Jackie Heron is a Customer Service Manager and Data Protection Officer with the Department for Work and Pensions, Jackie is also the North Merseyside Branch Learning Co-ordinator with PCS and has recently arranged a “Understanding Pensions” course for members in her branch.
Jackie felt this was an important issue to address as the majority of members in the North Merseyside Branch are in the 40 and over age bracket.
I attended the Understanding Pensions course last year and found it to be extremely informative. I spoke to the BEC about this and suggested we tried for our members to attend. I had also been approached by members asking if there was any possibility of courses being run just for staff in North Merseyside branch”
I spoke to Ann Ainsworth at PCS in Jack Jones House about arranging a course for PCS staff in North Merseyside. Ann agreed it was a good idea and I contacted Dave McMonnies who developed the course and is also the course tutor to see if it was possible.”
Jackie then approached North Merseyside branch members asking for expressions of interest, for what was originally run as a two-day course. There was a lot of interest with over 40 staff members throughout the branch registering their interest.
However, there were some difficulties for staff being released for the two day course, especially those in the service centre, so Jackie went back to Ann and Dave again to see if the course could be tailored to a one day event. Dave managed to do this, making it more accessible for staff.
With a one-day course lined up Jackie went back to those who expressed an interest and over half could make the date – with another six on a reserve list.
There were some initial issues over time off as Jackie explains:
It very much depends on what area of work staff are employed in, it is a well-known fact that service centre staff have difficulties in arranging time off which has not been scheduled into their working pattern.
Two thirds of the staff who expressed an interest in the course were from the service centre so Jackie and the North Merseyside Branch Chairman had conversations with the management there to explain the benefits of the course and the help it would be for the staff."
Jackie also explained that after discussions with PCS the course would be a one-day course, which would make it easier for staff to be released.
This worked, and the management agreed to the one-day course and the release of the staff.
Jackie feels that the course, and follow up work supporting older learners, will have a real benefit for members.
We hear a lot about pensions and how people are given misadvice which then leads to financial hardship later on. I think that the course will enable members to understand how much pension they will be looking at receiving when they come to the time of considering retirement.”
I hope it will enable staff to plan for the future and provide them with the option if they wish to pay more into their pensions now. It also helps with considering options for reducing hours to maintain a work/life balance. Now that the state retirement age has been increased for both men and women we all have to work longer and giving staff the option in the future of maybe reducing their hours without them being worried they won’t be able to afford too is only a good thing.”
Jackie said that it the support received from the union made this course possible.
Ann Ainsworth has been very helpful, putting me in contact with Dave McMonnies who runs the course. Caroline Brown has also agreed that members can claim expenses which is very helpful too.”
This is just the start of courses around pensions in the North West for PCS members and in November one will run for all members, not exclusively for North Merseyside branch.
Unionlearn has produced a number of signposting guides to support workers at mid-life – including one on Financial planning and pensions which you can download.