Up to 135,000 retired married women could be owed £135 million in underpaid state pensions after an investigation showed “shocking” failures in the system by The Times Online.
The women had made small National Insurance contributions for much of their adult lives and therefore have smaller state pensions. They should, however, have had payments topped up by the government when their husbands with full national insurance contributions — spanning 44 years in most cases — reached 65, guaranteeing them 60 per cent of the basic state pension.
An investigation has found that thousands of women have not claimed this as required if their husband reached retirement age before March 2008. Thousands more whose husbands retired after that date have also missed out on what should have been an automatic top-up by the department for work and pensions (DWP).
Steve Webb, who was the Liberal Democrat pensions minister in the coalition, said that women whose husbands retired before March 2008 and wanted to claim now could only backdate the demand for 12 months. The full basic state pension is now £134.25 a week.“It is truly shocking that thousands of women are being short-changed on their state pensions,” said Mr Webb.
The problem arises because of the way that the state pension was set up in 1948. The system aimed to compensate women for the fact that their husbands were expected to be the family’s chief breadwinner, by allowing them to pay smaller National Insurance contributions in order that they could take home more pay from part-time work, or have the freedom to stay at home and look after the family. The women would then be awarded 60 per cent of the full state pension when their husbands’ careers ended.
A Freedom of Information request to the DWP showed that 370,000 British women, either living in the UK or in countries where the state pension has not been frozen, were receiving less than 60 per cent of the state pension. Of these women, 72 per cent had been married.
DWP figures show 131,000 married female pensioners had husbands earning less than the full state pension, which leaves a remaining 135,000. Mr Webb believes they could be owed an average of £1,000 each. He also claims that thousands of divorced women and widows on the old state pension may also be missing out because of faults in similar schemes. The issue does not affect women who retired after April 6, 2016.
The DWP admitted there was a problem and said it was investigating. “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,” a spokeswoman said. “We are checking for further cases.”
If you feel that you might fall into this category, you should write to:
The Pension Service, PO Box 1, Cardiff. CF91 5AJ
providing your full name, date of birth and National Insurance number and ask them to investigate your personal situation.