A retired bookkeeper has won her case against the government over its pensions failure.
Daphne Bennett, began claiming her state pension in 2003 but gaps in her contributions meant she received just £38.66 a week.
When husband Tim retired in 2008, she was eligible for a 60 percent married woman’s pension.
Payments were dependent on a new state pension claim form being filled out.
But Mr Bennett was told on the phone that no forms needed to be signed and no documents were ever sent to the couple, both 80, from Woking in Surrey.
In 2020, Mrs Bennett saw coverage about married women’s pensions and realised she could be on a higher rate.
She applied and was successful, securing an increase of around £24 per week, but it was only backdated to 2019.
The DWP rejected a complaint about its failures to inform her that a claim should have been made.
But last week the Independent Case Examiner overruled the decision and ordered back payments dating to 2008, plus interest and compensation for “distress and inconvenience”.
Mrs Bennett said:
“When I first found out that I could have been on a higher pension for over a decade I was surprised and puzzled.
“Then when I claimed and was told it could only be backdated for one year, I felt it was unfair. It was their mistake, not mine.
“It has taken years to work our way through the complaints procedure, with the support of Steve Webb, but I’m absolutely delighted that my complaint has been upheld.
“My husband reads paperwork carefully and I would obviously have made a second claim for the higher state pension if anyone had actually told us that was how the system worked.
“I hope that those in positions of authority will look at what happened to me and accept that there are many other women in the same position and will put things right for all of them.”
Steve Webb says
For people retiring today, there is typically very little difference between the amount of new state pension paid to men and women. But under the old state pension system, married women were second-class citizens, generally receiving much lower pensions than their husbands, despite a lifetime of hard work, often including raising a family.
One particularly unfair feature of the old system was the way married women qualified for a pension.
Many built up relatively small pensions in their own right but could get a 60% ‘married woman’s pension’ based on their husband’s contributions when he retired. From March 2008 onwards, this uplift in the wife’s pension happened automatically as soon as the husband started to draw his pension.
But before March 2008, married women were at risk of missing out. They may have been receiving their own modest pension when they turned sixty, but to get the uplift when their husband retired they had to make a second claim.
Amazingly, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) didn’t write out and tell them this. Instead, they used to rely on husbands ticking a box on a form. The husband would then be sent a claim form to pass on to his wife. If the husband didn’t tick the box, or the DWP failed to send out the form, then the wife could miss out.
Shockingly, it seems that this is what happened to hundreds of thousands of married women. If the woman didn’t know of the need to make this ‘second’ state pension claim, then she simply went on receiving her own meagre pension. And if she realised the problem much later on, DWP would only backdate the uplift for 12 months – the rest was lost.
I have been campaigning on this issue for years and we have recently had a small victory. For one couple we have secured full compensation for the missing pension, on the grounds of ‘maladministration’ by the DWP. But I will not rest until we have secured justice for all the married women who missed out on what they were due, through no fault of their own.
Pension advice – where it’s really needed
For many people, the state pension is their pension. Company pensions work for those who get them, while the “pension pot” is not understood as a pension at all, more a windfall payment that comes with a toxic tax-bill.
The state pension is complicated but getting less so. For people who retired before it started getting simpler in 2016, it works differently for men and women, for widows and widowers and a lot of what you get depends on what you applied for. In the case of Mrs Bennett, her husband didn’t know what he wasn’t applying for as he never seems to have got the paperwork.
There aren’t many Steve Webbs, but Steve gets amplified throughout the popular press. This story was syndicated to the Daily Telegraph, The Express (see above) It was so well read that it made the top new stories in the BBC’s press round-up.
The people who are under-employed on MaPS Pension Wise helpline, should be redeployed to help out the older pensions who are most confused, and have most cause to be confused.