Petition fighting for mums facing a smaller state pension hits 10k names – and now the Government must respond
- Ex-Pensions Minister fights ‘injustice’ of mums facing reduced state pensions
- Petition calls for parents to get credits lost by not signing up for child benefit
- At 10k names, Government must respond and send a copy to those who signed
- If it gets to 100k by 8 May, the issue will be considered for debate in Parliament
Milestone passed: Petition has reached 10k signatures, so the Government must respond
A petition battling on behalf of mums facing a reduced state pension in old age has reached 10,000 signatures – meaning the Government is forced to respond.
Launched by former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, the petition calls for parents to be handed back valuable pension credits lost by not signing up for child benefit.
This is Money has fought for justice for these parents in a campaign launched last autumn.
Webb says reaching the initial petition target is ‘great news’ and has promised to redouble efforts to get the Government to ‘fix the broken system’.
If the petition gets 100,000 signatures by 8 May, the issue will be considered for debate in Parliament.
This is Money is campaigning against the unfairness of parents – mostly mums – ending up tens of thousands of pounds worse off in retirement because they failed to claim child benefit or made simple errors on the form.
Readers who support our campaign can sign Webb’s petition here.
Webb, who is now policy director at Royal London, said: ‘It is great news for our campaign that more than 10,000 people say that they want the Government to fix the broken system around child benefit and National Insurance credits.
‘This is not a simple issue, so it is a real achievement to engage more than 10,000 people, with more adding their names each day, and we are grateful to everyone who has helped to raise the issue.
‘The Government is now obliged to post a response on the petition website and everyone who signed the petition will automatically be sent a copy of what they have to say.
‘But unless the Government gives in, we will be redoubling our efforts to highlight this unfairness and will keep up the pressure until we can get things changed to the benefit of thousands of parents and young families.’
Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, told This is Money: ‘The Treasury Committee has long argued that DWP must do more to inform parents with low-or-no incomes that they could be missing out on pension entitlement.
Have you lost state pension by not signing up for child benefits or filling form in wrong?
If this has happened to you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story.
‘Given that this petition now has over 10,000 signatures, it will be interesting to see how the Government responds.’
Webb explains that with each passing year more and more mothers are choosing not to claim child benefit because high earnings mean they no longer qualify for it.
Those who failed to sign up when new rules began in 2013 could have lost six years of state pension credits by now.
Each annual credit is worth around £244 per year in state pension, or £4,880 over the course of a typical 20-year retirement.
But current rules only allow parents to backdate credits by three months when they make a belated child benefit claim.
Webb wants the Government to fully backdate all lost credits, and to start actively contacting those with missing credits – for example, by cross-matching the births registration list with the child benefit list.
Steve Webb: ‘Thousands of mothers may end up with reduced state pension’
This is Money launched a campaign last September against the unfairness of parents losing state pension over paperwork errors.
We have heard from many parents who stand to lose tens of thousands of pounds in old age, and highlighted their stories.
The trouble stems from a controversial overhaul of child benefit in 2013, which reduced the entitlement for those earning £50,000-plus a year or wiped it out entirely for those earning £60,000-plus.
But parents who earn too much to qualify for child benefit still have to apply for it so that they receive state pension credits.
People who earn less and do qualify for child benefit are also losing state pension because the forms are so complicated it is easy to make a mistake – and there is little forbearance for anyone who does.
A common problem is when the ‘wrong’ partner signs up for child benefit, because they are working so the credits are worthless to them.
What does the Government say?
The HMRC told this is Money: ‘To ensure no one misses out on their full state pension entitlement, HMRC has always encouraged families to claim child benefit, including households who might have to pay the high income child benefit charge.
‘The child benefit claim form – which is included in Bounty Packs – stresses the importance of this.
‘However, we are continuously considering ways in which communications can be improved further, both at the birth of a child and for existing child benefit claimants.
‘We think three months is a fair and reasonable time to allow people to claim child benefit.
‘Even though there may be no question that some parents would have been entitled to child benefit if they had claimed earlier, this is not certain in every case.
‘The longer the delay, the harder it is to establish entitlement because of the need to verify the evidence to ensure consistent treatment.’
The Government has previously stated that it has always urged families to claim child benefit to help protect their future right to the state pension.
It has also noted that it changed the child benefit form and guidance notes last spring to stress further the importance of this, and that it continuously considers ways to improve communications at the birth of a child and for existing child benefit claimants. The Government’s full response to This is Money’s campaign appears here.
What do experts and campaigners say?