'Concerted govt action' needed on state pension error, says Webb

'Concerted govt action' needed on state pension error, says Webb

Concerted government action is needed to fix the second largest error in state pension payments, Steve Webb has said.

In a statement today (December 5), Webb, partner at LCP and former pensions minister, has asked the government to end its “radio silence” over mistakes in the home responsibilities protection (HRP) system.

These errors have left an unknown number of individuals with less than they are entitled to from their state pension.

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HRP was introduced in 1978 to protect parents (mainly mothers) who spent time at home with children and might otherwise have missed out on state pension rights.

In a report released in July this year, the Department for Work and Pensions initially outlined that the error had taken place and said it was working with HMRC to assess the scale of the problem.

However, since then, neither department has updated the public on the scale of the problem or the plans to check cases and correct the errors.

Webb said: “There is no doubt in my mind that many thousands of mothers have been underpaid state pensions, including some who are now no longer with us.”

He added that the errors arose from a failure to correctly reflect the protection which is built into the system for time spent bringing up children.  

“Yet again, a state pension error has been unearthed which disproportionately affects women,” he said.

“Whilst it is satisfying to be able to help individuals get their pension records corrected, what is really needed is concerted government action to fix this problem.”

What is needed is more communication from governmental bodies, Webb said.

“So far we have had ‘radio silence’ from the government," he said.

“DWP [has] clearly known for many months that there is a problem and it is now time for them to tell us how many people are affected and, more importantly, how they plan to put things right.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are investigating an issue with the historical recording of HRP, with work under way to identify those affected.

"We are already taking swift action to restore missing periods of HRP for people identified through this work and expect to be able to provide further information shortly.”

HRP error

The issue identified by the DWP was periods of inaccurate recording of HRP on national insurance records.

For people reaching the state pension age before April 6 2010, HRP reduced the number of qualifying years needed for a basic state pension where someone stayed at home to care for children for whom they received child benefits or a sick or disabled person.

For those reaching the state pensions age since then, previously recorded periods of HRP were converted into national insurance credits.

However, errors occurred where these periods of HRP were not accurately recorded on some people’s national insurance records.