A retired bar worker who was wrongly denied a state pension when she turned 66 has urged other women to challenge similar mistakes by the government.
Estelle Henley, pictured below with her husband Rob, was shocked to be told she would receive nothing at all when she claimed in April.
After the retired pub worker, who lives in Hythe, near Southampton, fought the Department for Works and Pensions’ decision, she backed down and admitted she was owed around £4,400 a year.
Rob and Estelle Henley: She was shocked not to receive a state pension but was certain this was wrong and fought the DWP until they gave in
Other women who have reached statutory retirement age since 2016 and who are divorced or widowed may have lost much larger sums.
Ms Henley has reached out to former Pensions Secretary Steve Webb for support, and he is now sounding the alarm after helping her and three other women who were also wrongly told they would have little or no right to a state pension at 66 had.
Webb and This is Money were previously spotted Tens of thousands of older women have been underpaid by £1billion in a scandal that affected those who reached the state pension before 2016.
However, Webb now points to a separate bug affecting women who have qualified for their pension since 2016.
Those who paid the married women’s stamp for at least a year in the 35 years before reaching state pension age should be paid around £4,400 a year if they’re married, or around £7,400 a year if they’re divorced or widowed .
An estimated 10,000 women are eligible, but it is not known how many missed out, as Ms Henley might have done had she not fought to get the right amount.
A DWP spokesman said: “This year we will spend over £110billion on the State Pension and our priority is to ensure that every pensioner receives all the financial support to which they are entitled.
“Where errors occur, we work to identify and fix them.”
Webb has written to current Pensions Secretary Guy Opperman to raise concerns about the government’s recent pension mistakes, and the spokesman added: “We will respond to the letter in due course.”
Denied pension at 66: “I knew something was wrong”
Estelle Henley worked full time in her daughter’s pub for 15 years before retiring.
And her husband Rob, 72, has continued to work part-time, including as a security officer for the cruise lines at Southampton Docks, to support her.
She says: “I knew something was wrong when I was told I wasn’t entitled to a pension, but other women may not realize that they have been given the wrong information.
“I would encourage anyone who has been denied a pension to make sure no mistake has been made.”
Steve Webb, who is now a partner at LCP and pensions columnist for This is Money, says: “I have no doubt that there are still women who have been wrongly told they have no entitlements and have done what they were told was not questioned.”
Have you been denied a state pension?
A little-known rule says that women who paid the “wife stamp” for state pension can still benefit from it even now.
Women retiring from April 2016 will receive state pension payments based on their own Social Security records, not their husbands’.
But there is a special discount for those who have stamped for at least one year in the 35 years before reaching statutory retirement age.
You can charge £85.00 a week if you’re still married, or £141.85 if you’re widowed or divorced, based on this year’s rates.
If this applies to you and you have been denied a state pension or are receiving less than this, email us at email@example.com and put DWP CLAIMS in the subject line.
Women who reached statutory retirement age before April 2016, receive a zero pension or consider themselves underpaid learn what to do here.
He discovered that the Department for Works and Pensions made mistakes in such cases in a response to a freedom of information request in 2019.
“When DWP admitted to me that they had made mistakes for this group of women, I assumed they had put procedures in place to solve the problem,” he explains.
“Yet I keep hearing from women who have been wrongly told they are not entitled to a pension.
“What worries me most is how many other women there might be who simply trusted what DWP told them and are now struggling to live without the pension they are rightfully entitled to.
“DWP should review all of their records for such cases and correct things and ensure that these errors cannot be repeated.”
In an open letter to current Pensions Secretary Guy Opperman, Webb says: “I remain concerned that even the sobering experience of uncovering a £1billion underpayment in State Pensions does not appear to result in a fundamental change in the Department’s approach to reviewing the caused state pension approvals.’
Webb has highlighted the case of Ms Henley and three others to the DWP, describing the disputed sums as “potentially life-changing for the women involved”.
– A divorced woman reached state pension age this year and was wrongly informed that her state pension would be £68.93 a week instead of £141.85.
She knew of the higher rate for women who had paid the “married woman stamp” from previous correspondence with the DWP, and Webb says that after several letters and eventually his own involvement, the government accepted their mistake.
– A married woman who turned 66 last summer was surprised she wasn’t informed about her state pension.
Webb says: “She contacted the ministry and eventually had a letter saying she wasn’t eligible as she only had nine qualifying years.
“In the end she got her local MP involved and DWP accepted that she was due a pension of just over £86 a week.”
– Another married woman who reached retirement age in autumn 2020 was also told that she was not entitled to a state pension.
Webb says: “She fought with the department over the course of a year, eventually contacting me and threatening to contact her local MP and DWP eventually accepted that she should have been awarded the reduced rate (now £85 a week) and backdated him for a year.’
Former Pensions Secretary Steve Webb (pictured left) and current incumbent Guy Opperman (pictured right).
Webb has asked Opperman to disclose how many women were affected and how much they were paid lump sums when similar errors were discovered in 2019, and also to review any “zero” and other low state pensions to look for additional errors .
He expressed concern that the new state pension was introduced in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2019 that anyone realized mistakes were being made for this group of women and that such mistakes were being made as late as April of that year.
He also questioned why DWP quality control on state pension assessments hadn’t picked this up, saying it raises much larger concerns about whether the big ongoing women’s pensions corrective exercise is “just a historic ‘cleaning up’ of past mistakes”.
Webb says if the department still hasn’t sufficiently improved its quality control, systematic errors could still occur.
In a scathing report last year on the previous pension scandal, The National Audit Office said DWP staff made mistakes and managers missed opportunities to pick them up.
That’s what the DWP said at the time It had introduced new quality control processes and improved training to ensure the historic mistakes were not repeated.
Meanwhile, since last autumn, This is Money has covered many cases of readers struggling or even struggling due to delays in their state pension, although the DWP promised to get the problems under control by last November.
These initially affected people turning 66, but lately there have been complaints from readers focuses on mistakes in top-up payments, and delays in claims from people residing overseas or attempting to end forbearance.
TOP SIPPS FOR DIY PENSION INVESTORS
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on this, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow a business relationship to compromise our editorial independence.
Women turning 66 incorrectly said they owed ZERO state pensions
Source link Women turning 66 incorrectly said they owed ZERO state pensions