Inside the £1billion widows pension scandal and how you can get what’s rightfully yours

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AFTER the death of her husband Rodney, Celia Oxspring, 78, was terrified of having to sell the house they had shared for 35 years.

While Rodney was alive, the couple, from Derby, had £650 a week to live on, mostly from his groundworker wages.

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After the death of her husband Rodney, Celia Oxspring, 78, was terrified of having to sell the house they had shared for 35 years1 credit

This was replaced with sick pay when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in February last year.

But when Rodney died in October, aged 65, Celia’s income plummeted.

She only had her state pension of £99.70 a week.

“We had been together for almost 40 years, so it was a huge loss.

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“Dealing with the financial stress on top of all of that was overwhelming,” she said.

“I used my savings to pay the bills, but I didn’t know what would happen to me when they ran out.

“It was awful. I thought I would have to sell our house in a mad rush just to get by.

Célia, a retired pension and payroll clerk, thought she was entitled to a higher amount when she was widowed.

She called the pension department and wrote twice asking for her pension to be reviewed.

Each time, she was cut off before she could speak to anyone and her letters went unanswered.

Finally, after Sun Money intervened, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) increased its payments to £174.46 per week, an increase of almost £3,900 per year.

He also paid £1,345.68 to cover the months since Rodney’s death.

Systemic failure

“I’m so grateful to Sun Money for sorting this out,” she said.

“It’s disgusting that I had to kick out the government so many times and got no recognition.

“I’m afraid other women in this situation don’t even realize they’re owed money or they just give up because the government is making it so difficult.”

MPs last month warned that worried pensioners who may have been underpaid by their state pension are being turned away by government call centers

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MPs last month warned that worried pensioners who may have been underpaid by their state pension are being turned away by government call centersCredit: Getty

Celia is one of more than 100,000 women who may have been underpaid by around £1billion in total.

An estimated 134,000 pensioners, mostly women, could still be owed money after a catalog of errors stemming from outdated IT systems.

The first error was first discovered by campaigner and former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb in 2020.

But two years later, Sun Money STILL hears about women and families looking for money.

Last month, MPs warned that worried pensioners who may have been underpaid by their state pension are being turned away by government call centres.

Our mailbag and e-mail inbox were filled with letters from readers who could not get responses.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which published a damning report on the scandal in January, said: “This has been a major systemic failure for many years.

“There are echoes of Windrush in there, where the government hasn’t really grasped the reality of the impact of what it’s done.”

The average sum owed to pensioners for mistakes dating back to the 1980s is £9,000 – but the highest payout is £128,000 for back-dated payments spanning decades.

In January 2021, the DWP began checking hundreds of thousands of pension records to see if people were underpaid.

If you have any, it will contact you directly but it could take until the end of 2023 to reach everyone.

You can ask the DWP to verify your pension – although this will not speed up the process.

Read our guide on what to do if you think there is a mistake with your pension: thesun.co.uk/pension-mistakes-guide.

At least 40,000 people have already died without getting their due.

Their surviving family has a right to claim the money owed to them, but the DWP is making only limited attempts to contact them.

If he cannot reach the family via the address he registered, he will not continue to search.

So if you think your loved one has lost, contact the Pensions Department.

You need your parent’s national insurance number, date of birth and death, date of marriage and most recent address.


THE SUN IS ASKING FOR MONEY…

WE urge the DWP to:

  • Create a clear online form so retirees can check if they are affected and leave their contact details.
  • Accelerate the contact program with affected pensioners.
  • Pay interest on backdated amounts.
  • Take steps to end any lump sum payments that negatively affect benefits.

DID YOU MISS?

ARE YOU among the thousands of people who owe money?

If you are married, retired before 6th April 2016 and have a basic weekly public pension of less than £85, use this online calculator to check: pensionunderpaid.lcp.uk. com

You may also be eligible if:

  • You are a married woman whose husband turned 65 on or after March 17, 2008 and you receive less than 60% of his basic pension.
  • You are a widow, your husband died after March 17, 2008 and you received less than 60% of his basic pension during his lifetime.
  • You are a widow and your legal pension did not increase on the death of your husband.
  • You are a male or female over 80 (whether married or not) earning less than £85 a week.

DWP made a mistake in its calculations

Retired civil servant Pauline Hinder nearly missed pension payments worth £3,800 a year after DWP failures.

Pauline Hinder nearly missed pension payments worth £3,800 a year after DWP failures.

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Pauline Hinder nearly missed pension payments worth £3,800 a year after DWP failures.

He ignored the fact that she had paid for something called the married woman’s stamp.

It was here that married women who worked before 1977 paid a reduced rate of National Insurance tax.

His case is not among the 134,000 in which the DWP has identified potential errors.

But it shows why all retirees should check that they are receiving the correct amount.

The 66-year-old divorcee from Dursley, Gloucestershire, received a letter from the Pensions Service in January saying she would only be entitled to £68 a week when she reached retirement age in April.

Pauline was shocked it was so low, but realized something was wrong with the calculations.

She tried several times to call the DWP but was frustrated because the staff couldn’t get to the bottom of the matter.

Exasperated, she contacted Sir Steve Webb at the LCP who helped her to have her calculation revised.

The DWP eventually agreed the calculations were wrong and increased his state pension to £141 a week.

She said: ‘When I first tried to call they didn’t care that I was going to get half my pension and wouldn’t be able to manage.

“They just based the pension on my national insurance record and didn’t bother to look any further, even though they knew I had been married.

“It is outrageous and inept that there are so many errors and that the service is not fit to do the job it was set up to do.”

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We have corrected our records and Ms Hinder has received her updated weekly award after achieving state pension entitlement from 8 April 2022.’

‘DOUBLE WHAMMY’

RETIREES on benefits who receive payments for errors could have their payments stopped or reduced.

This is because lump sum payments are treated as revenue by local councils, which campaigners say is unfair.

One, Sir Steve Webb, said lump sums should be waived when it comes to benefit claims.

MP Meg Hillier said: ‘It’s a double whammy of the worst proportions – so they were living on low pensions and now whatever they get back cuts into welfare and other benefits. It’s really difficult.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The action we are taking now will correct the historic underpayments that have been made by successive governments, and we are fully committed to addressing this as soon as possible.

“We have put in place a dedicated team and dedicated significant resources to achieve this, with additional resources being allocated throughout 2022 and 2023 to the underpayment exercise.”

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no shame

CAMPAIGNS denounced the government’s refusal to pay interest on these blunders.

The DWP initially paid 0.5% interest on underpayments, but ceased in January 2020.

Pensions commentator and former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Steve Webb said: “In some cases people have had to wait decades for their money. It’s a shame.”

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