Barnardo's wins praise for pension policy plan

Measures taken by Barnardo's to repair a £45m hole in its pension fund have been hailed as exemplary by the professional body representing the employer-sponsored pensions movement.

The charity's £230m final-salary pension scheme, which links pension pay-outs to employees' final salary prior to retirement, was floored by last year's stock market fall (Third Sector, 22 October 2003).

But instead of abandoning the scheme in favour of a cheaper option, Barnardo's presented staff with several new variations of the existing scheme.

The National Association of Pension Funds has praised the charity's actions as an example of best practice for the private, public and voluntary sectors alike.

"Barnardo's sought to engage with staff by involving them in the decision-making and giving them a host of options to choose from," said a spokesman for the pensions body. "That is exactly the type of approach that we have been trying to educate people about.

"We always discourage the knee-jerk reaction to leap from one option to a totally different one."

Barnardo's originally presented staff with four variations on the scheme, which included options to alter the accrual rate, change the level of staff contribution or adjust the retirement age. The process went smoothly in spite of the postal strike before Christmas when letters to members went astray or took longer than usual to arrive.

Two further options based on members' suggestions were added in January after a consultation period with staff.

The charity's pension team then went on a four-week roadshow to explain the options to staff across the country. Members have now been given until March to decide which route they wish to take with their own fund.

Barnardo's has always vowed to keep its final salary scheme because many of its staff are recruited from local authorities which offer similar packages.

However, several other large charities, including Save the Children and Age Concern, have recently closed their final salary pension schemes to their new employees.

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