Retired women could be owed millions in underpaid state pension

Older women are being warned that they should check for a missing ‘marriage uplift’ that could be worth £10,000 or more, following a series of mistakes.

Under old state pension rules, there was a promise to pay married women a basic state pension worth 60% of the full rate based on their husband’s contributions if their husband’s contributions were worth more than their own.

Women had to manually claim for the uplift prior to March 2008. The claim form was often sent to women’s husbands, meaning many missed out.

A further failure came after March 2008 when the pensions process changed so that the ‘marriage uplift’ changed to happen automatically. The uplift didn’t always kick in, leaving female pensioners out of pocket in many cases.

As a result of this, tens of thousands of women are estimated to have had their pensions underpaid for the last 12 years.

Unfortunately, women are not entitled to 12 years of backdated payments. In accordance with current pension laws, women are only being refunded missed payments for the last 12 months.

In response, a growing number of women are planning to make a complaint of “maladministration” to the parliamentary ombudsman. The women will argue that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to inform them about the need to make a second state pension claim when their husband turned 65.

Some of these women are now receiving refunds from the DWP worth an average of £10,000. Research from Steve Webb, a partner at pensions and investment consultancy LCP, suggests that a very small number of women could be in line for refunds of more than £100,000.

Steve Webb’s report identifies six distinct groups who may be entitled to repayments:

  • Widows whose pension didn’t increase when their husbands died
  • Widows whose pension is now correct, but who think they may have been underpaid while their late husband was alive
  • Divorced women
  • Women over 80
  • The heirs of married women who have died

Women are being urged not to sit back and wait for the DWP to contact them as there are concerns that many eligible women will slip through the department’s checks. You can contact the Pensions Service on 0800 731 7898 if you think you might have been underpaid.


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