The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a feasibility report backing the project. It is now consulting on what the new services will look like, governance arrangements and the extent to which the government will need to legislate; for example, to compel pension schemes to provide data to their members via dashboards.
The government first announced the pensions dashboard project in 2016. The idea behind the initiative is to help people to make more informed decisions about their retirement savings by allowing them to see their various retirement income streams in one place, including their state pension entitlement. It will also help people to track down 'lost' pension pots from previous employment.
The first pensions dashboard will be hosted by the new Single Financial Guidance Body (SFGB) and funded by the pensions industry, although the government anticipates that multiple commercial dashboards will eventually become available. State pension data will not immediately be available through the SFGB pensions dashboard, although the government has committed to making this available "at some stage".
Pensions expert Tom Barton of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the consultation would "hopefully help the key stakeholders form clear journey plan".
"The dashboard has been something of an on/off saga - much like its (sort of) predecessor of 'pot follows member'," he said. "In some respects we know what the future needs to look like – it's just that the process of getting there is painful."
"IT functionality to support good decision making and allow pension savers to use their savings effectively will be a big step forward. There are tools to allow this sort of thing already - many of which are excellent - but they generally only apply to savings in a given pension scheme. The dashboard should be a much more powerful tool to allow planning and decision making in relation to all pension savings," he said.
The SFGB will be fully operational in January 2019, bringing together the debt advisory, money and pensions guidance functions of the Money Advisory Service, Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. Part of its remit will involve convening and stewarding a pensions dashboard delivery group made up of experts, industry and government, to facilitate implementation of the technology that will enable dashboards to operate. It will then host the first dashboard, which schemes will initially supply information to on a voluntary basis pending legislation.
Commercial companies will be permitted to introduce their own pension dashboards in future years, "subject to the necessary consumer protection being in place", according to the government.