Public Sector: DWP in staff comms drive around pensions reform

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has enlisted Verve Communications to manage an internal comms programme around pensions reform.

The DWP is mulling numerous ways to reform a service that is creaking under the weight of an ageing population. The issue has been described as one of New Labour's biggest challenges in its third term.

Proposals include raising the retirement age to 70, making it compulsory to join company pensions, and allowing property to be included in pension plans.

Any decision by Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett is likely to attract fierce public opposition from supporters of alternative methods of reform.

The head of the Pensions Commission, Adair Turner, has been commissioned to write a report, which he will deliver to the department in the autumn.

Public confidence in private pensions has fallen over the past 20 years amid a number of mis-selling scandals. Meanwhile the annual cost of state pensions has risen from £340bn to £460bn over the past two years.

Verve emerged triumphant from an agency review that used the DWP's recently created roster, finalised in April (PRWeek, 8 April).

Agency director Tony O'Regan, who is leading the account, said: 'We will be surveying staff to see if the DWP messages are getting through to the front line.'

Verve is tasked with measuring the effectiveness of the department's internal comms by interviewing a random selection of the 16,000 people working in the pensions service.

'The DWP is the biggest mainland department and because it is so large there are bottlenecks. Improving communication is part of the DWP's reorganisation,' said O'Regan. The DWP comms team is restructuring to address recommendations made in the Phillis Review (PRWeek, 17 June).

Verve was previously known as Renaissance Partners and Communication.

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