In a landmark ruling, hundreds of thousands of married women in the UK may be entitled to state pension backpayments worth thousands of pounds.
This ruling comes after a case brought by 80-year-old Daphne Bennett, who successfully challenged the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over missed pension payments.
The ruling has the potential to impact many other women who were not automatically upgraded to their full state pension entitlement.
Before April 2016, married women who reached state pension age were entitled to 60% of their husband’s basic state pension rate upon his retirement. However, prior to 2008, women had to claim this money themselves. Many women were unaware of this requirement and missed out on their full state pension entitlement. The DWP has already paid millions of pounds in backpayments to women who did not automatically receive the upgrade to their pensions. However, women who were supposed to claim the money themselves could also be entitled to have missed payments backdated.
Daphne Bennett, aged 80, is one of the women who never received the full state pension she was entitled to. She is now set to receive a payout including a pension uplift backdated to 2008, interest on those payments, and compensation from the DWP. Mrs. Bennett, a former bookkeeper from Woking, Surrey, had been receiving a state pension of £38.66 per week since 2003, based on her national insurance record. It was only after reading about married women missing out on pensions in 2020 that she realized she was entitled to a higher rate.
When Mrs. Bennett’s husband, Tim, applied for his own state pension over the phone in early 2008, he was told that no forms needed to be signed for his wife to receive her full pension. However, no claim form was ever issued to Mrs. Bennett, and she was never informed about the need to submit a second claim. It was this lack of communication and inadequate processes that formed the basis of her complaint against the DWP.
Implications for Other Women
This ruling by the DWP independent case examiner may open the door for other women in similar situations to make successful claims against the DWP. It is estimated that there could be hundreds of thousands of women who were never informed about the requirement to claim their full state pension entitlement. The Parliamentary Ombudsman may also rule in favor of these women as a group, further highlighting the need for justice in this matter.
Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, who has been working with married women to challenge the state pension rules, expressed hope that this landmark case will lead to many more women receiving the justice they deserve. He highlighted the inadequacy of the old processes for alerting women to the need to claim their state pension twice, suggesting that information booklets from the JobCentre or reliance on husbands ticking a box on a form were insufficient. The ruling gives hope to those who have been fighting for fairness in the state pension system.