State pension CHAOS for elderly people left stranded on NO income: DWP tries to tackle claims backlog while more complaints pile up

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Elderly people are being forced into hardship as the Department for Work and Pensions struggles to get on top of a huge state pension backlog.

Retired taxi driver Alf Morley, 73, contacted us saying he was ‘in desperation’ because he has no income and his reserves are going down rapidly while he waits for deferred payments to start.

‘I am frustrated at the poor quality service I have received,’ says Mr Morley, pictured right. ‘This is causing me a considerable amount of undue stress.’

A woman who had a brain haemorrhage in 1994 that changed her life had her disability benefit cut off after she turned 66 in early July – followed by losing her housing benefit and council tax discount – but has received no state pension.

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‘It’s just absolutely appalling,’ says her son, who has made a formal complaint to the DWP. ‘I was stunned at how bad their service is. All their systems and processes seem to be behind the times.’

Several weeks ago, This is Money exclusively revealed a service meltdown at the DWP. 

Since then, we have been inundated with messages from furious people who condemned woeful incompetence by the DWP when they attempted to get payments started or end state pension deferments.  

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman has blamed delays on the pandemic and ‘staffing issues which have now been rectified’, and promised normal service will resume by the end of October. 

He said last week that hundreds of additional staff were being redeployed. Read the DWP’s statement below.

The DWP is also currently undertaking a massive ‘correction exercise’ after more than a hundred thousand elderly women were underpaid an estimated £1billion in state pension.

“With some social security benefits and other sources of income stopping promptly at pension age there is a real risk of an income crisis for those who have to wait for their state pensions. ” Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister 

A National Audit Office report published this week about the scandal – uncovered by This is Money and our columnist Steve Webb – revealed the process was placing ‘additional strain’ on normal state pension operations.

Parliament’s spending watchdog did not make a direct link with the recent chaos, but it noted that the number of outstanding new state pension claims rose to around 80,000 in July 2021, compared to under 40,000 which was typical before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, our readers continue to send us anguished messages about their battles to start receiving payments, indicating an ongoing problem.

The state pension is paid four weeks in arrears when it first begins, but delays have stretched for a further month and sometimes several more.

Webb, a former Pensions Minister and now a partner at LCP, says: ‘The large volume of readers who have been in touch about delayed state pensions suggests that the DWP have been understating the extent of this problem.

‘The recent National Audit Office report suggested that in July there were an extra 40,000 outstanding cases, and this is going to take a long time to clear.

‘With some social security benefits and other sources of income stopping promptly at pension age there is a real risk of an income crisis for those who have to wait for their state pensions.

‘Getting these longstanding claims sorted out as soon as possible must be a priority.’

Retired taxi driver aged 73 feels ‘let down’ by the DWP

What does the DWP say? 

‘We are sorry that some new state pension customers have faced delays receiving payment,’ says a spokesperson.

‘All those affected have been identified and we have deployed extra resources to process these as a priority. Any claims made today should not be subject to delay.’

The DWP says it has identified all of the cases affected by the delays and deployed extra resources to process them, and adds that claimants don’t need to act.

 

Alf Morley planned to end the deferment of his state pension in early July but has met with great difficulty since he started trying to sort it out in March.

The formerly self-employed taxi driver, who lives in London, attempted several times to use the DWP’s online system but it did not recognise his details.

He has called the DWP four times, most recently in July when he told a staff member he was suffering financial hardship.

‘I explained to him I had been out of work for some months and funds were running low,’ says Mr Morley, whose enhanced state pension will be worth several hundreds of pounds a week.

‘He asked me if I had financial trouble. The savings I have are being diminished. He said he would put me on an urgent list.’

After still receiving no response, he complained to his MP. Mr Morley says he feels let down by the Pension Service,

Following This is Money’s intervention, he received a call from the DWP saying his payments would start on 1 October.

‘They just make it impossible,’ says son of pensioner whose disability benefit was cut off 

Mary Carr (not her real name), a former child minder from Bristol, hasn’t been able to work since suffering a brain haemorrhage several decades ago.

After she reached age 66 in July, her son John says the DWP was swift to end her Employment and Support Allowance, and although she has been awarded a Personal Independence Payment it has not replaced that income.

Due to the DWP reporting the end of her ESA to her local authority, her housing benefit and council tax reduction have been suspended too.

What are ESA and PIP?

Employment and Support Allowance is paid when people have a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. The Government has more information here.  

A Personal Independence Payment can help out with some of the extra costs of a long term physical or mental health condition or disability. Find out more here. 

Mr Carr says his mother never received a letter about starting to receive the state pension, but they tried to apply online a month before her birthday.

There was an error message which said to contact the DWP to apply, but the paper application form was ‘temporarily unavailable’ on the website so they had to phone up to get one.

A paper application form arrived in early summer, which was completed and returned immediately by recorded delivery, but after that they heard nothing more.

Mr Carr sent a formal complaint in early August, but received no response to that either.

He slammed the treatment his mother has received from the DWP, and says of the obstacles they have faced trying to start her state pension: ‘Something that should be so easy, they just make it impossible.

‘It’s almost like they do it on purpose. They don’t want people to claim their state pension. It’s disappointing.’

After This is Money contacted the DWP on Mrs Carr’s behalf, it told us it had finalised her case and a first payment backdated to her birthday had been issued, after which she would receive £179.60 a week, the current full rate. 

She had not yet received the money at the time of publication.

State pension delayed?

Are you over state pension age but having trouble getting payments started?

Write to us and tell your story at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk.

Please put PENSION DELAY in the subject line.

We will not be able to respond to everyone, and you may want to seek help from your MP.  

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