Mystery of missing state pension credits: Frustrated universal credit claimants trying to top up retirement income seek answers
- Margaret Whitaker, 66, battled to get two years when she received UC recorded
- She says it took dozens of calls over several months to the DWP and HMRC
- Graham Pickard found a nine-month claim period wasn’t added to his NI record
- Both faced having to pay hundreds of pounds extra for state pension top-ups
- The reason why these UC claimants’ records were not updated is unknown
- It is vital HMRC and DWP find out what went wrong, says ex-Minister Steve Webb
Margaret Whitaker: Two years when she claimed universal credit were missing from her record
A mystery ‘glitch’ in state pension records left two savers struggling to fix potentially costly holes in their retirement income.
Missing National Insurance credits can mean pensioners face shortfalls in retirement unless they notice and get them fixed.
Margaret Whitaker, 66, pictured right, battled to get two years of credits added to cover a period when she claimed universal credit after the death of her husband.
She says it took dozens of calls over several months to the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC to get her National Insurance record from 2020 to 2022 corrected.
The retired receptionist from Moray in Scotland sought help from former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, who explained what she needed to ask for and encouraged her to persist.
Mrs Whitaker says her eventual success allowed her to buy a few weeks of state pension top-ups for around £60, instead of paying about £1,650 for two full years.
But she says it was distressing to have to explain her personal history on numerous calls, sometimes after waiting 20 minutes or half an hour to get through.
‘I had to repeat the same story every time. It was stressful because it was about the time after my husband had died. At one point I was told I wasn’t entitled to any credits.’
People who claim universal credit, like those receiving child benefit or carer’s allowance, should have these periods added to their NI records.
They receive credits that will eventually boost their state pension if qualifying years are not earned another way. If these are missing, it could result in a lower pension in retirement.
Webb and This is Money are carrying out a separate investigation into years when child benefit was claimed getting missed off state pension records.
‘Nine months of claims were missing from my record’
Separately, retiree Graham Pickard found a nine-month period when he claimed universal credit in 2020 did not appear on his record, and made fruitless calls to the Government to get it sorted.
He told us: ‘Nearly two years on my record still shows zero NI credits. It doesn’t matter which department I speak to, there seems to be no-one that can actually do anything to rectify this.’
Mr Pickard, 65, a retired airport worker from Manchester, was one year short of qualifying for a full state pension of £185.15 a week, or around £9,600 a year.
His NI record was updated after This is Money raised his case with the DWP and HMRC, and he will now be able to pay around £200 to fill a gap in the final year instead of more than £800.
He told This is Money: ‘I have been in contact with HMRC and they told me that they knew about it and it was a glitch and affected many people and a note was put on my records.’
Mr Pickard adds that he raised the issue on Twitter, and says: ‘Quite a few have replied that they are in the same situation so it could be another pension scandal being kept quiet.’
He says: ‘Thank you for your intervention without which I would still be waiting.’
This is Money has spoken to a third person who is attempting to fix a gap in their NI record from when they claimed universal credit, but who doesn’t want their story publicised.
The reason why these universal credit claimants’ records have not been updated, and their valuable National Insurance credits gone missing as a result, is unknown.
We asked the DWP and HMRC whether there has been a ‘glitch’ in the system, and if so what is the cause, how many people are affected and when they expect records to be fixed.
We received no response to these questions by the time of publication, although after we flagged Mr Pickard’s case we were given to understand the Government believes there is no indication of a wider issue.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We have spoken to Mr Pickard and resolved his case, and we are reviewing Mrs Whittaker’s case as a priority.’
Steve Webb, who is now a partner at LCP and This is Money’s pensions columnist, says: ‘Anyone on universal credit should automatically get National Insurance credits to help protect their state pension entitlement.
‘If Mr Pickard and Mrs Whitaker had not checked, it seems highly likely that these credits would never have been added to their account and their state pension could have been short as a result.
‘Both of them found it incredibly difficult to find anyone who knew how the system worked or how to fix these errors.
‘As always, when you see things going wrong for one or two people, you wonder if this is a symptom of a much bigger problem.
‘It is vital that HMRC and DWP join forces to get to the bottom of what went wrong here, and make sure that large numbers of people on universal credit are not also missing out.’