Distressing ordeals: Older people have suffered hardship due to state pension delays (Stock image)

Older people have been hit hard by state pension delays (Stock Image)

The state pension crisis at Department for Work and Pensions has caused severe hardship for older people, including food insecurity.

Andrew Crocker, who was 66 in May, claimed he had to rely on “tiny food parcels” and lost four stone while awaiting his state pension to begin.

The income received by the retired builder from Pembrokeshire was not more than four months.

However, attempts at resolving his pension issues were met with empty promises from DWP staff. This never happened.

Lesley Shroder worried about losing her home when her disability and housing benefits stopped in August after her 66th Birthday. However, several months later, her state pension had not started.

Ms. Shroder was originally from Essex and was an executive officer at DWP until she was a victim of traumatic brain injuries that forced her to stop working 11 years ago.

She said that the whole thing was a complete mess. I have bills that I must pay and I would be in serious financial trouble if I didn’t have family. 

“We are the forgotten people. I don’t feel that anyone at the DWP cares. It’s completely out of the realm of reality. It is amazing to think how they would feel if they didn’t know where their next meal was coming.

This is Money has been bombarded with messages from seniors trying to get state pension payments began or stopped. We first revealed in September that there was a major service meltdown at the DWP. 

Furious readers condemned the incompetence of DWP staff and repeatedly broke their promises to call them back.

Many besides Mr Crocker and Ms Shroder have told us they were being forced into hardship because they weren’t receiving the state pension they were due.

Guy Opperman, the Minister of Pensions, blamed delays on the pandemic. He also pointed out’staffing issues that have now been fixed’. 

Ministers would be well advised to offer a public apology for the distress caused by these delays to thousands of people

Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister

He stated that hundreds of additional staff were being transferred and that normal service would resume at the end of October.

Officials from DWP appeared before the public accounts committee of MPs last week to reiterate their pledge to end the crisis by the following week.

The cases of Mr. Crocker and Mrs. Shroder were settled when This is Money raised them with DWP before October ended.

>>>Are you still waiting for your state pension NOW? Find out what you can do below

Meanwhile, the DWP is currently undertaking a massive ‘correction exercise’ after more than a hundred thousand elderly women were underpaid an estimated £1billion in state pension. 

Last week, officials who gave evidence to MPs admitted that this work had contributed to delays in new state pension claims.

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb says: ‘DWP seem to be very efficient at stopping people’s benefits when they reach pension age but much less efficient at putting pensions into payment.

“The result is a gap between payments that can last for weeks or even months.

“Families reaching pension age on benefits are rarely able to save enough money to pay their bills. This can lead to serious consequences and make it more difficult for the family to support their loved ones.

Webb, now a partner at LCP pension consulting, said: ‘It would have been good to hear a proper public apology by ministers for the distress caused to thousands of people due to these delays in paying what is theirs rightfully theirs.

A spokesperson for DWP stated that the DWP was sorry that some new customers were not able to receive their state pensions on time.

“We have now made all outstanding payments and are in touch with customers where further information is required to complete processing.”

It added that there are 4,900 claims where it has contacted customers and is awaiting more information, and that any claims made today should not be subject to delay. 

“They don’t know what they are doing”: Saver struggled to make ends meet while he waited for his retirement.

Andrew Crocker stated that he felt ‘the lowest of lows’, ‘like a second-class citizen in my country’ while trying for the DWP’s start to pay his state pension.

He wrote to us: “I have reached a level of extreme frustration and have lost four stones as a result no income since May. I was on universal credit, which was stopped on my birthday.

After trying for two years to get a form, he applied in July for his state-provided pension with the assistance of a council support worker.

He said that the two of them called DWP weekly. They were promised a return call within two days, five days, or other time period. They were also told that a manager would be in touch, but nothing happened.

They reached out to Mr Crocker’s local MP for help, but he was unsuccessful.

While he waited, he borrowed money from his roommate and wrote to us: “There is still a delay in payment and no promise of a date. To make matters worse, I don’t have a private retirement and have been living off tiny food parcels for the past year.

“Can you imagine not getting a penny for four consecutive months?” I have been patient but I have suffered from health problems. I am now so thin and isolated. I am not eligible for either a hardship loan or a benefit advance.

After This is Money intervened in Crocker’s case, DWP staff contacted him to sort it out. We were informed that the July application he had made was incomplete.

We asked the DWP why it didn’t tell him in July that it needed more information, or when he and his support person called after that. 

It didn’t respond to this or other questions – see the box below to see what it didn’t answer.

Mr Crocker stated that DWP staff did not give him a chance. I can’t even find any complaints department. It’s almost like banging against a wall.

Lesley Shroder:  'I feel no one at the DWP cares'

Lesley Shroder:  ‘I feel no one at the DWP cares’

He has now received a backpayment of more than £2,000 and started getting a state pension of £118 a week.

‘You are on hold for ever’: Long delays to speak with DWP staff who lack compassion

Lesley Shroder had no income and was forced by the DWP to borrow money from her child to pay rent.

She claimed that her Employment and Support Allowance and Council Tax Reduction, as well local authority housing benefits, had all been stopped on her birthday. 

Although she did not receive an invitation letter regarding submitting a state pension claim, she submitted one in August.

She wrote to us saying she was at the end of her rope and that she had made several phone calls. After being on hold for over an hour, and being placed on the “urgent list”, she was unable to receive any money.

‘I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to receive any monies and until I have paperwork to prove my pension, housing benefit remains suspended.’

Ms Shroder stated she was required to submit paperwork by September 31 in order to be eligible for housing benefit reinstatement and a backpayment. She had to include all details and proof of income.

What is ESA? 

Employment and Support Allowance pays for people who have a disability that limits their ability to work. 

The Government has more information here. 

She continued, “I am at my end of my tether.” It’s absurd. It’s absurd. After you wait on hold for so long, you will get the same story again. They will then make it urgent. I was told that they have an 8-10 week backlog, which is not good if you don’t have any other income.

Ms Shroder claimed that she worked at DWP before her injury and that its staff lack compassion and understanding.

“They become complacent and don’t see you as an individual.”

After Ms Shroder raised her case with This is Money, a senior staff member called to offer an apology.

She got a backpayment of nearly £1,400 and started receiving a state pension of around £183 a week.

We asked the DWP for its opinion, but it didn’t respond 

 – Does the DWP have a system for identifying vulnerable or needy people making state pension claims?

– Does it prioritize those who are in extreme hardship, such those who are receiving benefits that will end at age 66?

– Can the staff that answers calls from the public about state pensions see all their information, including past calls?

DWP is addressing the issue that staff are misleading callers in response to repeated claims made by our readers that staff answering phones are making fake promises about callbacks within a certain (but often different) number or about urgent action that never materializes.


State pension delayed? What should you do?

The state pension is paid in arrears for four weeks when it begins. However, delays can extend for up to a month or more.

Steve Webb stated that anyone who has endured an unreasonable wait should escalate the matter via their MP, who should then take it up with DWP. 

If you have filed a claim and are in an ‘urgent financial crisis’, the Government will provide an advance on your first state pension payment. 

Details of how to apply are here, but there is no information on what criteria it uses to make decisions.

The DWP said:  ‘We have procedures in place to escalate cases where a customer tells us they are in financial hardship and their state pension entitlement date is past due. 

‘Customer contact of this nature are often cleared and urgent payments issued on the same day. The Pension Service phone number can be reached at 0800 731 0469.

If you are having trouble getting payments started, write to This is Money and tell your story at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk.

Please make sure to include PENSION DELIVERY in the subject line. We cannot respond to everyone. You may also wish to contact your MP for help.

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