Are you owed thousands in underpaid state pension?

Picture of a jar with coins in it

Are you missing out on state pension money?

This morning, I was on BBC Radio Scotland talking about the hundreds of thousands of retirees, mainly women, who have been underpaid more than £1 billion in state pension. 

More than 134,000 pensioners have missed out, and are due payments of £8,900 each on average, according to today’s report from the National Audit Office – plus higher pensions every week for the rest of their lives. 

I find these figures mind boggling.

When I first covered this issue in my Woman&Home column last year, the underpayments were estimated to tot up to around £100 million, but have since spiralled to ten times that! Since then, I’ve seen reports of backdated payouts worth well over £100,000, where women had received pitiful pensions for decades, under ‘graduated retirement benefit’. We’re talking life changing sums of money. One of the most mind-boggling figures for me in the NAO report was that the DWP expects to have 544 full time staff working to sort out this mess.

It’s all part of the hideously complicated old state pension system, which was designed around married couples where male breadwinners brought home the bacon for stay-at-home wives.

Married women who had made little or no National Insurance contributions (NICs) were entitled to increased pension payments based their husband’s contributions. This meant women with little pension in their own right were entitled to receive 60% of their husband’s basic state pension, once their husband turned 65.

Women’s state pensions should have been assessed when they reached state pension age and then reassessed when their husband reached state pension age and when they turned 80. 

Yet due to a whole combination of computer glitches, failure to apply and messed up systems at the Department for Work (DWP) and Pensions, many women missed out.

Are you owed money in underpaid state pension?

Buckle up folks, because there are a few key numbers to remember, to see if you are due extra state pension:

This is relevant for:

  • Women born before 6 April 1953
  • Married, divorced or widowed
  • Get less than £82.45 a week in state pension payments
  • Women over 80, regardless of your marital status, as you may have missed out on an ‘over 80s’ top up.

It’s particularly worth checking if your husband, ex-husband or late husband had a full basic state pension, currently £137.60 a week. Even if your husband gets less, you would be entitled to 60% of the lower amount. Remember, it’s 60% of his basic state pension, without any additional state pension.

If you want to check the married woman’s state pension rate in previous years, check out this table with info back to 2010. This table has basic state pension rates stretching back to 1948 – but you’ll need to work out the 60% married woman’s rate yourself, if you want a steer on whether you were underpaid.

How much you are due is also driven by whether your husband turned 65 before or after 17 March 2008.

  • After: the increase should have been made automatically, and you are entitled to a lump sum worth all your underpayments right back to your husband’s 65th birthday. The DWP swears blind it will now make these payments without you doing anything.
  • Before: women had to actively claim the uplift themselves, and if you didn’t, you are are only entitled to a payment backdated for the last 12 months. You will need to contact the Pension Service to claim, as you won’t receive any underpayment automatically.

On rare occasions, some husbands may have been due a state pension top up due to their wife’s NICs. Divorced women may be due extra based on their ex-husband’s basic state pension, if they haven’t remarried. Divorcees are particularly likely to have missed out if they got divorced after their husband turned 65. Widows may have been underpaid both before and after their husband died. Bereaved families may also be able to claim on behalf of women who should have received more while alive.

More info in a post I wrote for the PensionBee blog

How can I claim?

If you think you might have been underpaid the state pension, check using the quick questionnaire put together by Steve Webb, previous pensions minister, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue.

In theory, if your husband reached 65 after 17 March 2008, you should be credited with the money automatically.

If your husband was older, contact the Pension Service on 0800 731 0469. Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9:30am to 3:30pm

What will I get in state pension?

Even if you’re not old enough to have been underpaid state pension, you can still get a State Pension Forecast over on GOV.UK.

This will tell you what you’ll get, when you’ll get it, how much you would get based on your NICs so far, and how many more years you need to carry on paying NICs for a full state pension.

You can also view your National insurance record, and spot any gaps. You need 35 years of NICs for a full new state pension.

You can pay lump sums to top up gaps in your NICs – but only going back six years. This could be worth doing if you otherwise wouldn’t receive a full state pension, but might be a waste of money if you’re likely to work long enough to pay 35 years’ of NICs anyway. Some people also get national insurance credits towards their state pension, for example if they are receiving Child Benefit for a child under 12, or get certain other benefits.

Keen to retire on more than your state pension? Check out my post on ‘what is a pension and why you should care

Now – over to you. Have you been received less state pension that you should? Have you had any luck in getting a repayment? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.

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