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State Pension underpayments: are you owed money?

The State Pension is a safety net for many of us, providing a reliable income to millions of pensioners after spending our lives working, raising a family or both. However, thousands of people have been affected by State Pension underpayment issues. 

The State Pension underpayment crisis affects around 237,000 people, with as much as £1.5billion owing to pensioners who have lost out in our golden years. 

Following a lengthy government review, many thousands of letters are being sent out from HMRC to the individuals eligible for back payments. It has been found that these are mostly women who spent years at home to look after their children.

In this article we’ll explain the various groups who have been impacted by the errors, and how to find out if you are due a refund.

How did the State Pension underpayments come about?

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that 237,000 people have been getting less State Pension than they should. 

Many of  these were caused by a DWP IT failure. It is mostly women who have been receiving less money and the issue dates back as far as 1985.

Credits for their time at home with children may not have been linked from the Child Benefit system to the National Insurance system. The financial impact on mothers who spent many years at home raising their children could be substantial.

In an attempt to rectify the mistakes, the DWP began the enormous task of correcting this error in January 2021. This is known as the Legal Entitlements and Administrative Practices (LEAP) process.

Which groups of pensioners have been underpaid?

Hundreds of thousands of parents, widows, widowers, over-80s and divorcees have received less State Pension than they should have.

The list of people who now require back payments is broad. It includes married women whose husbands reached State Pension age before 2008; plus widows and widowers who may have been underpaid either during or after their spouses’ lifetime.

If you fall into one of the following categories then the government should pay your top-up automatically as it continues to work through its review:

  • Married women who reached State Pension age before April 2016, with husbands who were aged 65 on or after 17 March 2008 - if the women’s State Pension is less than 60% of their husband's basic State Pension.

  • Widows whose pension didn't increase when their husband died - if the widow reached State Pension age before April 2016, and who received less than 60% of their husband's basic State Pension while he was still alive.

  • Widows who may have been underpaid since their husband died. 

  • Women aged 80+ receiving less than £80.45 per week in State Pension.

  • The heirs of somebody who was underpaid State Pension in their lifetime but has since died.

However, some people need to put a claim in to get their pension top-ups. These include women who:

  • Reached State Pension age before April 2016 and their husband turned 65 before 17 March 2008. 

  • Are divorced and should have benefited from their ex-husband's national insurance record.

You can get more information here on these and other categories that may mean you are eligible for a top-up.

How much has been paid out so far?

The DWP’s update in November 2023 shows that it has so far paid out £497m relating to around 82,000 underpayments between January 2021 and October 2023. The payments were to the following three categories of people:

Married women cases: Latest figures from the government show that a total of £220.3m has been repaid so far to the cases involving married women. These average £5,931 in back payments per case. 

Over-80s: This group has had £56.7m repaid so far, with average payments of £2,245.

Widows: A total of £219.9m has been paid to women in this category so far, averaging £12,383 per payment.

Previous estimates from the government indicate that around £1.17bn would be paid to pensioners. However, there is now an additional £1bn in underpayments to be made to parents since the latest checks were made.

Speaking about the money being paid back to pensioners, former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, stated: 

“The process of correcting state pension errors began nearly three years ago but still only around half of the money has been paid so far.

“Worse still, when DWP recently decided to do the first proper checks on State Pensions in years, they identified another £1bn in underpayments and work has barely begun on fixing those errors. DWP still has a mountain to climb when it comes to paying all pensioners the amount they are due.”

How can I find out if I am owed State Pension underpayments?

If you are identified in the LEAP correction process then the DWP will send you a letter to inform you of the automatic changes to your State Pension.

However, not everybody who is owed money from the State Pension underpayments will receive their top-ups automatically, so you might want to contact the Pension Service to check.

For more information visit the Pension Service online or call 0800 731 0469.

Or write to:

The Pension Service

Post Handling Site A

Wolverhampton

WV98 1AF



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