Mystery of missing state pension credits: Frustrated Universal Credit seekers trying to supplement retirement income seek answers
- Margaret Whitaker, 66, fought for two years when she received a UC registration
- She says it took dozens of calls over several months to the DWP and HMRC
- Graham Pickard discovered that a nine month claim period had not been added to his NI file
- Both had to pay hundreds of pounds extra for state pension top-ups
- It is unknown why the records for these UC applicants were not updated.
- Vital HMRC and DWP find out what went wrong, says former minister Steve Webb
Margaret Whitaker: Two years she claimed Universal Credit was missing from her file
A mysterious ‘glitch’ in state retirement records has left two savers struggling to fix potentially costly holes in their retirement income.
The absence of National Insurance credits can mean that pensioners face pension shortfalls unless they notice and correct them.
Margaret Whitaker, 66, pictured right, fought for two years of extra credit to cover a period when she claimed universal credit after her husband’s death.
She says it took dozens of calls over several months to the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC for her National Insurance record from 2020 to 2022 to be corrected.
The retired receptionist from Moray in Scotland sought help from former pensions minister Steve Webb, who told her what she needed to ask for and encouraged her to persevere.
Ms Whitaker says her eventual success allowed her to buy a few weeks of state pension top-ups for around £60, instead of paying around £1,650 for two full years.
But she says it was painful having to explain her personal story on numerous calls, sometimes after waiting 20 minutes or half an hour to come through.
“I had to repeat the same story every time. It was stressful because it was pretty much after my husband died. At one point I was told that I was not entitled to any credit.
People applying for Universal Credit, such as those receiving Child Benefit or Caregiver Allowance, should have these periods added to their NI records.
They receive credits which will eventually increase their state pension if the qualifying years are not earned in some other way. If they are missing, it could lead to a reduction in the pension at retirement.
Webb and This is Money are conducting a separate investigation into the years Child Benefit was claimed and omitted from state pension records.
“Nine months of claims were missing from my file”
Separately, retiree Graham Pickard found that a nine-month period he claimed Universal Credit in 2020 was not appearing on his file and made unsuccessful appeals to the government to settle it.
He told us, “Almost two years on my file still shows no NI credit. No matter which department I go to, there seems to be no one who can actually do anything to rectify this.
Mr Pickard, 65, a retired airport worker from Manchester, was a year younger than he was eligible for a full state pension of £185.15 a week, or around £9,600 £ per year.
His NI file has been updated after This is Money raised his case with the DWP and HMRC, and he will now be able to pay around £200 to fill a gap in the past year instead of over £800.
He told This is Money: “I have been in contact with HMRC and they have told me they are aware and this is an issue which has affected many people and a note has been put in my folders.”
Mr Pickard adds that he raised the issue on Twitter and says: ‘Several replied that they were in the same situation, so it could be another pension scandal that remains silent.’
He said: “Thank you for your intervention without which I would still be waiting.”
This is Money spoke to a third party who has been trying to fill a gap in her NI record since she claimed Universal Credit, but doesn’t want her story made public.
Why the records of these Universal Credit applicants were not updated, and their valuable National Insurance credits disappeared as a result, is unknown.
We asked the DWP and HMRC if there had been a ‘glitch’ in the system and if so what was the cause, how many people were affected and when they expected the records be corrected.
We have not received any answers to these questions at the time of publication, although after reporting Mr Pickard’s case, we have been given to understand that the government believes there is no indication of a larger problem.
A DWP spokesman said: ‘We have spoken to Mr Pickard and resolved his case, and we are reviewing Ms Whittaker’s case as a matter of priority.
Steve Webb, who is now a partner at LCP and This is Money’s pensions columnist, said: ‘Anyone with universal credit should automatically get national insurance credits to help protect their pension entitlement. ‘State.
‘If Mr Pickard and Ms Whitaker had not checked, it seems very likely that these credits would never have been added to their account and their state pension might have been short as a result.
“They both found it incredibly difficult to find someone who knew how the system worked or how to fix these errors.
“As always, when you see things go wrong for one or two people, you wonder if it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.
“It is essential that HMRC and the DWP join forces to shed light on what has gone wrong here and ensure that large numbers of people on Universal Credit are not also missing out.