9 October 2013
- Good that there is more time to trace victims, shame it’s taken so long so far!
- Government should be commended for continuing its commitment to help those affected
The Government deserves some praise for taking the decision to extend the Equitable Life Compensation Scheme deadline and allow more time to trace the victims. Around one million people may be eligible for compensation, but around 400,000 of them have not yet been traced. It is not clear why a deadline was imposed in the first place, but it is certainly good to see it extended to the date of the next election.
It is astonishing that this task has taken so long. Most of those affected lost out more than 10 years ago and the company’s records are so poor that it has proved difficult to find all the policyholders. Many of them have also moved address or perhaps passed away after so many years.
Nevertheless, this Government is the one which actually accepted the need to compensate and set up a scheme to do so, with around £1million a day being paid out and a total of £700million having been provided to victims since 2011.
A total of £1.5billion has been allocated by the Treasury for the compensation payments, with the original scheme stipulating that anyone not found by April 2014 would not be helped. This deadline will be moved to mid-2015, which is a welcome announcement, giving more time to find those affected.
But this must not be used as an excuse to relax the efforts to trace all the victims. Following the damning report from the National Audit Office earlier this year, which criticised the significant delays and high administration costs of the Equitable Life Payment Scheme, it seems that the situation has been improving. I hope that there will now be a further acceleration of efforts to track down those who are in line for compensation.
Surely it would be sensible for the Compensation Scheme to find a way to use the Equitable Life Members Action Group database, to ensure that all those who they have details of are contacted. Having refused to accept these data, and actually destroyed the files, it would now be welcome if a new joint-effort to find those affected could begin.
The decision to extend the deadline and give more time for victims to be found makes it clear that the Government is not walking away from its commitments to Equitable Life compensation, which is good news. I do hope that all the victims will be found and paid out well before mid-2015.