Women in the UK have been urged to check whether they are owed money by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and fight back for back payments they may be eligible for.
The state pension is a source of support for many women who have retired from the workforce, offering them a financial cushion once they are eligible to receive it. However, recent research indicates thousands of women are being underpaid, cheated by a bureaucratic flaw in the pension system and denied their rightful income due to factors out of their control.
Under the former pension system, married women could claim basic state pension to the value of 60% of the full rate, based on their husbands’ National Insurance contributions. However, they were only able to do so if this amount would exceed the pension that they were eligible to receive based on their own National Insurance contributions.
Before March 2008, women were required to claim to receive the enhanced version of the state pension. However, since March 17, 2008, the DWP's computerised system has been supposed to apply this automatically, with no physical claim required. Correspondingly, women who have husbands who reached the age of 65 before March 2008 should have received correspondence from the DWP informing them that they had the option to boost their state pension.
However, several women came forward to complain that they never received any such correspondence and hence, did not claim the boost in pension. While the DWP is now scouring prior records to identify women affected by this error, many are being advised to take proactive measures to ensure the issue is rectified.
Of the error, Peter Schofield, the permanent secretary at the DWP, said it might take some time to identify all the affected, saying, "I can tell you that we have received almost 11,000 cases. We have reviewed 7,200 of them, and 5,300 of them turned out to be correct. The challenge at the moment for us is that we need to work through each of these cases. They are quite complex calculations.”
Meanwhile, women who would like to check if they're eligible for the boosted pension can use an online calculator developed by firm Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP), to see if they have been affected.
The DWP has already paid back at least £750,000 to women since the error was uncovered earlier this month. However, according to Sir Steve Webb, the former pensions minister, the amount owed to multiple women adds up to millions of pounds. This means tens of thousands of women are being denied their payments or being paid less than what they were due. The government is now urging older women and their families to check their state pensions and verify whether the amount they are being paid is correct.