Underpaid state pensioners ‘die without redress’ as DWP too slow
Martin Lewis discusses state pension underpayments
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The government has admitted that 237,000 older people were paid too little state pension.
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) was charged with finding out who lost out and provide financial redress. It started in January 2021 but has made slow progress.
In November, we reported that the DWP had handed back just £209million out of £1.46billion owed to underpaid pensioners.
This means that just one in six state pension claimants affected had got their money.
Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, called this “a drop in the ocean” of what is owed and accused the DWP of “letting pensioners down on a massive scale”.
These underpayments have stretched back decades and even though the DWP has pledged to hire more people to speed up the process, many of the poorest pensioners still face a lengthy wait.
Some who queried discrepancies with DWP were told there was no issue and died without receiving what they were entitled to, Morrissey added.
Now a leading pensions broadcaster has warned that the process of identifying who is owed money could drag on for even longer than people think.
Given current glacial progress, it could take more than a decade.
Paul Lewis, presenter of Money Box on BBC Radio 4 and Saga’s finance expert, said that after almost two years of searching through its files, the DWP has only found 32,000 people out of 237,000.
He warned in Saga Magazine this month: “At this rate it will be 2036 before it finds everyone.”
Lewis said those affected are mainly women who are married or widowed, who had their pension calculated incorrectly when their spouse reached pension age or died.
“About a third are over 80 but did not get the over 80s pension they were due.”
He suggested readers call the DWP Bereavement Service Helpline on 0800 731 0469 to find out more but cautioned: “Expect a long wait.”
It’s an absolute scandal, of course, and there is a grim inevitability about the fact that most of the people affected are older women.
That generation has been ill served by successive governments, with many relying on their husband’s pension having built up a little entitlement in their own name after stopping work to raise families.
Many now live on a pittance following the death of their partner or divorce, and the underpayment scandal only adds insult to injury.
Pensions campaigner Sandra Wrench, 70, and a former DWP employee herself, warned that many of the affected women “may be dead and buried before they get any arrears of state pension”.
She noted that the Civil Service wanted to cut 91,000 jobs last year. “With possible staff shortages in all government departments, including the DWP, I do not feel the public can rely on it to process all this backlog of work. There are bound to be delays.”
Wrench suggested that pensions should get more proactive and contact the DWP if I think they have been affected but admitted: “Many may struggle to understand the components of the old state pension.”
A spokesperson for the DWP has said it is taking action to correct historical underpayments made by successive governments.
“We are fully committed to addressing these errors, not identified under previous governments, as quickly as possible.
“We have set up a dedicated team and devoted significant resources towards completing this, with further resources being allocated throughout 2023 to ensure pensioners receive the support to which they’re entitled.”
Given the age of those affected, it has to work flat out but even that won’t be fast enough.
Women cannot wait until 2036. Or even 2026. As the oldest, poorest pensioners struggle to afford food and heating, they need that state pension today.
It’s theirs, after all.
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