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Pension Guidance Service - Service Assessment

The pension guidance service is being set up in order to help those people considering accessing their defined contribution pension savings to:

  • Ask themselves the right questions, given their individual circumstances
  • Understand their options (and risks) enough to make an informed next step, given the new defined contribution (DC) flexibilities

From April next year, people holding DC pension pots will have increased flexibility in how and when they can access the money in their pension pots. They will be able to withdraw the whole pot as cash, purchase an annuity, or access an income drawdown product which allows them to withdraw some money while leaving the remaining pot invested. All of these options have tax implications and varying levels of risk which may or may not be appropriate for some people.

The guidance service is being set up so that people wishing to use the new freedoms can better understand what the implications might be for them, so that they are able to ask themselves the right questions about what the best choice is for them, given their circumstances.

There will be online guidance which will allow some people to self-serve their needs for guidance. However, we anticipate that at least 80% of users will want a guidance session where they can actually talk to someone to help them understand what the options are, and what they mean.

The service model and guidance content are being developed by HMT, however the actual delivery of appointments with users will be handled by the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) on the phone and by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in their face to face offices across the UK.

Department / Agency:

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:
Alpha Review

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
E. Pollard

Service Manager:
R. Bowen

Digital Leader:
C. Smewing

Assessment Report

The Pensions Guidance service has been reviewed against the 26 points of the Service Standard at the end of the Alpha development.

Outcome of service assessment

After consideration we have concluded the Pensions Guidance service is on track to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard at this early stage of development.


The assessment panel were very impressed with the clarity of user needs outlined at the assessment, and with the progress that the team has made in delivering an alpha to meet the highest priority user needs. Clearly there is some way to go, especially with regard to the systems which providers will use to record and communicate the outcomes of telephone and in-person guidance sessions, but at this early stage the panel felt very reassured that the team is on track to deliver a high quality service for users when the service goes live.

The service team clearly articulated their success criteria, which includes the four standard KPIs for all digital services, but also feature the goal that people should actually be better informed once they've used the services (and not just *feel* better informed). Their user research showed that users have low levels of knowledge around pensions, which makes this success criterion especially appropriate for this service.

The service team have put in place an excellent multi disciplinary team, who are working in an agile, iterative and user-focused way and clearly have a thorough grasp of what needs to be done and how best to do it, whether in terms of visual design and written content, technology, user research and so on. They have a detailed plan for how to test and iterate the service going forward, including small-sample comprehension testing and extended follow-up to determine what action users took.

The assessment panel note that web operations is an area where the service currently have a gap that they are working to fill, and that they are recruiting additional people over the next few months as they scale up the operation.

The service team have clearly taken account of their obligations around privacy and minimisation of data capture, and they are publishing source code, using open standards and following GOV.UK design patterns and style guide.

The panel confirmed that assisted digital support only needs to be applied to the digital element of the overall service, which in this case is the booking of appointments. The team has made an excellent start and has already started to set up sustainable telephone and face to face support in line with the assisted digital standard.


The assessment panel note that the service team are currently planning to host the information contained in textual guides on the sub-domain; given recent improvements to the navigation and browse infrastructure of GOV.UK we recommend that you revisit this decision with the Search and Browse team and see whether it's possible to maintain the user journey around pensions guidance and ensure that GOV.UK remains the single information publishing platform for the whole of government.

The assessment panel note that you are evaluating call-handling systems for your contact centre workers and recommend a chat with the Civil Legal Advice team at MOJ Digital Services about their open sourced call handling system.

During beta, the service team must undertake research with assisted digital users to be able to demonstrate that their planned support meets user needs and is appropriate for demand.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes