The Government will not be actively contacting the tens of thousands of married women who may be owed more than £100million in state pension payments. According to a research paper by pension consultants Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP), affected women could be owed backdated payments that run into thousands of pounds.
“To this day, many do not know about the Department’s mistake, and some have tragically died before learning of it.
“This must be properly investigated. Crucially, those women deserve justice.
“When will the Department work out how many women have been affected, and who they are?
“Will it bring forward a plan to contact them so that the women who built Britain get the justice in retirement that they deserve?”
Mr Opperman told the House of Commons the Department would correct any payments once contacted, and encouraged people to come forward if they thought they were affected.
However, the pensions minister ignored calls from Labour MPs for the DWP to actively contact the women affected.
He said: “As the hon. Gentleman is aware, this dates from March 2008, when married women receiving a low-level state pension based on their national insurance record should have had their entitlement reviewed when their husband reached state pension age.
“The Department for Work and Pensions is looking into the matter, and we invite any individual who feels that they are affected to claim a state pension increase by contacting the Pension Service helpline or Pension Wise.”
Last month, LCP published a new research paper into the matter, which found thousands of older married women were being underpaid in their state pensions.
The paper said the problem affects a set of women covered by the “old” state pension system – meaning those who reached state pension age before April 6, 2016.
Under the old system, married women could claim an enhanced rate of state pension once their husband reached 65, should they have only had a small state pension entitlement in their own right.
Parallel rules applied to widows and divorced women.
At current rates, the pension that a married woman can claim based on her husband’s record of National Insurance contributions stands at £80.45 per week, provided her spouse was receiving a full basic state pension.
This is 60 percent of the full basic state pension rate of £134.25.
This 60 percent rate should have been awarded to eligible married women on low pensions automatically when their husband turned 65 since March 2008.
Prior to this date, it would have needed to have been claimed.
Data obtained in a Freedom of Information request submitted earlier this year by LCP partner Steve Webb to the DWP suggests that many tens of thousands of married women who would be eligible for this rate are not receiving it.
LCP said that in the majority of cases, it seems likely that this is because the women did not actively claim the uplift, but in some cases it “will reflect the failure of DWP computers to automatically award the uplift”.
Commenting last month, Sir Steve Webb, partner at LCP, said: “It is truly shocking that thousands of women are being short-changed on their state pensions.
“The system is highly complex and few will be aware of the special rules for married women, widows, divorced women and the over 80s.
“Yet each of these groups seems to be losing out in different ways.
“Whilst DWP is willing to put things right on a case-by-case basis when individuals get in touch, there is clearly a systematic problem here.
“It is time for the DWP to take this issue seriously and launch a full investigation into how so many women have been missing out for so long.”
Last month, a DWP spokesperson said: “We are aware of a number of cases where individuals have been underpaid State Pension.
“We corrected our records and reimbursed those affected as soon as errors were identified.
“We are checking for further cases, and if any are found awards will also be reviewed and any arrears paid.”