It’s been a pleasant evening and I am walking down Long Acre to my tube station. Ahead of me and on an intercept course, is what looks like a homeless man limping and walking very slowly. He asks someone for something and I know he is going to ask me. He is clean shaven and very embarrassed about asking. Getting out my purse, I have no pound coins so give him a Fiver. More than he expected, he is very pleased and we start chatting walking down the street with him holding onto my arm. Eventually, I ask him what his life was before when he was working? I used to be a Coachbuilder/panel beater, he says. Worked for Camden council for 22 years where he repaired and knocked the dents out of Camden Council’s vans.
So you have got a decent pension then, I tell him. His face goes blank, What do you mean? I explain that his pension is still there and he can claim it when he reaches the Scheme Retirement Age, probably 60 or 65. Being a Local Authority pension scheme means that it is probably a final salary scheme with index-linked pension. He has a State Pension too which he has completely forgotten about. He tells me he is 59 but really looks much older. Have you got kids? I ask. Yes.
Sorry to be morbid I tell him, but if he died tomorrow, wouldn’t he want that money to go to them? His eyes are wide open now and he nods. He looks confused with all this information but I mention that the there is a government service to explain his options to him The Pensions Advisory Service
He does not have a mobile phone so cannot access Next Meal but he tells me gets a decent meal in the mornings at his hostel. Offering to walk with him to his shelter, he tells me he wants to treat himself to a Whopper at Burger King in High Holborn and I am going in the opposite direction to Leicester Square. Before parting, he asks me for my number and I give my now redundant CancerIFA business card. He promises to call me but has not done so yet.
Two things occur to me afterwards. It’s nice to talk to someone rather than than just drop some coins in a cup or hat. And how many homeless people have pensions that they have forgotten about?