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Poor pensioners falling through DWP data holes

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Gaps in information are hindering the Department for Work and Pensions' efforts to help pensioners who live in poverty.

The department's latest performance report (pdf) says that it does not have sufficient information about the circumstances of all individual pensioners to identify their entitlement to benefits.

Although the Pension Service is using data matching and sharing information between agencies, it does not include people outside the benefits system.

New approaches to reach these people will be needed, says the report. These include outreach through trusted service providers and local voluntary groups, as well as more cooperation with health professionals.

"The best strategy will vary between areas and the department should encourage discretion to develop imaginative ideas which fit local needs," says the report, published on 18 December 2008.

The report also finds that little progress has been made getting pension trustees to use online training. Only 15 per cent of pensions trustees are registered on the Pensions Regulator's trustee web-based training toolkit and most do not complete all the modules. In an effort to increase take-up of the toolkit and guidance materials, a database of pensions schemes should be used to identify trustees who have not yet completed the toolkit, it says.

The department, which is one of the largest users of IT in government, had better news on its work to improve efficiency, having exceeded all its Spending Review 2004 efficiency targets. By March 2008 total financial efficiencies were about £1.4bn, exceeding the target by more than £480m.

Net headcount reduction by March 2008 was 31,101, also in excess of the target, while the relocation target of 4,000 was met by December 2007, more than two years before the date set by the Lyons review.

"The over achievement of the efficiency targets, delivered while the department was going through a significant modernisation programme and change, put the department in a sound position to start the next Spending Review period," says the report.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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