The utter disgrace and scandal of DWP and the near-impossibility of getting advice on topping up

LiverpoolLiz Forumite Posts: 5
Second Anniversary First Post
edited 13 June at 2:48PM in Topping up your state pension

I have today, after must time-wasting – endless calls with multiple choice dial-ins all of which warned that the high volume of calls might result in my being cut off before I was answered – paid £650 to top up four missing years of my State Pension, which I will be claiming from September when I turn 66.

Whatever number I tried, at whatever time of the day, I was indeed cut-off. Callers are told the deadline for topping up has been extended from April to 31 July and warned not to leave doing so until the last-minute. But what are they to do when even holding isn’t an option? 

I had initially made the foolish assumption that everything could be accomplished easily online – that Check Your State Pension Gov/UK would tell me clearly how to do it and might even provide a link to do so. But they don’t, and the various online forums and comments pages show how much fury and distress and confusion there is abroad in the land.

This week, having tried a new route in, only to find that I was required to input a reference number for my NICs, a reference I couldn’t find anywhere, I called HMRC. After 54 minutes, the call was answered. I explained my predicament and the woman at the other end of the line managed only to tell me that the number had to be provided before I was cut off. BT gremlins, I think.

Two days later I tried again, putting the phone on speaker so I could continue working. After almost 90 minutes, a helpful woman in HMRC’s Newcastle office knew immediately what I needed and provided the reference number. She said it was sometimes printed on a P60, but nowhere else. There had been lots of calls. I explained that I wanted to fill in one missing year in order to bring my pension up to just below the new maximum. While she couldn’t tell me how much I was due to receive, she could see the missing years and told me that to fill one would cost £150. Surprised, I asked the cost of all four and was told £650. Check Your State Pension had shown that each unfilled year would cost a minimum of £800.80!

My new friend was concerned that I shouldn’t just pay £650 from my bank account to HMRC as, if it was an overpayment, a refund would be difficult. We agreed, however, that there might be no alternative. As well as providing the bank details required for online payment, she gave me a new number to call, suggesting I did so at 8AM. To no avail, as it turned out.

We chatted, the HMRC adviser and I, and while indicating that she wasn’t supposed to comment, she said that it was a mess. Nothing joins up, she said, and DWP had been repeatedly warned about the problems. Yes, she agreed, it should be possible to provide a link via which top-ups could be paid, the requisite reference number made available. She agreed that statements such as (in my case) “42 years of full contributions” are misleading because they led people, including me, to assume they were fully paid up. Many people, like me, had made that interpretation.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down on the time available to plug gaps. My position is not dire: part of the problem is that I contracted out, as people were encouraged to do, for a brief period, though it is not clear how much that decision cost me. I had no workplace pension but had paid into a private pension (my late father worked for Legal & General!) from the day I started working. For most of my life I was employed, though I always had a freelance income on top and I always filed a separate tax return. I was made redundant when the company closed in 2008 (HMRC were so laggardly responding to my query about wrongfully applied tax that I lost money) and set up a modest online business. I left that in 2015 to pursue my own writing and creative projects.

I wasn’t earning much, and was spending time looking after my frail father, and – assuming I had already made sufficient NIC contributions – stopped paying in. Given my under-payment, should not the DWP have alerted me?

After the call, I logged back into Check Your State Pension. The page had changed since I last looked two weeks previously when it told me very specifically how much it would cost to fill each year: £824.20 for the years from 2016-19; and £800.80 for 2021-22. Now, for all those years (and the years when I was in full time education) it simply said: “Year is not full”.

Why the change? And how many people might have wrongly paid thousands of pounds to top up their funds when in reality the cost was only a few hundred? Is the DWP and HMG deliberately misleading people – or is it just utterly in competent? Either way we’re screwed.

Of course staff have been cut to the bone, which makes no sense on any level -whether it’s about sorting pension queries or collecting dosh from tax evaders and avoiders. But lives and livelihoods are at stake here. People with far less pension provision than I stand to lose out. And not everyone has access to computers and broadband or can sit on hold for 90 minutes – what if you’re a busy carer, juggling family commitments and a second job?

This is an utter disgrace. A real scandal – on top of the scandal of the WASPI women – and at a time when inflation is raging, utility prices are sky high, and the most basic shopping basket goes up week on week. And all this in a country that now has no safety net.

I hope the payment I made (proof of which I attached) can connect with my lifetime payments and that, if I have overpaid, I will be refunded and, if I have underpaid, alerted. I hope I will be sent a proper calculation. But I don’t hold much hope because this is now a country without hope in which none of the people supposedly running it take responsibility.



  • westv
    westv Forumite Posts: 5,867
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    Please urgently remove your personal name and postcodes details at the bottom of your post. It doesn't take much to get your personal details (and indeed, get your home address and so on) with a casual google and can be open to identity fraud 
    Why on earth did the poster put the info anyway?!
  • Flugelhorn
    Flugelhorn Forumite Posts: 4,945
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    @JoeCrystal excellent reply - I gave up somewhere in the second paragraph of the first post
  • Flugelhorn
    Flugelhorn Forumite Posts: 4,945
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Name Dropper
    westv said:
    Please urgently remove your personal name and postcodes details at the bottom of your post. It doesn't take much to get your personal details (and indeed, get your home address and so on) with a casual google and can be open to identity fraud 
    Why on earth did the poster put the info anyway?!
    I wonder if this was a ranty letter posted to newspaper or similar - Mrs Angry of N10 or whatever
  • metrobus
    metrobus Forumite Posts: 1,761
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    I phoned at 8am and was immediately answered and given the reference # it was very easy to pay and fill in 3 missing years.

    People have had years to do this, but now are complaining about not getting through due to the rush.😂😂😂

    People need to start taking responsibility for themselves and stop blaming everyone else for their past lack of actions.

  • molerat
    molerat Forumite Posts: 30,514
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    edited 10 June at 12:16PM
    jem16 said:
    With regards to the difficulty in getting through, this is an unprecedented situation which will never happen again. There is absolutely no way that either the DWP or HMRC could possibly have increased their staffing levels to cope with it. Martin Lewis has caused much of the problem by telling everyone aged 40 to 70 to check their situation immediately before tax years 2006/7 to 2016/17 drop off. These years have been available since 2016 but instead of dealing with it, people have left it to the last minute. Many that are phoning don’t even need to be phoning as very few actually need those pre 2016 years. So perhaps you should blame Martin Lewis?

    Some of the blame must also fall on yourself as well I’m afraid. Why did you assume you had a full state pension rather than actually getting a forecast and checking? 
    The act was introduced and made more than 6 years back years available from 5 April 2013 when 2006-07 expired under the normal regulations, well before the commencement of the new pension in 2016.

  • Silvertabby
    Silvertabby Forumite Posts: 8,570
    Seventh Anniversary 1,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    edited 10 June at 5:53PM
    Seems next Tuesday's Martin Lewis money show will include an update on bumping up the State pension by paying for 'missing years'.

    I would suggest that anyone who knows  that they need to make payments for missing years up to 2016/17 tries their best to get through on Monday or Tuesday.  After that, the lines will be clogged - again - by people simply acting under FOMO (fear of missing out).
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