MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has written to Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, asking him to rewrite the fact sheet on the Gov.uk website so people can properly claim compensation for losing additional pensions worth up to thousands of pounds after the new state pension was introduced in 2016.
The action from the committee comes after members of the public complained to MPs that it was virtually impossible to find the advice given in the fact sheet or claim. Not a single person has succeeded in a claim against the Department for Work and Pensions yet possibly 11 million people are entitled to it.
The people affected are a large but distinct group. They were people who were contracted out of SERPS by their employer but were told they would receive an index linked guaranteed minimum pension. This arrangement was scrapped when the new state pension was introduced in 2016 for anyone in the private sector – but remains for public sector workers.
The money they have lost is anything from a few pounds a week to tens of thousands of pounds over the lifetime of their pension. This decision was never debated in Parliament or included in the Pensions White Paper. Just as with the 50swomen and divorcees, women are the most affected.
Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, decided that there was maladministration by the DWP and two complainants got £1250 between them. He recommended that the government publish guidance on how to claim. But ministers ignored his advice and he never bothered to hold the ministry to account for its failure.
In March Peter Schofield, DWP permanent secretary on £190,000 a year, wrote to MPs on the committee, saying he had no intention of changing it. You can read the blog on this here.
Now Stephen Timms, the Labour chair of the committee, has written a strongly worded letter to Guy Opperman, asking for it to be rewritten. The full text is here.
The letter reveals anger among members of the public.
The letter said:” One person pointed out that the factsheet has been placed on Gov.UK in the section on ‘public service pensions’, when it is not in fact relevant to members of such schemes as they have full inflation protection.
“Another told us that they only became aware of it after looking through the correspondence between the Committee and DWP on the Committee’s website. They said “how anyone affected was expected to know it was there I will never know. There was no press release or other publicity to encourage the large numbers of people affected to look at the gov.uk site factsheet.”
” Yet another person pointed out that some pension schemes were unaware of the factsheet.
One referred on its website to GMP indexation being partly delivered through ‘increases each year added to your State Pension’, without distinguishing between people who reach State Pension age before and after 6 April 2016.”
Only 19 people used the on-page search function
The analytic review of the factsheet sent to the Committee on 2 March 2022 said, the factsheet had had 6,922 ‘unique page views’, which seems low number given that the Department estimated that 50,000 people would be worse off in 2017-18 alone.13 Only 19 people had used the on-page search function, which is ‘very low’.
The MPs say: “The Committee would be grateful for an explanation of the circumstances in which an individual in the target group for the factsheet may be eligible for compensation and what steps should they take to get it. This should be included in a revised version of the factsheet.”
The letter concludes; ” The Committee is concerned that, now six years on from the NAO report, it is still the case that some people with GMPs negatively affected by the new State Pension reforms “have not been able to find the information they need.” In light of this, will the Department revisit its decision not to review the factsheet and commit to improving its content so that it better meets the needs of those affected and promoting it better? This Committee would be grateful for sight of a suitably revised version of this factsheet before it is published.
“I would be grateful for a response by 8 June.”
The DWP’s official position is “We encourage anyone who is concerned to read the online factsheet and contact us if they think they have been affected.
“The publication of the factsheet is the final step in the Department meeting the Ombudsman’s recommendations on this issue.”
But MPs are not satisfied and nor should anyone else. So Mr Opperman’s response will be closely watched. To repeat again if this is the way the ministry treats this group of people how are the 3.8 million 50s women who are hanging on for a compensation package from Robert Behrens are going to be vastly disappointed. Note it is SIX years since he recommended compensation for this group and not a single person has got a penny. At this rate the 50s women could be well into their 70s before they get any money or in their graves by then.
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I will never willingly connect any of my computers to a government website anyway, so would be impossible to access! As soon as you dot hat they have access to your location and everything on the computer….I can’t believe people are still too stupid to not know this!
I worked for several Local Authorities continuously from 1974 to 2014. When I took maternity leave I paid additional contributions to my pension scheme each time I returned to work accumulating nearly 40 years in total. At no time during my employment history was I advised that I had been contracted out of SERPS.
Also as a 1950s woman I was not informed of the increase in State Pension years for women from 60 to 66yrs. Neither did I realise until recently that men were given additional years contributions to their pensions in 1980s to encourage them to retire and make space for younger people to take up their jobs as unemployment had spiralled. The same offer was not made to women! Typical misogynistic attitude of Tory men.
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50 Women have been treated with contempt
We were never told council jobs were all opted out of SERPs, as were all government jobs.
80 per cent of all workers were contracted out of the state second pension.
Now we’ve lost money from the new flat rate state pension, with the excuse of the opt out of SERPs, even if you have the full 35 years NI history, with practically an individual amount of state pension between us all.
Its an absolute disgrace, like everything the DWP get away with and how much worse is it going to get when the 90,000 Civil Servants are gone. They already blame the disgraceful way the department is run by staff shortages, hopefully this Government will be gone and the next will start to give a damn about us Pensioners.
Callaghan took away the state second pension (SERPs) from 1978 to 80 per cent of workers. His was a Labour government.
The Tories continued this and also stopped the prior version of triple lock annual rise of state pension from 1980, that Labour’s Blair and Brown’s government continued between 1997 and 2010.
The Lib Dems as Pension Minister between 2010 and 2015, gathered up all the attacks on National Insurance and state pension by Tory and Labour alike from 1978, and made them worse.
So the next government has already proven by history not to care about pensioners be they Labour, Tory or Lib Dems.
I worked for myself bringing up two very small children from 1990, when thinking about pensions, I just thought well, when I’m 60 I will get my state pension, so I will be ok! So I didn’t take out a private pension, as I needed the money to do what I wanted with the 2 boys, being a single parent!! Oh dear, that didn’t work out, did it????
Thanks much appreciated by this information
The whole point of these ‘ruses’ was to liberate pensioners from as much money as the government could, both SERPS and over 60s women, and then weight the power of official bodies – the courts, ombudsmen, DWP,etc – to ensure we could not prevent the theft of our long-earned pensions. It appears we have no recourse: I can only advise youngsters to not take out pensions and spend every penny – they will still steal what they can from you in old age but, at least you’ll know you spent your money on having a good life! Good Luck because they’ll change the law to find some other way to misappropriate your money..
Paying National Insurance is compulsory, and auto enrolment also appears automatic, so there is no escape.
I sent in and they said that it was closed due to same comment coming in