If you were refused a state pension or given an unexpectedly low award when you turned 66, it is worth challenging the decision.A joint investigation
If you were refused a state pension or given an unexpectedly low award when you turned 66, it is worth challenging the decision.
A joint investigation with Steve Webb, our columnist and a former Pensions Minister, has uncovered an increasing number of new and serious errors, and we are not satisfied the Department for Work and Pension is properly reviewing women’s records.
Some who paid the married women’s stamp and/or who claimed child benefit over the past few decades have not had this taken into account when their state pensions came to be calculated.
State pension blunders: Some older women are being wrongly refused payments at 66
Webb, now a partner at pension consultant LCP, says: ‘I have now reached the stage where I start from the assumption that a low or zero state pension award is incorrect.’
This is a damning indictment of the DWP’s ability to get its sums right – even after a previous scandal cost elderly women an estimated total of £1.5billion in lost state pension. (That debacle, also exposed by Webb and This is Money, is still in the process of being put right.)
It also reinforces the point that it is worth taking individual action if you were rejected for a state pension or only receive a suspiciously low amount.
If you think a family member or friend who reached state pension age in recent years might have missed out, please send them that link.
Women whose cases we have highlighted so far stood to lose tens of thousands of pounds over the course of a typical retirement, and some have been awarded hefty arrears.
One woman tragically died just before a state pension refusal could be overturned, and her grieving family had to battle to receive two years’ worth of her money, a case that shames the DWP.
Unfortunately, while the DWP says where errors occur it is committed to fixing them, it has vehemently denied that a review of all recent state pension rejections is now under way.
Also, a DWP response to a freedom of information request by Webb suggests it is simply doing more thorough checks going forward before it tells a woman she is not entitled to any state pension.
STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS
So, it remains unclear whether the DWP will probe past cases systematically, and this is why we are urging women to come forward themselves to ask for zero and low state pension awards to be looked at again.
Admittedly, that will be made harder by the DWP’s long call wait times, and phonelines now apparently being manned by people who just take messages rather than anyone with knowledge of state pensions, whom we understand have been redeployed to correcting older mistakes.
Feedback from readers suggests their messages aren’t sent anywhere useful, and that any filtering system where experienced staff assess them must be faulty.
Women whose cases we took up and eventually found were wrongly refused a state pension had previously made numerous calls to the DWP themselves to no avail.
And those with holes in their National Insurance record were not redirected to HMRC, which is responsible for fixing them before state pensions can be recalculated.
The best way to register a request for a review might be in writing – contact details are here.
This failure to grip state pension errors is a stain on the record of the current Government, and in particular the politicians who have led the DWP in recent years, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey and Pensions Minister Guy Opperman.
Both have at various times blamed historical mistakes and suggested previous regimes were at fault for a mess they are now left to clear up, but this is selective and disingenuous excuse-making for their own shortcomings.
By contrasting their records over recent years, no one can doubt that Opperman’s predecessors would have strained their utmost if the same problems were discovered while they were still in charge.
It was the indefatigable Webb who unearthed the underpayment scandal, and has since personally assisted many women to sort out their individual pensions, while staunch campaigner Ros Altmann has endlessly called out and urged the Government into action as mistakes were exposed.
Under Opperman, the DWP has shown reluctance and a lack of transparency over tackling the shocking blunders that still continue to emerge during his watch.
After a five-year stint at the DWP, Opperman’s legacy is piddling.
It amounts to the following: pension schemes made to declare what they are doing to combat climate change; mid-life MOTs; an unfinished pensions dashboard; unproven ‘collective’ pensions; pension credit take-up campaigns so ineffectual the private sector has felt impelled to step in to help during the current cost of living crisis; new parents still standing to lose state pension over innocent child benefit errors; and a fiasco where new pensioners, both men and women, went unpaid and even hungry for months.
It’s not good enough. Botching state pensions has lifechanging consequence for many women (it’s almost always though not invariably women) because it determines whether they get the income they earned in old age or not, and in the worst cases unfairly condemns them to poverty.
Spread the word to stop this happening to you, or anyone you know – here is the link again.