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State pension chaos causes stress and hardship for people turning 66

Frustration: People reaching state pension age are strugging to get payments started (Stock image)

Elderly people are facing nightmare battles with the Department for Work and Pensions to get state pension payments started after they turn 66, This is Money can reveal.

A string of readers have contacted us to report unexplained delays, frustrating waits and being cut off on the phone, and staff repeatedly asking for the same information.

Some say they are suffering stress and financial difficulties as they bombard the DWP with calls to resolve payment problems after they hit state pension age.

The DWP was contacted for comment but had not yet responded by the time of publication. 

Kate Taylor (not her real name) was 66 at the end of May but is still working because she can’t afford to retire before receiving her £179.60-a-week state pension.

After hearing nothing from the DWP, she filled in an online claim form at the end of June and has since answered the same set of questions on the phone twice in the past couple of weeks.

The office worker from the north of Scotland was told by staff it is taking 10-12 weeks to process state pension payments, but she couldn’t confirm whether her claim would be counted from June or from the recent phone calls.

Mrs Taylor slammed ‘disgraceful’ delays and described a phone ordeal involving 10 calls to DWP staff, and getting put on hold and then cut off on four of those occasions.

One time, she insisted on giving contact details to the staff member who wanted to put her on hold, so they could call her back if necessary. She was cut off, and they didn’t ring her back.

On a single day, she waited 20 minutes to get through to the DWP and was told to ring another number. 

After waiting another 20 minutes she got through to a staff member, but then was cut off. She called back and waited another 45 minutes to get through to a staff member, before being cut off again.

Mrs Taylor finds it suspicious that staff have put her on hold and cut her off so many times.

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‘You think, they are just at it now,’ she says. ‘They have made you wait from 60 to 66 for your pension, and now you have to fight for it. It’s disgraceful.

‘I want to retire. I can’t retire on no income.’

Her self-employed husband Ian, 68, says of his wife’s experience: ‘She is now having to continue working to make ends meet. She now feels totally helpless trying to deal with this failing system.

‘This is not a benefit she is claiming. She has worked continually for 52 years paying into the Government pension scheme.’ 

Lynda Haynes applied for her state pension online six weeks before she was 66 in mid June.

But she only started receiving it two months later after a great deal of aggravation for her and her husband Roger – who has a heart condition – and many phone calls.

Mr Haynes says: ‘It was an awful lot of stress. She never got a straight answer from anyone. They said they would look into it. On several occasions they told her they would expedite it immediately and nothing happened. No one could tell her how much pension she was going to be due.

‘It was a massive stress. Lynda was upset because they wouldn’t talk to me on the phone. It had to be her.’

Mr Haynes says his wife made around 16 calls and it took up to 40 minutes to get through. 

Meanwhile, on three occasions the DWP sent texts to his phone asking his wife to make contact urgently, and she handed over her bank details at least twice, but she has received no correspondence about her state pension.

Mr Haynes, a former buyer in the car industry, says he has been too ill to work since 2005 and his wife has nursed him. The couple, who live in Powys in Wales, therefore need his wife’s £112-a-week state pension.

Several other people have emailed This is Money’s columnist Steve Webb to say they are struggling to get through to the DWP on the phone, or resolve payment delays if they do speak to staff, when they initially reach state pension age.

Readers say they face waits of two or more months, causing them financial problems or potential difficulties with benefits stopping.

Other examples can be found on social media website Twitter, with a number of tweets in recent days highlighting state pension struggles: 

Webb, a former Pensions Minister who is now a partner at consultant LCP, says: ‘Many of those reaching pension age this year have had to wait far longer than they expected to qualify for a state pension.

‘It adds insult to injury not to then pay their pension on time. Newly retired people already have to wait nearly a month for their first payment to be made because payments are usually made four weekly in arrears.

‘Having to wait longer can put cashflow pressures on people, but there is also the anxiety and frustration of simply not knowing what they are going to get and when.

Many of those reaching pension age this year have had to wait far longer than they expected to qualify for a state pension. It adds insult to injury not to then pay their pension on time.

‘Whilst the DWP is under a lot of pressure and is working hard to sort out past state pension errors, this must not be at the expense of those retiring today.’

The DWP is undertaking a massive ‘correction exercise’ after more than a hundred thousand elderly women were underpaid what could end up totalling £2.8billion in a state pension scandal uncovered by Steve Webb and This is Money.

In the most recent update, it emerged the DWP was currently employing 167 staff in the task and aimed to recruit another 360 and complete the work by the end of 2023. 

It is unclear whether this is connected to the delays in starting payments for those just reaching state pension age.  

>>>Have you been underpaid state pension? Find out what to do here 

TOP SIPPS FOR DIY PENSION INVESTORS

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