In what’s turning out to be a significant oversight, the Government has acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of women, mostly mothers who stayed at home to care for children, were underpaid their state pension entitlement. This error, largely affecting women who claimed Child Benefit between 1978 and 2000, is now being corrected, with potential reimbursements averaging around £5,000 each.
A Long-standing Oversight
Primarily, the affected individuals have gaps in their National Insurance (NI) records, a crucial factor in determining state pension entitlement. Many of these women were stay-at-home mums during the said period and claimed Child Benefit. However, if they did so without providing an NI number, their NI credits might not have been properly accounted for, thereby affecting their pension pots.
These NI credits were essential for those not making contributions, perhaps due to being out of work, ensuring they didn’t miss out on receiving a full state pension. Earlier known as Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP), these credits reduced the number of qualifying years needed to claim the state pension and were available between 1978 and 2010.
Reclaiming What’s Yours: The Scale of the Issue
It’s estimated that a whopping £1.3 billion in total might have been underpaid, impacting approximately 210,000 individuals. Sadly, 60,000 of these beneficiaries have passed away, but their families can check eligibility and claim any amounts owed.
HMRC has begun the process of sending out letters to potentially affected women, prioritising those already over pension age. This exercise is expected to extend over the next 18 months.
A Cause for Concern
However, there’s a catch. Steve Webb, the former pensions minister, cautions that many among those affected might never receive this crucial communication due to incomplete information, especially for Child Benefit claims before 2000. Of the 210,000 individuals estimated to be affected, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is optimistic about tracking down 187,000.
Mr. Webb, now associated with LCP and a long-time campaigner on this issue, expressed dismay over how these errors deprived so many of their rightful state pension. He highlighted the importance of transparency and diligence in ensuring every eligible individual is reached.
His advocacy has already borne fruit for some, like a mother who, after being underpaid for 14 years, claimed her HRP and received nearly £17,000 in back pay, with her weekly state pension increasing by £30.
Checking Your Eligibility
If you’re wondering whether you’ve been underpaid, there are certain criteria to consider for qualifying for HRP from 1978:
- You must have received child benefit in your own name.
- Your child was under 16 for the entire financial year in question.
- You were not paying the married woman’s ‘reduced stamp’.
To begin, check your state pension summary and your NI record. For those who reached pension age after April 5, 2010, any year of HRP/credits should be visible as a complete year on your NI record. If it’s not, you might have missed out.
For individuals who reached pension age on or before April 5, 2010, HRP was documented differently, necessitating a call to the NI helpline to verify its presence on your record.
The Government has also introduced an online checker tool on Gov.uk for you to determine if you’re eligible to make a claim. For claims pertaining to missing HRP up until March 2010, the form CF411 is required.
A Government spokesperson assured that the issue is being addressed and that most people’s records will be unaffected. They stressed their commitment to ensuring everyone receives the financial support they’re entitled to, adding that state pension underpayment rates due to official errors remain low.
Don’t miss out on what you’re rightfully owed. Check your records, use the online tools, and make sure your pension reflects your contributions.