Thousands of pensioners are seeing their state pensions cut after the death of their spouse due to ‘old and bizarre’ rules.
Widows have been shocked to see their income plummet by as much as £1,000 a year just weeks after losing their husband. Kate Evans, 75, from Banstead in Surrey, said her state pension was cut by £90 a month within two weeks of her husband’s death.
“I was shocked and worried because that’s a lot of money to lose every month,” she said. “I can’t imagine surviving on the state pension – it was already terrible and then they cut it even further. At first I thought it must be wrong.
But Ms Evans is just one of thousands of others taken by the rule every year. Her husband died on May 5 and by May 18 she had received a letter telling her that her state pension had been reduced by £1,000 a year. “If anything, I thought I might get a bit more out of the state pension as a widow because I’m on my own now,” she said.
The letter contained a breakdown to show exactly how her state pension had been calculated, but she could not understand why her pension had gone down.
Ms Evans’ state pension, which was based on her and her husband’s work history, was reduced when she inherited her police pension. Her late husband had ‘under-contracted’ and paid lower National Insurance contributions to supplement his private pension, so by dipping into his police pension she still benefited from her NI work record.
This means that even though his state pension has been reduced, his overall retirement income has increased.
Steven Cameron of Aegon, the pensions group, said: ‘State pension can be extremely complicated and even more so if your entitlement is linked to a spouse. It is unfortunate that there are changes in the amount she receives at such a difficult time after a bereavement.
Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions minister and now a partner at consultancy LCP, said public widows’ pensions had plummeted due to an old rule that had been scrapped for future generations but was still baked into the system for older retirees.