Mark Hoban, the Financial Secretary, announced on June 30: “After a decade of delay and indecision, I am delighted that today we’re beginning to send out cheques to eligible Equitable Life policyholders. We will pay out £1.5 billion to ensure that policyholders receive the justice they deserve.”
Equitable Members’ Action Group is still fighting for a better deal, as most of the one million policyholders affected will receive only 22% of their losses, 10,000 of the oldest pensioners have been excluded altogether, and while 37,000 pensioners will be compensated in full, it will be in the form of annuity top-ups spread over five years.
One Glasgow pensioner contacted The Herald this week wondering when he might at last see some sign of the estimated £600 a month shortfall he has suffered for the past 11 years.
A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The key thing is that the scheme is now going to write to all eligible policyholders letting them know about their status.”
The scheme has promised to “prioritise” the oldest victims, as well as the estates of those who could not wait any longer. On what this would mean, the spokesman said: “The speed at which letters will go out will increase over the coming months.” The status update might be accompanied by “an immediate payment”, or might not, he added. “We can’t guarantee that anyone will receive a payment before the letters go out, or vice versa.”
The Treasury claims: “Because of the years of frustration and waiting that policyholders have endured, the Government has moved swiftly to make sure that the scheme is in place as quickly as possible.”
But according to the Equitable Life Payment Scheme website, that means with-profits annuitants, all pensioners over 75 will have to wait up to another 12 months for any payment, while for anyone else it is up to three years.
On how many cheques actually went out on June 30 to meet the Government’s commitment to begin payments “by the end of June”, and whether it might have been only a handful, the spokesman could give no further information.