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Thursday, 31 December 2015


The Department for Work and Pensions has finally answered two Freedom of Information requests about the new state pension and the letters written to women whose pension age was postponed twice. Initially both requests were refused.

Pension letters destroyed if not delivered
Letters written to women warning them of rises in their state pension age which were returned undelivered by Royal Mail were destroyed and no further action was taken to find the women concerned. No record was kept of how many letters were returned.

Part of the changes to state pension is the rise in the State Pension Age. This has hit women harder than men and data provided under FOI showed that the Department failed for 14 years to begin to inform women of changes passed in 1995. That exercise began in 2009 and was halted in March 2011. Women's state pension age was changed again in November 2011 and the DWP then restarted writing individual letters from January 2012 to inform women of their new state pension age including both changes. That was often the first they had heard of any change. But many women claim they never received such a letter.

A global study of data quality to be published by the credit reference and address validation agency Experian found that 23% of customer prospect data - including names and addresses - contained errors. That does not mean nearly a quarter will not arrive. But many were clearly at risk of not doing so. That raises the question of what the Department did to deal with this problem.

Initially the DWP refused my Freedom of Information request for more details of how many letters were returned and what happened to them, on grounds of cost. But on review the DWP agreed to give answers.

  • QUESTION: What information does the DWP hold on how many of those letters in any or all of those batches were returned by Royal Mail?
  • REPLY: DWP no longer has access to this information. To support the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998, DWP has a Records Management Policy. This confirms the retention periods for DWP products and, in line with this Policy, there was no specific reason to retain these letters.
  • QUESTION: When letters were returned as above what further steps were taken to try to find the people concerned?
  • REPLY: The letters were issued to the customers’ latest address held on HMRC records. No followup action was taken on any letters that were returned undelivered as DWP had no further information on the customers’ whereabouts. 

No state pension
Women are the big losers from a new rule under which people with fewer than ten years of National Insurance contributions get no new state pension. Under the old rules (since 2010) people with under ten years contributions get a pro rata pension of 1/30th of the full amount for each year of contributions. Under the new pension they get nothing. Nearly three quarters f those affected will be women.

On 14 January 2016 the DWP published Impact of New State Pension (nSP) on an Individual's Pension Entitlement which shows that from 2016 to 2050 a total of 110,000 people will get no new State pension because they have fewer than ten qualifying years of NICs. Of those 110,000, 80,000 (73%) are women and 30,000 (27%) are men.

The estimate of around 3200 people a year is rather lower than those published in the Impact Assessment in May 2014. Those lacked some detail and were not broken down into men and women. But the table showed that in each of the five years from 2016/17 to 2020/21 between 9000 and 12,000 people living in the UK would be denied a new state pension because of this rule. That is between 2% and 3% of those reaching state pension age in that period and a total of between 45,000 and 60,000 in just five years. A further 6000 to 10,000 a year who lived abroad would also would not qualify which is 18% to 23% of those living abroad reaching state pension age (see Table 3.1 on p27).

Further information
Women will get less than men from the new state pension
Women given just two years' notice of state pension age rise 

version 2.00
1 March 2016