DWP says sorry to 69-year-old after 11-month state pension wait

DWP says sorry to 69-year-old retired teacher living in France, who spent nearly a year attempting to claim her state pension

  • Expat has received an apology and just over £4,200 in arrears from the DWP
  • She was warned of a 22-week wait when she claimed her deferred pension
  • The delay lasted much longer, and her attempt to chase it up went nowhere
  • Ex-teacher says the delay was ‘excessive’ and has asked for compensation
  • Ex-Pensions Minister Steve Webb says her experience was ‘totally unacceptable’ 

Long delay: Expat ended up waiting 11 months after she tried to claim her deferred state pension

A 69-year-old expat who struggled for nearly a year to claim a state pension has received an apology and £4,200 in arrears from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Pamela Dooner, a retired teacher who lives in France, postponed taking payments when she first reached state pension age in late 2015.

After putting in a claim last November, hoping to start receiving payments in January, she was told it would take 22 weeks to process – a delay she condemns as ‘excessive’.

In the end she waited far longer than that, and an attempt to chase up her pension with the DWP’s international department a few months ago got no response, until she asked This is Money for help.

For over a year, we have covered many cases of readers getting into difficulty or even forced into hardship due to state pension delays, although the DWP promised to get on top of problems by last November.

Judging by our inbox in recent months, people reaching 66 now are getting their new claims dealt with, but we still receive complaints from expats, people trying to end deferments and those trying to buy voluntary top-ups.

>>>Have you experienced state pension delays? Find out what to do below

Mrs Dooner, who was trying to get a deferred state pension claim started from overseas, received an email confirmation from the DWP in January that it had been received.

After a long wait, she eventually appealed to us, saying: ‘To date, I have heard nothing. Is there anything I can do?

‘Fortunately my husband has a pension so we are living on his at the moment, but as things are going up it would be useful to have. I have a small French pension.’

After we contacted the DWP on her behalf, Mrs Dooner received an email and two phone calls from staff members, promising that arrears and a ‘deferral choices’ letter would follow (see the box below).

What happens when you defer a state pension, or you simply don’t claim? 

If you reached state pension age but decided to defer before 6 April 2016, you get a choice between taking your arrears as a lump sum or receiving increased payments going forwards.

Those deferring since then can only get higher payments. However, you can backdate your claim for a year, which gives you a lump sum but you will receive a smaller increase in future payments.

Steve Webb explains the pre-2016 deferral system here, and the process for post-2016 state pension deferrals here.

The email said: ‘I would like to apologise for the delay you have experienced. I can confirm that I am now dealing with your claim and a decision letter will be sent out to you in the next few days.

‘All arrears from 1 January 2022 to date will be sent to your bank account at the same time. I hope I have clarified the matter for you. I apologise again for the delay and for any inconvenience and stress caused.’

Of her belated phone conversations with staff about her claim, Mrs Dooner says: ‘They couldn’t give me a reason why it had been delayed. It just got lost.’

She says of her 11 month wait: ‘I still feel it is excessive. I thought 22 weeks was excessive.’

Mrs Dooner has asked the DWP for compensation.

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb says: ‘Time and again we see that although most of the delays in new state pension claims have been ironed out, anything more complex such as people deferring taking their state pension can get stuck for months at a time.

‘It is totally unacceptable for someone to be left waiting so long for their pension to be put into payment and ending up being owed thousands of pounds in arrears.’

Webb, who is now a partner at LCP and This is Money’s pensions columnist, adds: ‘Staffing and training levels need to increase if all retirees are to get the standard of service they have a right to expect after a lifetime of work.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry for the delay processing Mrs Dooner’s state pension claim. This has now been finalised and arrears issued.’

Mrs Dooner’s compensation request is currently being considered.

State pension delayed? What should you do

The state pension is paid four weeks in arrears when it first begins. Steve Webb advises anyone who has faced an unreasonable wait beyond that to contact their MP, who should take it up with the DWP.

Expats can contact the MP representing the last constituency in which they lived before moving abroad.

The Government will give an advance on a first state pension payment if you have made a claim and are in ‘urgent financial need’.

Details of how to apply for a state pension advance are here, but there is no information on what criteria the DWP uses to make decisions.

If you are having trouble getting state pension payments started or top-ups processed, write to This is Money and tell us your story at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk.

Please put PENSION DELAY in the subject line. We will not be able to respond to everyone, and you may also want to seek help from your MP.

The DWP’s pension service contact details are here and the number is 0800 731 0469.

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