Capacity and capability issues contributing to pensions dashboards programme delays: NAO

A range of factors, including rise in supplier costs and delivery timetable being extended by two years, have increased the programme’s estimated cost by 23%.

Related topics:  Later Life,  Pensions dashboard
Rozi Jones | Editor, Barcadia Media Limited
10th May 2024
time fast slow deadline
"Delivery delays due to shortfalls in digital capacity and capability have pushed back the final deadline for pension providers and schemes to connect to the PDP by a year"
- Gareth Davies, head of the NAO

Capacity and capability issues, including a lack of digital skills and ineffective governance, have contributed to delays to the government’s Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP), according to a new National Audit Office (NAO) report.

Pensions dashboards will enable people to view information about their private, workplace and state pensions online, securely and in one place. DWP expects these dashboards to deliver significant benefits by helping people to plan better for retirement, make more informed financial decisions and connect with ‘lost’ pension pots.

The PDP is one of the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)’s flagship programmes. Its aim is to design and implement the digital architecture needed to make government and private sector pensions dashboards work across the UK.

In 2019, DWP delegated responsibility for delivering the PDP to one of its arm’s-length bodies, the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). However, the NAO says DWP did not have assurance at the outset that MaPS – which was formed in October 2018 – had the capacity and capability to deliver a major digital programme such as the PDP.

Between 2020 and mid-2022, DWP and MaPS made progress in delivering important elements of the pensions dashboards system. However, in December 2022, MaPS informed DWP that the PDP’s delivery timetable was no longer viable.

A subsequent review carried out by DWP in February 2023 found that multiple factors had contributed to the delivery problems, including a lack of skilled digital resources and ineffective programme governance. These factors had also been raised in earlier reviews of the programme carried out by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

This delay led to a programme reset and a revised final connection deadline of 31 October 2026 – one year later than what was outlined in the original timetable.

DWP has yet to specify when pensions dashboards will become available to the estimated 16.3 million users who could stand to benefit. However, due to the delay, the NAO believes this is likely to be later than previously expected.

The estimated cost of the PDP has also increased by 23%, from £235 million in 2020 to £289 million in 2023, while the estimated gross benefits have fallen from £437 million in 2022 to £413 million in 2023.

The PDP is currently being reset. DWP and MaPS have made progress in some areas including revising the PDP’s delivery plan, reviewing the digital architecture to ensure it meets requirements, and appointing a new senior responsible owner with the necessary digital technology experience to lead the rest of the programme. DWP and MaPS expect to consider in May 2024 whether the PDP is ready to leave reset.

DWP and MaPS have also started to make changes in response to lessons learned from the experience, revising programme governance arrangements and strengthening how DWP works with its arm’s-length bodies.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “Once completed, the PDP could benefit millions of people by providing a secure, comprehensive and online point of access for information about their pensions.

“However, delivery delays due to shortfalls in digital capacity and capability have pushed back the final deadline for pension providers and schemes to connect to the PDP by a year, with no date currently set for citizens to benefit.

“Though progress has been made during the reset, DWP and MaPS must continue to work closely to ensure the final stages of the PDP are delivered smoothly and the public can begin to have access to this important service.”

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