FINANCE NEWS: Charity pensions head for crisis

MATHEW LITTLE

Voluntary organisations are following the private sector in restricting or closing their final salary pension schemes.

It means that new employees looking for their nest egg will be at the mercy of the vagaries of money purchase schemes, which depend on the state of the annuities market when they retire.

Age Concern England has closed its final salary scheme to new employees because it claims that spiralling costs are taking resources away from campaigning and fundraising.

According to an Age Concern spokesman, a number of factors such as increased tax on pension funds, the stock market decline and new accounting requirements - which force employers to include deficits incurred by pension funds - combined to make the final salary scheme untenable.

Age Concern made the decision to restrict its final salary scheme in October but only went public last month to maintain transparency in the midst of a public campaign on "fair pensions for all".

Its announcement follows Save the Children's decision in January to limit its final salary scheme to existing employees only. The decision was the culmination of a year-long review that concluded the financial risk in continuing to run the scheme was too great.

Age Concern's finance director Nick Kavanagh said the minimum funding requirements detailed in recent legislation meant the charity faced sudden increases in pension payments and decided that the final salary scheme posed too big a financial risk.

New employees will be offered a money purchase scheme, which Age Concern will launch in the next few weeks.

Oxfam still operates a final salary scheme but has embarked on a strategic review of its pensions policy, and the Church of England has launched a consultation with its dioceses on the future of its pension scheme.

The church is consulting all of its dioceses with a view to adopting a money purchase scheme. Retired clergy currently receive two-thirds of the national stipend paid to existing employees. But with a pay review recommending an increase of 20 per cent in the stipend, pension costs may become prohibitive, the church said.

The options in the consultation are a defined benefit scheme, a money purchase or a hybrid of both. The review ends in June and a decision is expected to be made by November.

PENSIONS

- Age Concern's final salary pension is split 5 and 16.5 per cent between employee and charity

- Age Concern's contribution to the new money purchase scheme is 8.6 per cent.

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