Exclusive: Don’t call us, we’ll call you – the shambles inside the DWP as it struggles to cope with the pension underpayment crisis

Internal documents and screenshots reveal staff instructed to halt calls from worried pensioners and avoid complex cases to boost numbers

The Department for Work and Pensions is telling the public that it has set up well trained specialist teams to pay out up to £1 billion owed to at least 135,000 pensioners after huge underpayments were uncovered.

The real picture is one of overworked staff desperately trying to calculate with outdated computers how much money people will get while creating a knock on effect for new people applying for their first pension.

Now documents and screen shots seen by this blog reveal that staff have been instructed to ” close calls” from pensioners if they don’t fit the profile and even drop investigating complex claims for simpler ones to artificially boost the number being helped.

A new telephone message has been put on the pension helpline telling people NOT to call them and wait to be contacted instead. ” please be patient as this may take us some time.” Sometime in the worst case scenario could be December 2023. And for people who may not have long to live that is bad news. Note also it blames media coverage for the volume of calls.

Document showing the telephone message
Document showing when staff are instructed to end the call. But if someone insists they want to give them the information they have to take it down. It also shows that none of the staff can tell people hen they will get an answer and they are told not to call back. At least the ministry admits it has a large volume of calls.

Yesterday the Department launched from Newcastle-upon-Tyne its SP [state pension] Challenge – a slick management exercise to try and instill team work among thousands of staff who are trying to cope.

Screenshot showing management in difficulty with old computers in tracing pension cases

However some of the screenshots reveal how management haven’t necessary got all the information because of outdated computers.

Probably the worst example of the problems they face is the ” drop and go ” policy – where staff to boost numbers are told to abandon the case and find another simpler one. This was used during the challenge yesterday.

How they were prioritising “easy” cases to build up numbers

The official response which I got before I saw these documents is:

“Resolving the historical State Pension underpayments that have been made by successive governments is a priority for the Department and we are committed to doing so as quickly as possible.

“We have set up a dedicated team and devoted significant resources to processing outstanding cases, and have introduced new quality control processes and improved training to help ensure this does not happen again. Those affected will be contacted by us to ensure they receive all that they are owed.”

The DWP will have to respond soon to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee which has already called out the whole process as a shambles. It will make interesting reading to see how top officials and ministers spin their replies. Whatever they say the situation can’t be good if the ministry continues to emphasise it doesn’t want people to ring them.

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12 thoughts on “Exclusive: Don’t call us, we’ll call you – the shambles inside the DWP as it struggles to cope with the pension underpayment crisis

  1. This doesn’t surprise me at all, it’s a total mess.
    I have been on Universal Credit since March 2018 and have recently been told that I have been overpaid by £371.35 from the start of my claim in 2018 to August 2021, this has been so stressful as they have had all the information that they require from me and have failed to put in the correct information. Now I have to pay for their mistakes and pay all this money back not to mention my health condition has been affected by the whole thing.


    • and let me guess…there’s no way you can work it for yourself/ verify, you just have to take their word for it? and they’ll change their minds again in a few weeks time, same again a little bit after that…..


  2. Just a thought to try and protect your inside man/ woman there…..taking physical pictures of the monitor when there are cameras behind is a sure way to get caught and fired. Print screen/ alt print screen is a much easier and less identifiable way of taking said screenshot, just save image to a flash drive…..emailing to yourself, regardless of whether you delete after the fact’ is also a sure fire way to get caught….


  3. Thank you David. My questions are:

    1. Was this sanctioned at Ministerial Level?
    2. If not -why not?
    3. If so – who sanctioned it?

    You have done sterling work on this issue. It is abundantly clear that this is serious maladministration. So my question is this:

    What impact would any complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman have? I am afraid the answer is NONE. The Public Accounts Committee is probably the best bet. Unfortunately, we are in a political environment which demonstrates a government unable, in a timely way, to address issues which affect real people in real time. I do not see the current administration retaining its level of support amongst the ‘grey vote’


  4. So once again this will affect the 1950s born as they will be pushed aside as DWP do not have sufficient staff to cope, what an utter joke, problem is WE are not laughing, THEY are !!! There are numerous people out of work, why not employ some on a temporary contract to sort these older pension under payments/or current applicants. Most people have some form of computer skills and if they had some financial skills as well I’m sure it would be easy enough for them to pick up.


    • i have the skills the time and the equipment, i can work from ‘home’ for minimum slave wages, no office costs…….but that would be too much like common sense for these people….and the longer they hold on to the money the more they make in interest payments along with people, you know….dying off!


  5. Excellent report David.

    Only voice in wilderness…..
    DWP remain unaccountable; where’s the NAO?
    Wheres PHSO?
    Where is The Opposition?


  6. Pingback: Therese Coffey’s mean “pay out and grab back” scheme for the poorest elderly cheated of their rightful pensions | Westminster Confidential

  7. Pingback: Senior MPs challenge DWP on “shambles” after leaked internal documents and screenshots on Westminster Confidential reveal pension claims are being dumped | Westminster Confidential

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