Thousands miss out on lost pensions worth €500m
THERE has been a surge in people contacting the pensions ombudsman as up to €500m is sitting in "lost" accounts.
Ombudsman Paul Kenny said thousands of people who moved jobs years ago are now finding it difficult to trace their retirement benefits.
"I think there are probably thousands of people out there who have pensions that they cannot find," he said.
Problems locating lost retirement funds can be due to companies going out of business, but failing to shut down the pension fund.
Or perhaps the company that sponsored the pension has since been taken over, he said.
People who have moved jobs a number of times and those who have worked abroad may have misplaced pensions.
"We know that pension providers have numbers – possibly thousands – of orphan schemes on their books, that should have been wound up, but were not," he said.
Mr Kenny was unable to say what the value of lost pensions was, but Jerry Moriarty of the Irish Association of Pension Funds estimated that up to €500m worth of pensions remain unclaimed.
Both the pensions Ombudsman and Mr Moriarty called for the setting up of a national tracing service to reunite workers with their old pensions.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who has responsibility for pensions policy, said this issue was being considered by her office.
Workers also need to take responsibility for tracking down and working what they are entitled to when they leave work, Mr Kenny said.
"While a national pension tracing service would help, individual scheme members need to take responsibility for their own pension entitlements as well – for example, by simply advising pension trustees when they change their home address," Mr Kenny said.
His office was increasingly engaged with pension providers, trustees and administrators trying to find missing pensions.
"In quite a few cases we have succeeded in finding lost benefits," Mr Kenny said at the launch of his office's 2013 annual report.
Meanwhile, Ms Burton admitted that the Government had no timeframe in place to introduce a new auto-enrolment pension scheme, where all of those who are not in an occupational fund would be automatically enrolled into one.
But she said: "We committed to reforming the pension system to progressively achieve universal coverage, with particular focus on lower-paid workers without occupational pensions."
She said a group was working in her department on the new scheme.
Ms Burton said recently she will announce shortly the development of a blueprint for the proposed scheme – essentially a White Paper – with detailed costed proposals for decision by Government.