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National Pensions Conference 2023

On Thursday 22nd June 2023 Usdaw welcomed delegates to the AC Marriott hotel in Salford Quays for its 16th national pensions conference.

The triennial event remains an important fixture in the union’s calendar and was hosted by Usdaw pensions officer Debra Blow, Usdaw pensions advisor Neil Ashworth and was organised by Usdaw pensions administrator George Blow. Usdaw president Jane Jones chaired the conference where delegates also heard from guest speakers including senior financial advisor from Lighthouse Financial Mark Beddow, First Actuarial actuary Charlotte White and pensions administrator George Kennedy.

The aim of the conference was to get delegates up to speed with what’s happening in the world of pensions, take what they’ve learned back to their workplaces and give them the confidence to run their own pension awareness campaigns.

If you would like to understand how you can run your own campaign keep on reading.

Mark Beddow, Lighthouse Financial – The Retirement Conundrum

The first guest speaker, Mark, explained the important differences between the two main types of pension schemes that operate in the UK at present.

The first type is known as Defined Benefit (DB), otherwise known as Final Salary schemes or Career Average Revalued Earning (CARE). The second type is known as Defined Contribution (DC). DB schemes have very much been in decline over the last 20 years, and many have now closed.

The majority of, if not all, Usdaw members will now only have access to DC schemes. DC schemes are like savings plans but with generous tax advantages. In 2015, George Osborne introduced new pension legislation specifically relating to DC pensions called ‘Pension Freedoms’. This has given us a lot more choice and flexibility when we reach retirement.

Mark focused on the different choices that are available by sharing some case studies and he explained how important getting independent advice is in order to avoid making bad decisions that can affect your income when you stop working.


Debra Blow, Usdaw Pensions Officer – Auto Enrolment Workshop

Usdaw pensions officer Debra Blow explored how auto enrolment has fared since its introduction 10 years ago and shared her thoughts on whether this would solve pension issues for future generations.

“Over 10 million people have been auto enrolled, the number of women contributing has increased by 50 per cent and an additional £33 billion has been saved into pension pots since 2012,” said Debra. “However, there are still a number of issues that need to be tackled such as the millions who are excluded from auto enrolment due to age and earnings triggers; people not saving enough and the pensions gender gap which is caused by unequal pay, career breaks, divorce and women retiring early due to the menopause.”

“Usdaw will continue trying to influence government, keeping the issue of pensions on the ADM agenda, giving feedback to the TUC and pension organisations, and raising awareness through our reps.”


Neil Ashworth, Usdaw Pensions Advisor – Back to Basics Workshop

Neil shared some pension basics around how the state pension works, including the triple lock. State Pension increases are calculated by the triple lock, which is the higher of:

  • Annual earnings growth to July

  • Inflation as determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in October

  • And 2.5 per cent

The Triple Lock was suspended in 2022/23 and State Pension increased by 3.1 per cent (CPI). It was re-instated in April 2023/24 and therefore increased by 10.1 per cent (CPI).


Charlotte White & George Kennedy, First Actuarial – Transfers, Scams and Protecting Members

Charlotte and George focused on pension transfers and pension scams. A pension scam usually involves the promise of high returns and low risk. Scammers target victims via phone, text messages, email, post and social media. Scammers can be articulate with credible websites and testimonials and are hard to distinguish from the real thing. They outlined some of the signs of a pensions scam:

  • Cold calling about pensions is illegal and likely a sign of a scam.

  • Offering a ‘free pensions review’

  • They use phrases like ‘pensions liberation’, ‘loan’, ‘loophole’, ‘one-off investment’ and ‘cashback’

  • Help to release cash from a pension before the age of 55, with no mention of the HMRC tax bill that can arise

  • Unusual high-risk investments, which tend to be overseas, unregulated, with no consumer protections

  • High pressure sales tactics – time limited offers to get the best deal; using couriers to send documents, who wait until they’re signed.

They advised, to protect yourself, reject unexpected offers, check who you are dealing with, don’t be rushed into making a decision and consider getting impartial advice.


Are you a rep looking for inspiration? Why not hold your own Pensions Awareness Day campaign? Visit our campaign page and order your materials today.

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