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A message from the chief exec

75 Years as a Force for Good

What’s so special about our 75th anniversary? To those outside the military community, perhaps not very much…

But since 1946, to those who have served in the Armed Forces, we have provided a unique interface with Government on behalf of our Members and the whole Armed Forces community. We have always been driven by our objective of securing equitable pension conditions, in line with modern good practice, for all ranks of all three Services both serving and retired, and their families.

In any walk of life, there’s a potential tension between those who deliver the service and those who provide the resources (including pay and pensions). It’s no different whether you’re on a private payroll or the Government’s books. In that sense, arguably the military is no different from anyone else. Except they sign up to the principle of selfless commitment, putting the needs of the mission and the team ahead of any personal interests. And thankfully Government recognises this through the Armed Forces Covenant to ensure those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly.

It’s because the military are a unique group of public servants, that they need an organisation such as ours. That’s why the Forces Pension Society was founded and why it has grown in stature and relevance over the past 75 years. From humble origins in 1946 to today, when we take our place at the top tables on the representative bodies for Armed Forces and Public Services Pensions. We are now better placed than ever before to represent the interests of our Members and the wider military community.

To be clear, we aren’t a Trade Union. The military does not have one. We act as a pension watchdog that’s run as an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation funded entirely by the subscriptions of our Members. We campaign for appropriate pension provision. We campaign against injustices in the pension system. And for our Members, perhaps the most tangible service we provide is individual guidance via the experts in our Pensions Team, to help Members secure the optimum benefits from their pension. As we say, ‘it pays to understand your pension’.

Born of Necessity

In the austere times following the Second World War, a campaigning group founded the Society, called at that time, the Officers’ Pension Society. As the nation returned to peacetime, the Armed Forces shrank and in the opinion of those serving, the Forces were not being treated well. A group of officers decided to do something about it.

Their objective then was not so different from ours today. It was ‘to promote in every way, the interests and welfare of Members and former Members of the Armed Forces’. Although formed by officers, the Society has always campaigned on behalf of all ranks (and all Services).

At that time there were no widows’ pensions as of right and there were restrictions on who was allowed to join. Over the years as membership restrictions were relaxed, the Society achieved a great deal, sometimes campaigning openly, often behind the scenes. As a result, new codes of practice were introduced, widows’ pensions became accepted and were increased over time. Pressure from the Society continued over many years until the modern pension structure we recognise today was put in place. Many notable successes have been achieved over the years involving post-retirement widows’ pensions, changes to the 1975 Social Security Act, driving new allowances for war widows in the 1980s, and steady pressure to improve the pension schemes.

The pension model that emerged in 2006 (AFPS 2005) lessened the impact of pension troughs, increased widows’ pensions to 60% and accepted the commencement of a common pension regardless of rank, from date of entry into the Forces. These improvements were carried forward into the reformed AFPS 2015 introduced a decade later. In 2014, the Society’s campaign to ensure no Armed Forces widows would lose their pension on remarriage was also successfully concluded.

We continue our campaigning activities vigorously today, whether on issues of tax allowances and taper relief or the best remedy for unlawful rulings such as in the so- called McCloud Case which today is affecting literally tens of thousands of serving and retired military people. We also invest any surplus funds in guiding and informing those serving through our free-to-attend Roadshows at bases throughout the country and abroad; running Webinars for Members and the wider community and by attending Career Transition Partnership Employment Fairs. We also help unite Veterans with unclaimed pensions (supported by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs) and we offer a wide and growing range of discounted membership benefits geared to the needs of our Members.

If you think your Armed Forces Pension is set in stone, think again!

Many in the Forces believe their pension entitlement is fixed. That’s a misconception. The reality is that there are numerous ways you can influence what you receive – ranging from understanding the best time to leave, through to the pros and cons of commutation, pension top-ups and so on. Our Members seek help with forecast auditing, divorce, medical discharge, taxation, annual allowances and joining the Reserves.

Because the pension schemes are highly complex, with many servicemen and women being on more than one scheme, many join us for the kind of individual guidance only we provide, helping them through the pension maze to achieve their full pension potential.

It’s no wonder the number of cases our Pensions Team deals with rises every year. Last year we dealt with more than 17,000 pension enquiries.

As our reputation grows for being ‘the trusted source for independent Armed Forces pension guidance’, our membership continues to increase and is now well in excess of 60,000.

Tomorrow’s Society

No summary of the past would be complete without a glimpse into the future. We can see already how the military environment is likely to evolve. Fewer direct combat operations perhaps, with greater investment in remotely-controlled methods of engagement, the capabilities and skills required to compete effectively in environments such as space and cyber and to help ensure the uninterrupted flow of trade across the globe – all will change the shape and expertise of the Services as we know them today.

Some things won’t change though, for example the constant pressure on public finances. Nor will the selfless devotion and commitment to the nation’s well-being, which will always drive the military community. This is also why we at the Forces Pension Society will continue to highlight the centrality of Armed Forces pensions both as part of the “offer” and as a fundamental pillar for sustaining operational effectiveness. Our vigilance and  focus on championing Armed Forces pensions and securing the best outcomes for the Forces and their families will always be what drives us.

We will strive continuously to improve our offering as we appeal to an increasingly diverse and demanding membership. And hand in hand with that, we will engage with technology to enhance our membership experience as we evolve our Pensions Consultancy service. Over time, all of our services will adapt to suit Members’ changing needs. And as our membership numbers grow, so will our influence.

To us, our 75th anniversary is very special. It’s another landmark in our history as a force for good, helping to improve the livelihoods of those in the Armed Forces who need our guidance and support.
Maj Gen Neil Marshall
Chief Executive, Forces Pension Society

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