Plugging NI gaps for free with NI credits

Step 3 of the Buying National Insurance guide on the MSE website says: if" you have gaps in your record, see if you can plug 'em for FREE with NI credits"

One of the options for this is: "- Unemployed and actively looking for workYou needn't have been claiming jobseeker's allowance, but will need to prove you were looking for employment"

The advice goes on to say:

"If you were looking for work in the UK and can show evidence of this, you can contact your local job centre to claim Class 1 credits. There’s no time limit but it’s best to make your application as soon as possible. No need to do this if you claimed Job Seeker’s allowance as you will have accrued class 1 credits automatically. 

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that evidence will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may include, but is not limited to: emails/letters confirming interviews, applications, rejection letters/emails." 

I tried claiming for one year of NI when I was actively looking for work but not claiming benefit (and so not getting the credits automatically). I submitted the relevant form and supporting documentation to my local job centre in April last year. After a few months, DWP rejected my claim as it was retrospective. I asked for the decision to be reviewed. DWP has just confirmed that their initial decision is unchanged. In other words, I should have claimed for the NI credit as soon as I started seeking work, not afterwards. The fact that I had no idea that I was entitled to NI credits (as I wasn't in the benefits system) was not considered relevant. It was my responsibility to know the rules they said.

If this is standard DWP procedure, then the advice on MSE is misleading. There IS a time limit on applications for NI credits in the sense that you need to claim immediately that you are entitled to them, not later. 

I have yet to decide whether I am going formally to appeal the decision. It might be a waste of time. 

Does anyone have any experience of this? Has anyone had success in claiming for previous years credits when they were seeking work but not in the benefits system?

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