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I’m being underpaid state pension and HMRC is doing nothing: Steve Webb wins back £17k

Underpaid for 15 years: Steve Webb helps This is Money reader get £17,000 state pension arrears Underpaid for 15 years: Steve Webb helps This is Money reader get £17,000 state pension arrears

Underpaid for 15 years: Steve Webb helps This is Money reader get £17,000 state pension arrears

I am 75 years old and I contacted you in January of this year regarding my low state pension.

I mentioned that for part of my working life I was at home bringing up my family and you suggested I checked with HM Revenue and Customs whether I had received ‘Home Responsibilities Protection’.

I rang up and it sent me a claim form which I returned in early February. It’s now July and I have heard nothing – what should I do?

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Steve Webb replies: It is totally unacceptable that you have clearly been underpaid state pension for the last 15 years and have now been made to sit and wait for months to get this sorted out.

Where someone has an error in their National Insurance record which affects their state pension there are two stages to getting this put right.

The first is to contact HMRC, which is responsible for maintaining NI records. Where the issue is an error on NI records there is no point contacting DWP (even though they may be paying you your pension) as they will simply refer you back to HMRC.

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Once your NI record has been updated, you can then ask DWP to recalculate your state pension and pay any arrears which are due.

In theory this should happen automatically, but we have come across people waiting months and months for an update on their state pension following a correction to their NI record.

A crucial question is how long people can expect to wait.

When I contacted HMRC on your behalf it told me that it has a tool which tells people how long they are likely to have to wait for a response to different sorts of correspondence. You can find this here: Check when you can expect a reply from HMRC.

Out of interest, I used the tool and entered 1 February 2023 as the date on which you applied for Home Responsibilities Protection on your NI record.

The tool said that you would have been waiting until early October 2023 for a reply – eight months after you wrote in.

After I got involved, HMRC intervened in your case and you very quickly received a letter saying that you were entitled to 13 years of HRP.

Mums shortchanged a huge £1bn in latest state pension scandal 

HMRC will launch a letter writing campaign this autumn to find people potentially owed £5,000 each on average in arrears.

Around 143,000 parents, mainly aged in their 60s and 70s now, who claimed child benefit between 1978 and 2000 are believed to be affected.

A further 44,000 people who were underpaid are thought to be deceased, meaning their beneficiaries will be in line for payouts.

Steve explains the steps to take if you believe you missed out in today’s column, and there is is more information on missing ‘Home Responsibilities Protection’ and state pensions here.

HMRC gave me the following comment: ‘We have identified and are correcting an issue related to the historical recording of Home Responsibilities Protection on the National Insurance records for people who first claimed child benefit before May 2000.

‘Most people’s records will be unaffected, and we have launched a new online tool to help people check whether they need to claim.

‘HMRC will also begin writing to those likely to be affected from the Autumn. Our priority is ensuring everyone receives the financial support to which they are entitled, and state pension underpayment rates due to official error remain low at 0.5 per cent of expenditure.

‘Where errors do occur, we are committed to fixing them as quickly as possible.’

HMRC also drew my attention to a new tool that they have created which allows some people to ‘self-serve’ by checking if they might be entitled to HRP or not, without needing to contact HMRC.

This tool can be found at: Why do you want to apply for Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP).

HMRC also told me that it apologises to any customers facing delays related to National Insurance, including claims for HRP, and has allocated extra staff to answer correspondence in this area.

It said that it was currently training more staff to process HRP claims during the forthcoming correction exercise.

Given the big change to your NI record it was clear to me that you were owed a significant amount of money and also a big increase in your weekly pension.

I didn’t think it was right that you should now go to the back of another queue, so I contacted DWP on your behalf and it processed your revised pension swiftly.

I’m delighted to say that you have now been told that your pension will increase by around £30 to £152 per week and you are owed arrears of over £17,000. I trust that you will receive this money shortly.

I’m grateful to DWP for sorting things out, but I wanted to know how long it would otherwise have taken from getting your NI records updated to getting your state pension corrected.

I pointed out that HMRC has a tool which does at least tell people how long to expect whereas DWP seems to have nothing similar.

DWP declined to tell me how long it would have taken for them to process your corrected pension but simply said that they aim to respond to correspondence as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, for many people it seems that this can mean many months between getting their NI record corrected and getting their state pension reassessed.

I would like to see far greater transparency from DWP on how long it is taking them to reassess people’s state pensions and some evidence that they are working to reduce these lengthy delays.

Ask Steve Webb a pension question

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.

He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.

Steve left the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election. He is now a partner at actuary and consulting firm Lane Clark & Peacock.

If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk.

Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Please include a daytime contact number with your message – this will be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.

If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact MoneyHelper, a Government-backed organisation which gives free assistance on pensions to the public. It can be found here and its number is 0800 011 3797.

Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question about COPE and the state pension here.  

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