The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that the pandemic and staffing issues has caused backlogs in payments to those retirees reaching the age of 66
New retirees have said they’re struggling to live without money after it emerged that thousands are facing months of delays on their first state pension payment.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last week admitted that the pandemic and staffing issues had caused backlogs in payments to those reaching the age of 66.
Now many people say they don’t know when they will eventually be paid – with the DWP unable to provide an estimate date.
New claimant Mrs Stephenson applied for her state pension on April 8 this year.
A month later she received a text from the DWP acknowledging her application. Four months later and almost two months since her 66th birthday, she is still waiting for her first payment to arrive.
“I rang the DWP two weeks ago and was told they would send an email ‘to deal with it urgently’ but heard nothing further,” she told The Mirror.
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“I was on hold for 42 minutes before my call was eventually answered.
“How do they think people are living?” she added.
Mirror reader Val Chapman is also in the dark about when she will receive her first pension.
“I have contacted the DWP six times over the last seven weeks and was placed on hold for 40 minutes each time.
“Every time I was sent comments like ‘if you don’t hear anything by next week ring again’ and ‘you will have to allow time for the pensions department to process the request’,” she said.
“How much time do they need since they have had all my information since April?”
Val put her concerns in writing to her local Manchester MP Afzal Khan and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey but never received any replies.
“I have over 40 years NI contributions and feel it is a travesty to be left in this situation fighting to obtain an entitlement for which I and many others have paid significant contributions.
“The current retirees are no surprise to the DWP and it seems no planning has taken place to prevent this disaster.”
Chris Small applied for his state pension on January 25 this year – five days before his 66th birthday.
His first payment did not arrive until July 8 – six months later.
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“Even then, I think I was lucky in that when I phoned up I happened to speak to a member of staff who actually dealt with new applications, who was covering the phone due to shortages.
“She said she could sort it out, which, to give her credit, she did with me receiving the funds four days after our telephone conversation.”
However after finally receiving his first payment, Chris discovered there was a shortfall of £42 a week which he’s now having to dispute with the DWP.
The issue also appears to be affecting those who have chosen to defer their retirement.
Nick Cutmore from Kent applied for his state pension in June.
“I have not had any communication from DWP since applying,” the 68-year-old told us.
“I’ve worked for 53 years, and luckily still have a job . I feel for those who have nothing and are waiting.”
The government insists that the total number of people affected is in the ‘low thousands’ and pensions minister Guy Opperman said the issue should be rectified by October,
The department said ‘hundreds’ of staff have been put on the case to deal with the backlog.
Steve Webb, pensions consultant at Lane Clark & Peacock, said the fact that hundreds of workers have been placed on the matter, suggests the total number of people affected is far higher than the DWP claims.
He said the DWP needs to be transparent about the total number of people affected and the length of delay.
Webb said: “It is clear that thousands of people are having to wait for their first payment of state pension.
“Even when the system is working correctly, most people have to wait four weeks for their first payment, so these further delays could be causing real pressure on family finances.
“A particular concern is cases where working age benefits are switched off as soon as the claimant reaches pension age but state pension does not start for months.
“The DWP should be far more open about how many people have been affected, how long they have been waiting and how the problem arose”.
Charities have also warned the problem could have a big impact on poorer claimants if it continues.
“For people who rely on the state pension as a relatively high proportion of their income it could be a bit of a disaster,” said David Sinclair, director at the International Longevity Centre UK.
“The potential for anxiety and stress is huge.”
A DWP spokesman said the government is sorry.
“We are sorry that some new state pension customers have faced delays receiving payment.
“All those affected have been identified and we have deployed extra resources to process these as a priority. Any claims made today should not be subject to delay.”
Those who have been affected will receive their backdated money in one lump sum, the DWP said.
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