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COVID-19 – A time to reflect

COVID-19 – A time to reflect

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In shop doorways, under bridges, in all our towns and cities
You can glimpse the makeshift bedding from the corner of your eye
Remember what you’re seeing barely hides a human being
We’re all in this together, brother, sister, you and I.
Ralf McTell – Streets of London

Ralf McTell first recorded the iconic song “Streets of London” back in 1969. Most people will be familiar with the original song and its portrayal of the loneliness and isolation of individuals moving through “a world that doesn’t care”.

Ralph now aged 75 is in lockdown in his London home as the COVID-19 crisis sweeps across the UK and the rest of the world.  In the light of what he describes as a catastrophe of biblical proportions he has written an additional verse to Streets of London.

As the government tells us quite rightly to stay at home let us not forget the thousands of rough sleepers across the UK whose home is makeshift bedding in a tunnel or shop doorway. Let us also not forget the thousands of pensioners and those with underlying health problems who are now isolated in their homes and who may not now (for good reason) even be visited by their families for some time to come.

As trustees and pension administrators we cannot make it better, or less lonely, for those on an old age or disability pension, but we do care and could make it worse if we add financial distress to their list of worries. At Buck we managed to fully implement a totally home-based working model by Monday 23 March. While the aim is not to drop our service standards at all, much will depend on the number of our staff who catch this dreadful virus, along with the constraints of our new working environment.

We are all learning to live in greater isolation and, while there are many in the UK like us who do care deeply, this crisis has brought out the best and the worst in humanity.  There are many workers, for example in the National Health Service, care homes, food shops and pharmacies who are risking exposure to COVID-19 every day for the benefit of the rest of us.  They would no doubt echo Ralf McTell’s “We’re all in this together, brother, sister, you and I.” On the other hand, there are others who would seek to use this crisis for their own gain and to cheat others.

Action Fraud (to whom all fraud cases should be reported in the UK) have reported a 400% increase in scam activity as a result of the outbreak.  The Pensions Regulator is understandably concerned that pension scheme members may be more susceptible to scammers at this time.  Members may be lured by scammers to invest in “safe havens” as COVID-19 gives scammers an opportunity to practice their trade. Trustees and administrators need to take extra care at this time and to urge members to visit “Scamsmart” hosted by the Financial Conduct Authority which has specific guidance relating to COVID-19. With so many people isolated in their homes, now is a very good time to remember the UK-wide ban on pensions cold calling, as scammers seek to exploit the current uncertainty.

Losing their pension benefits is something those on the streets of London, or elsewhere in the UK, don’t have to worry about.

So, as many of us work from home and self- isolate, like Ralph McTell at this time of crisis, remember there are people who have seen far worse than what you think is unbearable.

So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine.
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.

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