State pension underpayments: are you getting the right amount?

Hundreds of thousands of women may have received less than they were owed

Older woman checks paperwork at table
Women on the basic state pension are being urged to check their records
(Image credit: yacobchuk via GettyImages)

Women over state pension age are being urged to check their records after a series of errors by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were discovered.

Hundreds of thousands of women may have been impacted by issues surrounding the payment of the basic state pension – to those who retired before 6 April 2016.

While the DWP is taking action to rectify the situation, experts suggest women check their state pension record to ensure they are not being short-changed.

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Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister and partner at investment consulting service Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP), first identified the error in May 2020. Webb told the Daily Express the Government has “a billion-pound mountain to climb” as the “scale of the error is so great”.

Who is affected by the state pension errors?

There are two main errors potentially resulting in underpayment of the state pension.

The first relates to a computer error by the DWP, and involves six groups of women who “will be owed automatic pay-outs”, MoneySavingExpert explained.

This includes married women who reached state pension age before April 2016, and whose husbands turned 65 on or after 17 March 2008. Others who may be affected include widows, women over the age of 80, heirs of underpaid women and divorced women.

Some “should get payment without having to take any action”, LCP said, but others will “need to contact the Department if they want their pension to be reassessed”.

Another issue relates to mothers who may have been in receipt of Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP). Replaced by National Insurance credits from 2010, HRP “was a scheme to help protect parents’ and carers’ state pension”, the Gov.UK website stated.

The error was first identified last year, but the DWP has now “announced a large-scale effort to contact mothers who may be affected”, said Which?, with HMRC also involved.

“Errors have occurred where periods of HRP were due, but not recorded accurately on someone’s National Insurance record”, the consumer website added.

The DWP has confirmed this is the second largest source of state pension errors after the current correction exercise regarding historic computer issues.

How much money could be owed?

The amount each woman receives is likely to vary based on their individual circumstances. However, the DWP is already parting with substantial sums to ensure women get what they are owed.

Overall “around £1 billion in state pension payments is owed to an estimated 187,000 people because of historic errors,” The Telegraph reported.

On average, affected retirees “could be owed £5,000 in state pension payouts because of blunders”, the newspaper added.

Women have been offered a “glimmer of hope” by a case involving Daphne, a woman from Surrey, ThisIsMoney reported. The 80-year-old successfully complained to the Independent Case Examiner about maladministration by the DWP relating to her underpaid state pension.

Previously, she secured a £1,200 back payment. However, it is estimated she will receive “further arrears of around £10,000, plus interest and compensation”, the news website said.

People should be aware that the Independent Case Examiner “only probes the circumstances of an individual case”, so circumstances are likely to vary, ThisIsMoney added.

What should I do next?

Experts suggest people who believe they have been affected should take action to secure the money they are potentially owed.

“The state pension correction exercise is being managed by the Pension Service,” said Standard Life. “You can contact them by phone on 0800 731 0469.”

When contacting the Service, you should have your National Insurance number, current pension sum, and details of a spouse or civil partner at the ready.

Others may wish to wait to be contacted by the Government.

A Government spokesperson recently said that “most people’s records will be unaffected,” but where errors occur they are “committed to fixing them as quickly as possible”.

The Government also said it will write to those affected, from the autumn, and plans to launch an online tool to allow people to check if they are eligible to make a claim.

“Our priority is ensuring everyone receives the financial support to which they are entitled”, the Government said.

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Rebekah Evans joined The Week as newsletter editor in 2023 and has written on subjects ranging from Ukraine and Afghanistan to fast fashion and "brotox". She started her career at Reach plc, where she cut her teeth on news, before pivoting into personal finance at the height of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. Social affairs is another of her passions, and she has interviewed people from across the world and from all walks of life. Rebekah completed an NCTJ with the Press Association and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Week magazine, the Press Association and local newspapers.