BEN WILKINSON: The DWP’s performance on pensions was shameful

Department of Despair: DWP’s performance on pensions in time of dire need is shameful, says BEN WILKINSON

The Werk en Pensioenen (DWP) Service has hardly dressed itself in glory during the pandemic.

When it emerged in May last year that thousands of wives and widows may not be receiving the pensions they were entitled to, the department refused to tell us how many might be short.

Questions from MPs to pension minister Guy Opperman in parliament were answered with little difficulty or concern. Parliament was simply told that the ministry was aware of a ‘number of cases’, and the minister encouraged anyone who thought they would be underpaid to contact the DWP.

Lifelines: When it was revealed that possibly thousands of women and widows were not receiving the right pension, the DWP declined to say how many may have been short

But those who feared they might miss something had to wait hours on the phone to speak to someone. And when they finally did, they were often fobbed off and in some cases incorrectly told that their pension was correct.

It was only in March of this year that the true extent of the scandal became clear. Documents published on Budget Day showed that 200,000 women may have been underpaid and that it would cost almost £3 billion to rectify this.

Now taxpayers are treated with the same contempt during this latest mess.

The minister again this month ignored a request for details on the deferral of pension payments from a fellow MP, insisting instead that there had been only a ‘small number’ of delays.

Still, we’ve heard countless stories of retirees struggling to access a vital income.

And the chaos isn’t limited to retirement benefits. We’ve heard of people in need who were denied access to other critical benefits.

Money Mail has written extensively about customer service disasters during the pandemic – with Covid still being used as an excuse for long wait times for calls or missing paperwork.

But the people who call the DWP aren’t asking for help with their broadband or small change, they’re chasing money they depend on and are entitled to.

As we reveal today, for one in four retired women, the state pension is all they have. This is why the ongoing mess at the DWP is unforgivable.

The Parliament and Health Ombudsman ruled this summer that the DWP had failed to properly warn millions of women that their state pension age was rising from 60 to 66.

And now that those women turn 66, they have to wait even longer thanks to more blunders from the department.

Every extra day that these women born in the fifties have to wait for their state pension is an insult. But it’s even more insulting to keep them in the dark again.

In this time of need, the performance of the DWP has been found to be not only flawed, but shameful.

Shake up savings

It’s good news that the Financial Conduct Authority is pushing to help the country invest smarter.

Too many of us are too cautious to reap the rewards of investing, and too many of us are too greedy to do it wisely.

Investing is a surefire way to make your savings work harder for you, and with interest rates so low, it’s vital that you don’t leave your nest at the mercy of inflation in a poorly paid account.

It’s a shame that so many people are missing out because they don’t have the confidence or know-how to invest.

But at the other end of the spectrum, the pandemic has led many, especially young, investors to raise money that they cannot afford to lose with highly risky and inappropriate investments.

They have been spurred on by celebrities and social media influencers who recklessly promote volatile cryptocurrency or impenetrable forex trading.

A terrifying 2.3 million people now own cryptocurrency, the regulator revealed this month. And 14 percent of them borrowed money to do it.

The sheer magnitude of ignorant and reckless investing is shocking and is sure to end in tears. Let’s hope the FCA didn’t keep it waiting too long.