VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Fix this pension outrage

Pensions minister Guy Opperman needs to wake up to the fact that hundreds of thousands of women are missing out on millions of pounds in retirement on his watch.

Over the past six months, Money Mail has received a flood of letters from older women who have been denied their rightful state pension for years, if not decades.

Many say they would still be in the dark had they not stumbled upon an article in this newspaper or on sister website Thisismoney.

Short-changed: Over the past six months, Money Mail has received a flood of letters from older women who have been denied their rightful state pension for years, if not decades

Short-changed: Over the past six months, Money Mail has received a flood of letters from older women who have been denied their rightful state pension for years, if not decades

Short-changed: Over the past six months, Money Mail has received a flood of letters from older women who have been denied their rightful state pension for years, if not decades

The scandal involves married women, widows and divorcees entitled to a state pension rate based on their husband’s National Insurance contributions. Tens of thousands of women aged over 80 may have also been underpaid.

Since we have published a string of exposés about the fiasco, many have won tens of thousands of pounds in back payments.

But, all too often, scores of women are still being fobbed off by the Department for Work and Pensions.

In many cases, readers have called its helpline only to be wrongly informed that our article is inaccurate and that they aren’t owed a penny.

As we report today, one woman had to make 20 separate calls and break down in tears before the government department admitted she was not receiving the correct amount.

This is shameful. How many others trusted what they were told the first time and are missing out on life-changing sums as a result?

Many of the women affected are often struggling to get by as it is, because they don’t have much in the way of a private pension.

One older lady said she had been living on just £40 a week for 20 years.

The problem is that the state pension system is fiendishly complicated. Most of the issues relate to the old system, which was abolished in 2016. However, these rules still apply to the millions who retired before then.

So it is unacceptable that the Government is not bothering to properly train its staff to answer basic questions about who is owed what. 

If they can’t get their heads around the rules, what hope is there for those on the other end of the telephone?

The DWP has said it is checking its records for women whose pensions may have been underpaid and to call if you are worried.

This is not good enough. There needs to be an official probe into how many women have missed out and how this has been allowed to happen.

DWP has proven time and again that it does not have a handle on the issue. There must be greater transparency, a fairer redress system for those who have lost out and a darn sight more effort put into ensuring women know what they are owed in the first place.

If it were not for the tireless campaigning by former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, the scandal may never have been uncovered.

It would be unforgiveable for the DWP to brush it under the carpet.

Just recently, Sir Steve helped one woman win back £100,000. But instead of being able to enjoy this money in her 60s and 70s, her family say she is now in a nursing home with dementia and doesn’t understand. 

The Government must act before more women can’t benefit from, or die, without getting the pension they deserve.

If you’ve been given the runaround by DWP write to us at moneymail@dailymail.co.uk or Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

Savvy budgeting

Thank you for all your splendid budgeting tips.

Reader Penny Vickers checks her accounts every Sunday and transfers odd sums over £5 into an emergency fund. ‘It soon builds up and you don’t notice it,’ she says.

Roy Dick, who lives alone since his wife went into care, swears by a good old-fashioned shopping list.

‘Once the list is made up, only buy what is on it. It takes some time and a strong will to get out of the habit of buying extras on impulse, but it pays off in the long run,’ he says.

‘But please do give yourself a treat now and again,’ he adds.

Well, I don’t need telling twice.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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