SOUTHPORT women are being urged to ensure that they are not being short-changed on their state pension - after revelations of a failure in Department of Work and Pensions computers.
Cambridge Ward Councillor Pat Keith revealed that yens of thousands of older women may be entitled to a higher rate of state pension than they are currently receiving.
She said: “The issue appears to be particularly acute for older married women who may not realise that they had to put in a claim for a higher pension when their husband turned 65.
“There also appears to be problems for other married women, for some widows, divorced women and for the over 80s. In some cases, affected women could be owed backdated payments running into thousands of pounds and the total amount owed nationwide could be up to £100 million.
“Clearly, there could be many women in our local area affected by this. Since March 2008, married women on low pensions should have been awarded a 60% rate automatically when their husband turned 65. But before that date they needed to claim the uplift.”
Data obtained in a Freedom of Information request, submitted earlier this year to the Department for Work and Pensions by former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, suggests that many tens of thousands of married women who would be eligible for this rate are not receiving it.
Cllr Keith added: “In the majority of cases it seems likely that this is because they did not actively claim the uplift but in some cases it will reflect the failure of DWP computers to automatically award the uplift. Where women need to make a claim they can only backdate it for 12 months and any uplift for years before this is lost.”
Councillor Keith also points out that in addition to shortfalls for married women other groups may be missing out. “I have been informed that these include the following:
-Thousands of widows who appear to be on very low state pensions, well short of the expected rate for a widow claiming on her late husband’s record;
- Thousands of divorced women who should, in principle, be benefitting from the ability to ‘substitute’ the National Insurance record of their ex-husband for the period up to the end of their marriage;
- Thousands of women aged 80 or over who should, in principle, be entitled to an £80.45 pension on a ‘non-contributory’ basis provided that they satisfy a simple residency test;
To help married women identify if they may be entitled to an increase there is a webpage calculator where women can enter details about their age and state pension receipt at https://www.lcp.uk.com/underpaid/
Councillor Keith added: “It is truly shocking that thousands of women are being short-changed on their state pensions and it’s important that women in Southport receive any money they are owed.
“The online calculator will give an indication of whether people are eligible for payment. If they are, they should take it up with the Pensions Service who can investigate further.”
The Pension Service can be contacted at: The Pension Service 15, Post Handling Site B, Wolverhampton, WV99 1AS; or by telephone on 0800 731 7898 (9.30am-2.30pm Mon-Fri).