AFTER her husband Rodney died, Celia Oxspring, 78, was terrified that she would have to sell the house they’d shared for 35 years.
While Rodney was alive the couple, from Derby, had £650 a week to live on, mostly from his wages as a ground worker.
This was replaced by sick pay when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in February last year.
But when Rodney died in October, aged 65, Celia’s income plummeted.
She had only her state pension payment of £99.70 a week.
“We were together for nearly 40 years so it was a huge loss.
“Facing the financial stress on top of it all was overwhelming,” she said.
“I was using my savings to pay the bills but I didn’t know what would happen to me when they ran out.
“It was horrendous. I thought I’d have to sell our home in a mad rush just to get by.”
Celia, a retired pensions and payroll clerk, thought she was entitled to a higher amount when she was widowed.
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She called the Pension Service and wrote twice asking for her pension to be reviewed.
Each time, she was cut off before she could speak to anyone and her letters went unanswered.
Finally, after Sun Money intervened, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) increased her payments to £174.46 a week - a boost of almost £3,900 a year.
It also paid £1,345.68 to cover the months since Rodney’s death.
“I’m so grateful to Sun Money for sorting this out,” she said.
“It’s disgusting that I had to chase the government so many times and had no acknowledgement.
“I worry that other women in this situation might not even realise that they are owed money or they would just give up trying because the government makes it so difficult.”
Celia is one of more than 100,000 women who may have been underpaid by around £1billion in total.
An estimated 134,000 pensioners, mainly women, could still be owed money after a catalogue of errors resulting from outdated computer systems.
The first error was first uncovered by campaigner and former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb in 2020.
But two years later, Sun Money is STILL hearing from women and families chasing cash.
Last month, MPs warned that worried pensioners who may have been underpaid their state pension are being turned away by government call centres.
Our postbag and email inbox has been full of letters from readers who have been unable to get answers.
Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which published a damning report on the scandal in January, said: “This was a major systemic failure over many years.
“There are echoes of Windrush in this, where the government hasn’t really got to grips with the reality of the impact of what it has done.”
The average sum owed to the pensioners for blunders dating back to the 1980s is £9,000 - but the highest payout is £128,000 for backdated payments spanning decades.
In January 2021, the DWP started checking hundreds of thousands of pension records to see if people have been underpaid.
If you have, it will contact you directly but it could take until the end of 2023 to reach everyone.
You can ask the DWP to check your pension - although it won’t speed up the process.
Read our guide on what to do if you think there’s a mistake with your pension: thesun.co.uk/pension-mistakes-guide.
At least 40,000 people have already died without getting what they were due.
Their surviving family are entitled to claim the money that they are owed, but the DWP is only making limited attempts to contact them.
If it can’t reach the family via the address it has on record, it won’t keep searching.
So if you believe your relative lost out, contact the Pension Service.
You need your relative’s National Insurance number, date of birth and death, date of marriage and most recent address.
SUN MONEY DEMANDS...
WE urge the DWP to:
- Set up a clear online form so pensioners can check if they are affected and leave their contact details.
- Speed up the programme of contacting affected pensioners.
- Pay interest on backdated sums.
- Take steps to stop any lump sum payments negatively affecting benefits.
DID YOU MISS OUT?
ARE you among the thousands owed money?
If you’re married, you retired before April 6, 2016, and have a basic weekly state pension of less than £85, use this online calculator to check: pensionunderpaid.lcp.uk. com
You may also be eligible if:
- You’re a married woman whose husband turned 65 on or after March 17, 2008, and you are receiving less than 60 per cent of his basic state pension.
- You are a widow, your husband died after March 17, 2008 and you were getting less than 60 per cent of his basic state pension while he was still alive.
- You are a widow and your state pension did not increase when your husband died.
- You are a man or woman over 80 (whether married or not) who is receiving less than £85 a week.
DWP got its sums wrong
RETIRED civil servant Pauline Hinder almost missed out on pension payments worth £3,800 a year after DWP failures.
It failed to take into account the fact she’d paid something called the married women’s stamp.
This was where married women who worked before 1977 paid a reduced rate of National Insurance tax.
Her case is not one of the 134,000 in which the DWP has identified potential errors.
But it highlights why all retirees need to check they’re getting the right amount.
The 66-year-old divorcee from Dursley, Gloucestershire, received a letter from The Pension Service in January saying she would be entitled to just £68 a week when she reached state pension age in April.
Pauline was shocked it was so low, but realised something was amiss with the calculations.
She tried several times to call the DWP but was frustrated as staff could not get to the bottom of the issue.
Exasperated, she contacted Sir Steve Webb at LCP who helped get her calculation reviewed.
The DWP eventually agreed that the calculations were wrong and increased her state pension to £141 a week.
She said: “When I first tried to call, they couldn’t care less that I was going to be on half my pension and wouldn’t be able to manage.
“They just based the pension on my National Insurance record and didn’t bother looking any further even though they were aware I had been married.
“It’s scandalous and inept that there are so many errors and the service is not fit to carry out the job that it’s been set up to do.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said: “We have corrected our records and Mrs Hinder received her updated weekly award upon reaching State Pension entitlement from April 8, 2022.”
PENSIONERS on benefits who receive payouts for mistakes could have their payments stopped or cut.
This is because the lump sum payments are treated as income by local councils, which campaigners say is unfair.
One, Sir Steve Webb, said the lump sums should be written off when it comes to benefits claims.
MP Meg Hillier said: “It’s a double whammy of the worst proportions – so they lived on low pensions and now anything they get back is cutting into social care and other benefits. That’s really harsh.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The action we are taking now will correct the historical underpayments that have been made by successive governments, and we are fully committed to addressing these as quickly as possible.
“We have set up a dedicated team and devoted significant resources towards completing this, with further resources being allocated throughout 2022 and 2023 towards the underpayments exercise.”
No pay a disgrace
CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at the Government’s refusal to pay interest on these blunders.
The DWP initially paid interest of 0.5 per cent on underpayments, but stopped in January 2020.
Pensions commentator and ex-Lib Dem MP Sir Steve Webb said: “In some cases people have had to wait decades for their money. It’s a disgrace.”
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