Govt to alter child benefit application process to protect parent’s state pensions

The government has confirmed it will be making changes to the child benefit application process to help ensure that parents do not miss out on their state pension entitlements.

Its response was to a petition initiated by Royal London director of policy, Steve Webb, which sought to ensure that parents who have not claimed child benefit since the high income child benefit charge began in 2013 do not miss out on National Insurance (NI) credits towards their state pension.

To try and achieve this, the government said that HMRC will change the application forms from April 2019 to make it clearer that parents need to claim child benefit, even if they are not going to claim the money, to ensure they get the NI credits.

It also said, where no one has claimed child benefit, that it will allow claims to be backdated three months.

In its response, the government stated: “A more generous backdating would make it harder to verify evidence and establish entitlement, since entitlement relies upon being responsible for a child each week.

“For this reason, the government believes that the three-month backdating period for child benefit (and the accompanying NI credit) is a fair and reasonable time in which to allow those wishing to claim child benefit to do so.”

However, after reading the government response, Webb said that the “rigid response on three month backdating is absurd - the idea that if someone claims for child benefit from last summer HMRC can’t reasonably work out if they were entitled or not is a nonsense”.

He continued: “The fact that child benefit forms are going to be revised in April shows that the current information for families is not clear enough.

“Also, the reference in the response to 500,000 people claiming and opting out is a red herring - these are overwhelmingly people who had already made a claim when the rules changed and then opted out. Our issue is all the new families since 2013 who never got into the system in the first place.”

Despite this, Webb believed there were some positives to take out of the response, saying: “They say that ‘Officials are considering how to ensure no one misses out on their future entitlement to the state pension’, which suggests that further work is in train.

“It is welcome that they are continuing to do work on how to make sure people do not suffer in terms of their state pension through failing to claim child benefit.

“We will be keeping up the pressure on the government not just to help make sure people claim child benefit in future, but also to address the large losses which too many families have already faced.”

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