07 January 2011
This response to the Consultation document on Early Access to Pension Savings is made on behalf of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA).
NIPSA is Northern Ireland’s largest trade union representing approximately 46,000 members of which:
Circa 21,000 are members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (NI);
Circa 15,000 are members of the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Scheme (NILGOSC); and
Circa 9,000 are members of the Health and Personal Social Services Pension Scheme Northern Ireland.
In addition to the 45,000 active members of the above schemes NIPSA also represents the interests of Retired members and deferred members of the Schemes.
NIPSA opposed the move from age 50 to 55 as the normal minimum age at which pensions can be drawn. NIPSA supported the principle of the flexible decade of retirement, providing individuals with the right to choose their retirement age on the basis of 5 years +/- the normal pension age for the particular pension scheme. In addition NIPSA opposed the limitations on the application of the 85 year rule for the LGPS and the Northern Ireland equivalent scheme NILGOSC.
NIPSA considers there to be some merit therefore within the principles of the proposals for early access to Pension savings. It is questionable however as to what impact early access would have on pension uptake. NIPSA considers that the issue can be better addressed by proper provision of fair and equitable occupational pensions (see the NIPSA submission to the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission lead by Lord Hutton). In addition NIPSA fully supports auto enrolment.
Should any firm proposals emerge there would have to be equitable access to early release and therefore access in Defined Benefit Schemes must be provided for. A failure to do so would mainly discriminate against public servants, given they represent the vast majority of current members of defined benefit schemes.
The Government’s consultation document can be referenced for evidence on early access to pension savings.
Assistant General Secretary