We recently completed the OIX “Overseas Pensions” discovery project. The specific focus was on an “Existence Check” process, a face-to-face process to determine the recipient of pension payments is still living. Whilst there may be sensitivities around such checks, there is a real need to prevent fraudulent access to pension payments, both opportunistic and organised. The cost of such fraud is ultimately borne by legitimate pensioners and tax payers through reduced annuity rates and increased taxes, i.e. all of us.

The project produced a report (which can be found here: http://oixuk.org/?page_id=444) exploring various aspects of this Existence process, however we were unable to make significant progress in one key area, namely user experience.

Originally we had hoped to conduct user research with a sample of real overseas pensioners to understand how comfortable they are with using digital services and what their fears and concerns might be with the Existence process. We selected three target markets and made contact with organisations that would be able recruit pensioners and assist with the research. It was a great shame therefore that the cost and timeframes for conducting such research meant it was not feasible within the scope of the discovery project.

My hunch is that there will be huge variations amongst overseas pensioners in terms of their familiarity with technology and willingness to engage with pension-related services digitally. Some will be using PCs and tablets to keep in touch with friends and relatives, others will have little experience of the internet and will be very cautious. Some will live in locations with excellent network coverage, others will be in regions where coverage is poor or non-existent.

On the project we agreed that it is likely that there are “corridors” where there are groups of pensioners living in one area (e.g. the Costa del Sol) which would be a good target for exploring the potential Existence process in more detail. A positive next step would be to run a pilot in one or two of these corridors. Focusing on a targeted area would allow the pilot to consider the local factors in more detail and perhaps allow the retired community to be engaged with as a whole. If you are interested in being involved in taking this project forwards then please contact Livia (livia.ralph@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk).

Steve Pannifer, Consult Hyperion