement action following a failure to do so.

Advice and Guidance

We have published research into the governance and administration of public service pension schemes. This includes information about member communications, such as annual benefit statements, and details our approach to non compliance. You can find that research in our Research and Analysis section.