DWP addresses women excluded from underpaid state pension review – are you missing out?

Pensions ‘shouldn’t be a government piggy bank’ says Altmann

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It’s a matter which the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was asked about today, during a Work and Pensions Committee meeting. A research paper published by pension consultants Lane Clark and Peacock (LCP) in May last year suggested tens of thousands of older women may be entitled to a higher rate of state pension than they were receiving.

The DWP since confirmed the Department would check its records, covering a group of the women affected.

This means married women whose husband reached pension age after March 17 2008, and whose pension should have been automatically increased when he retired, will be included in the trawl.

The Government promised to report back on how many women the check found, and how much it has paid out.

However, not all women believed to be getting less than they are entitled will be included in the review.

Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was asked about the matter today, while appearing before the Work and Pensions Committee to discuss the work of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, asked whether there was any plans to include women whose husband’s turned 65 before March 17, 2008, or divorced women.

“Because I know they were excluded from the written statement – no reference to them.

“Obviously, if you’ve just been divorced, I wouldn’t imagine the first thing on your mind is to phone up the DWP and check your pension entitlement.

“And maybe given women whose husband’s turned 65 before March 2008, they wouldn’t have necessarily thought that was a priority either – but they clearly have missed out just like several other people.

“Have you any plans to include them now?”

Peter Schofield, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, replied: “Of course, the law changed in 2008 which is why the treatment is different, and the obligation was on the Department post 2008, which is why the focus of the exercise is on that.

“So that’s where our focus is now.

“But obviously if there are people who think they were affected pre-2008, we very much encourage them to get in touch.”

Mr McCabe went on to clarify whether the DWP would be contacting them, or whether the onus would be on the aforementioned women who think they may be affected.

Dr Coffey responded: “Well, we try to comply with the law – so people need to make an application [for the pre-2008 women].”

Mr McCabe also asked about the rule which means for these pre-2008 women, there is a limit to how much a person can get if their application is after a certain period of time.

“As far as divorced women are concerned and as far as pre-2008 women, the onus will be on them to contact you,” he began.

“And if people have lost out substantially, nonetheless, you won’t be exercising any discretion to increase the payments – that’s the current position?”

Dr Coffey confirmed: “Well, the law allows us to pay back 12 months.”

With not all women thought to be affected by the underpaid state pension issue included in the DWP’s trawl, LCP has launched a calculator on its website to help people see if they could be affected.

Commenting back in August 2020, Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister and partner at LCP, said: “It is good news that DWP is checking its records to find married women who have been underpaid.

“I have no doubt that in addition to the millions which have already been refunded, this process will result in tens of millions of pounds being paid over.

“But this record check must be comprehensive rather than narrow.

“As things stand, many groups of women, including widows, divorced women and the over 80s will not get a call from the DWP, so they will have to ring up and ask for their state pension to be checked if they think they are being underpaid.

“It would be far more efficient for DWP to do a comprehensive record check, including alerting women who still need to make a claim for an uplift.

“Without this, this issue will rumble on and on, and women will continue to miss out on the pension that is rightfully theirs.”

A DWP spokesperson said at the time: “We are aware of a number of cases where individuals have been underpaid state pension. We corrected our records and reimbursed those affected as soon as errors were identified.

“We are checking for further cases, and if any are found awards will also be reviewed and any arrears paid.”

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