Delays in UK State Pension Payments Leave Many in ‘Desperate Financial Situation’ | State pensions


James Regan waited over two months, spent over 70 hours on the phone and had to threaten legal action before she could finally tell her mother she would receive her state pension every week. Susan James * from Eastbourne is not so fortunate – she is still awaiting her first payment despite her request in March.

From top to bottom, retirees across the country are reporting that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to process their state pension and start making their much-needed payments.

The Age UK charity has warned that applicants face delays of several months – delays, it said, which have left many of those affected in “dire financial straits”.

Most of those facing expectations are new claimants aged 66, but the problem has also affected older people who had deferred their pensions, perhaps because they continued to work past the age of retirement. retirement.

“DWP terminated my mother’s employment and support allowance on time, but did not pay the pension owed to her,” says Regan.

“What really annoys me is the fact that I was promised a response that never happened. They only finally started making the payments after I threatened to sue. judicial. ”

Regan says he’s spent the past two months calling the DWP on his mother’s behalf.

“I had no choice but to be almost militant about it, it seems like the only way to get the DWP to listen. In the end, we threatened legal action, and even then they were paid after the 48 hour deadline. “

In Eastbourne, James is also frustrated and has reached out to his MP for help.

“I turned 66 in July, but I claimed online in March,” she says. “I still haven’t received my award letter and have had no further communication with DWP other than calling and writing them. When you call you have to wait 40 minutes to speak to someone but nothing happens.

“I have been paying contributions since I was 15 years old. I’m one of those ladies who had to wait another six years for the state pension, and now this. I am upset and angry.

The delays are the latest fiasco to affect the Ministry of Work and Pensions. In March, it emerged that he had underpaid 200,000 women by an average of £ 13,500. Some who wrongly received as little as 86 pence a week owed more than £ 40,000 in arrears.

Last month, Guardian Money was contacted by the family of a taxi driver in his 60s who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer but had to fight DWP from his hospital bed to get his deferred state pension.

“It took them weeks to send him a form,” wrote a family member.

“We are now waiting for them to send a letter detailing his rights, and another form that must be completed before he can be paid, although we have contacted them on several occasions and explaining the urgency of the situation. It is heartbreaking to see a man who worked six more years after retirement age on his deathbed, with no income. “

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said the situation had become “totally unacceptable”.

She says, “We hear from a lot of seniors whose state pension should have arrived but who are still waiting, leaving those with little behind in dire financial straits.

Labor MP Christina Rees said: “Many people in my constituency of Neath do not have savings or lump sum payments to cover the delay.” Photograph: Rebecca Naden / Reuters

“In some cases these delays extend over several months and, to make matters worse, the DWP does not appear to routinely notify them that they can receive advance payments instead of delaying them until the paperwork is completed. . Ministers need to take control and fix the problem before the difficulties turn into a tragedy, which we believe is a growing risk. “

Christina Rees, Labor MP for Neath, wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey last week, saying “more than a dozen” of her constituents told her they were worried about how they were going to pay their bills and buy food. after months of delay.

“Like the reduction in the universal credit increase by £ 20, delays in paying state pensions are leaving people in financial difficulty,” she said.

“This is totally unacceptable, but once again, the Conservatives are out of touch with the lived experiences of people, whether they are hard working families or those who will rely on their state pensions to make ends meet.” during their retirement.

“A lot of people in my constituency of Neath do not have savings or lump sum payments to cover the delay… I call on the government to fix things before other people have to suffer needlessly while waiting for their own money be paid to them. “

The DWP acknowledged last month that the pandemic and staffing issues had caused payment arrears, with Pensions Minister Guy Opperman telling Parliament: “Normal service will resume by the end of October 2021.”

A DWP spokesperson told Guardian Money: “We are sorry that some new clients of public pension plans have faced payment delays.

“All those affected have been identified and we have deployed additional resources to prioritize them. Any complaints made today should not be subject to delays. “

David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Center think tank, said 2021 has not been a good year for the DWP.

“In July, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Health Services said the DWP had failed since 1995 to provide “accurate, adequate and timely information on changes to the retirement age for women”.

“Then in September, the National Audit Office found that human error was ‘almost inevitable’ due to outdated IT, complex rules and an inability to automate processes. It still looks like mismanagement, and it is time for the minister and department heads to address the issues. “

Stephen Timms, chairman of the select committee on work and pensions, said the DWP had serious questions to answer.

“We don’t yet know how many people have been affected,” he said. “The government says it is only a small number, but there is growing evidence that a significant number of people may have been affected. Many of them risk hardship as a result. “

Are you entitled to a deposit?

If you are among those affected by late pension payments, did you know that you may be entitled to an early withdrawal to allow you to continue financially?

Department for Labor & Pensions Sign
The Ministry of Work and Pensions is “sorry that some new clients of public pension schemes have faced payment delays.” Photograph: Dave Rushen / SOPA Images / Rex / Shutterstock

Prepayments were used extensively by universal credit applicants when Covid lockdowns hit, but not everyone is aware that they are available to those awaiting several other benefits, including the pension from the State. However, there is one condition – you must be able to show that you are in “dire financial need”.

This is generally defined as a serious risk of harm to your health or safety or that of any member of your family. If other benefit payments have ceased in the expectation that you will start receiving your pension, that should be reasonable grounds for an advance to be made. Age UK says it’s important to provide as much information as possible about your situation, including details of any health concerns or disabilities.

To apply you must call 0800 731 0469, the Pensions Advance Hotline. You should tell the advisor about your situation and how much you think you should borrow.

If approved, the advance will go straight to your bank account, often the next day. The money will be recovered from your pension payments once they are paid. Advances must be repaid within an agreed period and there is no interest payable. Nothing prevents applicants from requesting more than one advance in the face of persistent delays.

* Name has been changed

Additional reporting by Miles Brignall


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