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08/06/2020

Study reveals thousands of women may have been underpaid pension

08/06/2020

Study reveals thousands of women may have been underpaid pension

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It’s been revealed that thousands of elderly women could be entitled to an increase in the amount they receive in state pension payments.

Married women who retired before April 2016 may be entitled to a boost in income, according to recent research by Sir Steve Webb, the former UK Minister for Pensions.

There are two ways in which those who were eligible could have missed out.

  • In some cases, women may not have realised they could claim for more pension money when their spouse turned 65 and could be owed hundreds of pounds.
  • In other cases, this could be due simply to a government computer glitch that has meant certain women were not automatically awarded their pension at the correct rate when their partner reached pensionable age.

Those married women who haven’t yet put in a claim for the higher amount of state pension could be due money, with an estimated £100 million owed by the Department for Work and Pensions to as many as 130,000 women across the country.

Speaking about the error, Sir Steve Webb said, “It is truly shocking that thousands of women are being short-changed on their state pensions. The system is highly complex and few will be aware of the special rules for married women. It is time for the DWP to take this issue seriously and launch a full investigation.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said, “We are aware of a number of cases where individuals have been underpaid state pension. We reimbursed those affected as soon as errors were identified. We are checking for further cases, and if any are found awards will be reviewed and any arrears paid.”

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How do I find out if I’m entitled to a backdated pension payment?

You could be one of the women who are being underpaid state pension by the DWP if:

  • You’re currently married, over state pension age and you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016.
  • Your spouse is older than state pension age and is being paid the full state pension.
  • The amount you’re paid weekly in your state pension is usually under £77.45 (or under £80.45 for 2020/21) and your weekly state pension is less than 60% of your husband’s weekly state pension amount.

If you’re divorced or widowed, you may also have missed out and be able to claim for an enhanced state pension of 60 per cent of your late partner’s total state pension.

The DWP should have automatically increased your state pension from the lower rate, which is based on your contributions, to a rate of 60 per cent, based on your husband’s contributions. However, in many cases, this hasn’t been adjusted.

You can double-check the amount of basic state pension you receive on your pension statement. If your basic state pension for 2020/21 is less than £80.45 and you’re married, you could be one of the many women who aren’t being paid the full amount.

There’s also a helpful calculator available via the LCP website that can help you double-check your entitlement. You’ll need a few details to hand, including how much basic pension (not the total figure) you receive, the date of your husband’s retirement and your husband’s pension amount.

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Why has this happened?

The way the DWP paid state pension changed in 2016. Before that date, married women were required to have paid at least 30 years’ worth of National Insurance contributions to be eligible for their full state pension.

For those women that hadn’t built up 30 years in the workplace, perhaps because they were bringing up children, or were more financially dependent on their husbands, they would only be able to get a small contribution towards their state pensions.

However, there was provision in place to allow these women to receive a higher payment amount when their husband reached the age of 65. But before 2008, it was up to the claimant to apply for the extra income when their spouse reached pensionable age, after which time the DWP was responsible for paying this amount.

You could have missed out in two ways, depending on the date of your husband’s retirement:

  • If he reached state pension age before 17 March 2008 – You would have needed to claim the boosted pension payment. Unfortunately, if this is the case, the maximum claim you can make for backdated pension payments is for up to 12 months.
  • If he reached state pension age after 17 March 2008 – You should have been paid 60% of your husband’s pension automatically. However, due to a computer glitch, this may not have been awarded. If this is the case, you’re entitled to claim the full amount you’re due from the date you qualified. Depending on how long ago this way, you could be due a substantial sum in backdated payments.

How do I make a claim?

If you believe you’re entitled to more than you’re currently receiving in state pension, you can contact the Pension Service by calling 0800 731 7898. It’s important to be aware that call times are taking a little longer than usual because of the coronavirus crisis.

If you or someone you know is struggling to make ends meet, there’s help available. Contact one of the friendly, informed Creditfix debt specialists today to find out your options for dealing with debt. Pick up the phone and dial 0808 253 2399 to start feeling better about your finances, today.

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