Women on £1-a-week state pensions could be owed tens of thousands of pounds as one woman discovered she was owed £60,000 after claiming the wrong pension for over a decade.
Carole Davies, 76, was told she was entitled to less than £1 a week as a stay at home mum who built up almost no entitlement to a state pension.
Ms Davies, from Surrey, recently discovered that for the last 15 years she had been underpaid, not knowing she was actually eligible to a married woman’s pension.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live : “When I retired in 2003, my state pension was so low – 40p a week – I was told that it would be paid once a year,
“Despite my husband Michael questioning this after he retired in 2005, we were told I wasn’t due anything more.”
Ms Davies watched a TV programme about pensions in November and decided to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after believing she was entitled to more.
“It’s been pretty horrendous really and it just took so long. They just didn’t seem to want to know and it was an uphill battle.
“In a letter I told them: ‘I think you are waiting for me to die before you give me any money’, and we still didn’t hear anything back for weeks and weeks.”
She finally got an answer this year and was told she is owed £61,000 and is entitled to £82.45 per week.
“I was totally, utterly stunned. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“They should have written to everyone and told them what they were entitled to, but nobody did, so we didn’t have a clue.
“It’ll make a huge difference to our lives. My husband is 80 and I’m nearly 77. We should have had it earlier, it’s so disgraceful what they’ve done.”
In March, documents showed that an estimated 200,000 pensioners could be owed up to £3bn after the under-payment of state pensions for decades.
A review by civil servants is taking place to trace all the women they believe have been affected by the error, stretching back to 1992, the BBC reports.
Ms Davies is among 5,000 women entitled to potentially huge refunds, many of whom will not be captured by the DWP’s search.
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According to Steve Webb, former pensions minister and partner at Lane Clark and Peacock LLP, the women who are affected by this are receiving what is known as graduated retirement benefit, under the old state pension system.
The average amount these women are receiving is £1.24 per week, but this is enough to qualify for a married woman’s pension. They can backdate their claims to their husband’s 65th birthday and could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds.
“It is incredible that there are thousands of women getting such tiny pensions, but even more incredible that many could potentially be entitled to tens of thousands in back payments,” said Mr Webb.
“It is as if they are sitting on unclaimed winning lottery tickets. It is very important that women on these very small pensions make contact with the DWP as soon as possible to see if they could be entitled to a windfall”.
The boosted payment is however not automatic and women will have to claim for it.
A DWP spokesperson told the BBC: “The action we are taking now will correct the historical underpayments that have been made by successive governments and anyone impacted will be contacted by us to ensure they receive all that they are owed.”
Has this happened to you? Let us know here if you’ve had to fight for your pension