Three things Dispatches missed in its report on pensions

Channel 4's Dispatches last night took a look at the government's reforms to the pensions system. But what did they miss?

Last night I joined much of the pensions industry (and hopefully a good chunk of the general public) in watching Dispatches’ programme on the Chancellor’s pension reforms. Presented by wannabe King of the Jungle Michael Buerk it dissected the impact of the reforms and looked at people’s choices upon hitting retirement.

Or did it?

Dispatches is a 24 minute programme, which means it can’t cover everything in detail about a complex issue like this. But having viewed I came away thinking this was a missed opportunity.

Yes it was only 24 minutes long, but would it not have been better to spend at least some of that time examining the following, rather than spending the whole programme bashing annuity providers, exposing fake investment schemes and filming Michael Buerk cruising around in expensive vehicles:

  1. The Guidance Guarantee: There was barely a mention of the Government’s pledge to offer guidance and certainly no scrutiny of what this will entail and what consumers should aim to get out of it. Maybe that’s because there is so little clarity on it yet, but if you’re interviewing the Pensions Minister on the programme why not ask him.
  2. Income Drawdown: The program focused much of its attention on the old solution (annuities) and nothing at all on the new drawdown products that consumers will be offered. They will be unfamiliar and complex, yet nothing was done to examine this.
  3. Levels of income in retirement: We got 2 minutes on this right at the end of the programme, thanks to one interview with a retiree living solely on the state pension. Forget the potential to spend the money any way you want, more important remains the fact that many people won’t have enough money in the first place. There was no attempt to communicate on the costs of retirement or on the cost of later life care. And arguably the core issue that the average pension pot is only £30,000 was trivialised by shots of Michael Buerk buying wine and holidays.

 Dispatches is a consumer protection and awareness program. Its duty is to inform and protect the public against potential scams and highlight issues to be aware of. Last night’s program did that, but it could have done so much more.


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